SON REPLACES EPITAPH ON MONUMENT DEDICATED BY FATHER ACCOUNTABLE FOR “COMFORT WOMEN” LIES
On May 19, journalist Miki Otaka revealed a remarkable news scoop on my new “Genron Sakura Group” program—an extension of the Genron Internet TV news show that I host every Friday night. The program began last February with the aim of hearing what an articulate group of young Japanese women have to say on the important issues of the day.
Although I myself am not that young any longer, I have managed to bring together eight very able young ladies. All are trustworthy and unafraid of facing up to the complications of today’s society. They are also all committed to doing vigorous research, not settling for popular preconceived notions, and to energetically publicizing the results of that research. Finally, last but not the least, they are all fascinating human beings in their own right.
I am expecting each member of the group to shed light on critical issues Japan faces today by introducing the results of their original research once a month. Many of their reports will focus on controversies related to the war. What Ms. Otaka delivered this time was right on target.
Otaka has covered more than 100 nations on writing assignments. This time she took up the son of the late Seiji Yoshida, the professional con man who concocted a story about how he helped the Japanese military coerce young Korean girls into servitude as sex slaves during World War II.
Yoshida’s son took the daring step last March of changing the epitaph on a marble memorial that his father erected in the early 1980s at the National Mang-Hyang Cemetery in Cheonan City, southeastern South Korea. Yoshida’s epitaph read that he erected the memorial in order to “express regret for his past conduct” and to “apologize” to the people of Korea who “had been conscripted and coerced (into servitude) during Japan’s war of aggression (in Asia)” and “deprived of precious lives.” Yoshida signed off the epitaph as “Seiji Yoshida, former Group Leader of the Patriots’ Labor Association.”
During a ceremony at the national cemetery marking the erection of the memorial on December 23, 1983, Yoshida knelt down on the ground in token of his apology to the Korean people, reported the liberal daily Asahi Shimbun the following day in an article entitled: “Yoshida’s Lone Trip of Apology.”
“Beginning in the early 1980s, the Asahi avidly played up Yoshida and matters pertaining to him, including this article, spreading outright lies about ‘comfort women’ far and wide, including a concocted story about his having coerced Korean women into being sex slaves for the Japanese military. Although some quarters in the Japanese academia and media pointed out the fabrications as early as the 1990s, the daily long refused to do anything about the situation—until August 2014, when it finally admitted its mistake and withdrew a total of 16 articles.
“Mr. Yoshida’s son explicitly stated to me that his father had never been a soldier or a group leader of the Patriots’ Labor Association. His father should have taken the blame for having initially enflamed the ‘comfort women’ controversy, his son said, but emphasized that his lies weren’t actually told by him alone. There were a number of collaborators, “choreographers” and “stage directors” so to speak, who actively promoted Yoshida’s lies. The Asahi was one of them. After having given Yoshida’s lies a tremendous boost, the daily suddenly pulled the rug out from under him, as if to say ‘We are calling it quits. That’s all there is to it.’ His son was offended by the daily’s posture, feeling it ‘shouldn’t get away like that!’”
Making up for Father’s Lies
“Mr. Yoshida’s son asserted that even after the Asahi withdrew the articles, his father’s marble memorial would remain for generations to come. He felt he couldn’t let that happen, as he believes it would not be fair to either the people of Japan or Korea. He was thus determined to set matters right as a responsible Japanese.”
Otaka revealed that the son had initially thought of hiring a crane truck to remove the memorial. When he subsequently learned that using a crane truck was physically impossible, he resolved to completely rewrite the epitaph, turning to Shigeharu Oku (69), a former member of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) residing in Okinawa, for assistance. The new epitaph would be plain and simple: “Memorial Monument. Erected by Yuto Yoshida, Fukuoka, Japan.” Yuto is Yoshida’s real first name.
Otaka quoted Oku as recalling his first encounter with Yoshida’s son:
“He explained to me that the monument was erected by his father at his own expense, maintaining that this would give him—Yoshida’s only son—the right, as well as the responsibility, to remove this symbol of his father’s lies. The son had a genuine desire to help rectify the misconceptions his father’s fabrications have spread across the globe about the ‘comfort women’ issue, which he interpreted as the primary cause of friction between Japan and South Korea. His desire appealed to me, as I felt he genuinely cared about both countries. And I as a Japanese thought it mandatory for me to cooperate with him. I had absolutely no reason to turn him down.”
