Abe, Comfort Women, Corregidor, and “Letters From Iwo Jima”

Hate Daylight Saving Time. First of all, lost an hour. So, of course, entire schedule thrown off whack yesterday, was late to classes, nothing more dispiriting than walking into classrooms full of silent students, accusatory stares. Because I insist on reading at home (or in car/ or in parking lot) until very last moment.

Now, am awake, but as usual groggy.

Sunday, Dearest Mum called at 6:33 (no, 7:33) AM to inquire if self wanted to go to Carmel. As she made no mention of this Saturday, presumed she wasn’t that interested in having me along, politely but firmly declined. Good, as was then able to watch loads and loads of TV, and got treated to Dairy Queen by hubby. Also, spread compost in backyard.

This morning, though, would like to tackle issue of recent Economist article on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which attacks him for “economic reasons”, not for “foreign policy or historical debates.” The debate presumably meaning the issue of Japanese comfort women during World War II.

Pardon me, I didn’t think this was a debate. I thought it was a fact.

OK, this interesting: it’s always good to know what the rest of the world is thinking. You know, the rest of the world who were not comfort women. Which, I guess, is just about everyone.

Below, some quotes from the article (p. 37):

When he (Shinzo Abe) was elected leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and hence as Japan’s prime minister, last September he won by a landslide, and was hailed as a youthful (52), electorally savvy representative of a new political generation, and, moreover, as one likely to carry on the reform programme associated with his charismatic predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. Mr. Abe began in spectacular fashion, visiting Beijing and Seoul during his first days in office and thus warming up relations that had become damagingly frosty under Mr. Koizumi. Since then, however, the only spectacular feature has been his decline.

That decline may explain why on March 1st Mr. Abe chose to undo much of what he had achieved through his October visits to Beijing and Seoul, by publicly denouncing one of the many Chinese and Korean grievances: that Japan’s Imperial Army forced hundreds of thousands of women, mostly Chinese and Korean, into prostitution during the 1930s and 1940s.

Not all of those euphemistically termed “comfort women” were enslaved: some were already prostitutes, and others had been sold into bondage by their families. But many say they were kidnapped, enslaved and raped. Their testimony, plus documents unearthed in military archives, forced the Japanese govenment in 1993 to acknowledge responsiblity. Now Mr. Abe has said that there is no “historical proof” that coercion was involved. In other words, that the women are liars.

Notwithstanding some very strange wording in the above (the mention of “prostitutes” in connection with comfort women, for example — are they kidding??? And the slightly snide tone of “many say they were kidnapped”, as if fearing that coming out on side of comfort women will open mag to accusations of partiality), rest of article does reveal “Mr. Abe’s true colours,” as “a conservative politician who has long taken a revisionist view of Japan’s 20th century history.” In other words, Japan now has for Prime Minister someone as mad as those people who deny (like the man who beat up Elie Wiesel in a San Francisco hotel, a couple of weeks ago) the occurrence of the Holocaust.

I have been to Corregidor, twice: once, when I was 16, on a high school field trip; and the second time several years ago, when I took my son on a guided tour. And let me tell you, it made my blood boil that in one particular part of the island, all the signs are in Japanese, with no English translations. And the only things sold in the gift shop at this particular stop were Japanese films, Japanese books, etc. Excuse me, isn’t this why we went to war, to rid ourselves of foreign hegemony/ domination? Apparently I was not the only one who had such feelings because at this stop, the tour guide, who until then had been perfectly calm and informative, now began making incredibly snide and disparaging remarks about everything.

Which is why, you see, I can never watch a movie like Letters From Iwo Jima, even though — yes, Clint, I know — Japanese soldiers were people, too.


  1. jion999 said,

    April 2, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Ms. Marianne Villanueva

    I was very surprised to read your post.

    “yes, Clint, I know — Japanese soldiers were people, too.”

    I know you are an intelligent woman. But your comment sounds like you are a racist.

    Do you believe Japanese people are like devils?

    It was true Japanese soldiers killed many Filipinos.

    And it was also true American soldiers killed so many Filipinos 100 years ago.

    And it was true American dropped A-bombs on the cities and massacred so many women, children, and old men.

    What is the lesson of the unhappy