In late March, Oku traveled to the national cemetery in Cheonan, carrying with him a heavy marble slab with a new inscription. Working at dusk in order to avoid the public eye and using a powerful adhesive agent, he managed to attach the slab to the surface of the father’s memorial. I will leave the details of Oku’s operation to Ms. Otaka’s book Removing Father’s Memorial, which will be coming out in June from Sankei Shuppan.
Commented Ms. Tomoko Seo, Sankei Shuppan editor-in-chief who was also a guest on the Sakura program:
“As the only son of Seiji Yoshida, he repeatedly referred to himself as ‘the last member of the Yoshida clan’ during an interview. He maintained that he was going to erase this remnant of his father’s lies, because it would always remain in Korea unless he took action now.”
Ms. Makiko Takita, assistant head of a team of Sankei Shimbun reporters following the prime minister, had this to say: “As a member of the press, I wish to express my hearty thanks to Mr. Yoshida’s son for having so resolutely gone to the extent of eliminating the old epitaph. The Korean media have apparently been greatly shocked by the firmness of his will and determination.”
In Confucianism, paternal authority is absolute. To the Koreans who have lived under the strong influence of Confucianism over the centuries, this action on the part of the con man’s son apparently is extremely shocking. After all, the son openly declared his father’s statements to be blatant lies, undermining all the accusations about “comfort women” that trace their origin to his fabrications.
The Korean media have scarcely reported on the incident involving the epitaph, presumably because if they do, the Korean people will begin to realize in no uncertain terms that Seiji Yoshida was indeed a professional con man who had blatantly lied about his war-time role as a “comfort women recruiter” for fame and profit. An episode such as this will surely travel much more quickly than news about the Asahi having withdrawn its articles related to “comfort women.” Furthermore, a report depicting the action on the part of Yoshida’s son could easily shake the foundation of anti-Japanese activities pursued by a host of Korean civic groups—including the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan—which depend significantly on the Yoshida lies that have been amplified by the Asahi.
Asahi’s Refusal to Assume Responsibility
Takita continued: “I suppose the Korean side does not want to make much ado about the ‘incident,’ as I presume they are aware that such news is bound to fall back on them in pushing anti-Japanese activities from now on. The ultimate objective of the Korean activists groups, including the Korean Council, is to not let anti-Japanese sentiment die down. Therefore, they are prepared to next tackle matters involving ‘conscripted workers’—civilian Koreans they claim were mobilized during the war for forced labor in Japan. They are set to forever keep making the Japanese government apologize for Japan’s war-time conduct and force Japanese corporations to pay compensation for hard labor, enabling them to set up foundations to keep up their anti-Japanese campaigns.”
While South Korea has refused to face up to the truth about “comfort women,” the Asahi is equally blameworthy. As of this writing (May 22), the daily has completely failed to report on the epitaph incident. As the son himself noted, it was the daily that is responsible for spreading Yoshida’s lies globally. But the Asahi obviously has chosen to bury its head in the sand in light of the actions of his son, who in effect has taken the daily to task for its years of coverage of “comfort women” based on the con man’s frivolous stories. How much more irresponsible can the daily get?
What another guest revealed towards the end of the show was equally shocking. Ms. Mio Sugita, a former parliamentarian, stated:
During her trip to Paris to cover the French presidential election, a gratis French language magazine titled ZOOMJAPON caught her attention. Along with some stories introducing the culture of Japan to the French, including an article on the popular movie “Tetsudo-in (Poppoya)” (1999) featuring the late Ken Takakura, the magazine ran a feature about Japanese pacifists opposing US military facilities in Okinawa. Sugita said the article gave the impression that people from all over Japan were pouring into Okinawa to oppose US military bases there.
Sugita noted that the magazine also carried another article critical of Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), a nationalist unincorporated association for which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe serves as a special advisor on parliamentary matters. In the article, Professor Koichi Nakano, a liberal political scientist at Tokyo’s Sophia University, makes remarks about Defense Minister Ms. Tomomi Inada. Nakano is quoted as saying that women are regarded as second-class citizens in Japan, and that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe subscribes to such a view. Sugita was appalled that the article claimed that Abe has promoted Ms. Inada to her present position in order to disguise his contempt for women.
This magazine obviously derives its main revenue from advertising. The largest advertising money apparently comes from NHK World, an international broadcasting service of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). For further details, I suggest that the reader access the “Genron Sakura-Gumi” website on the Internet but wish to stress here that NHK, which collects subscription fees from Japanese consumers, should not help subsidize such an “anti-Japanese” publication.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 755 in the June 1, 2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)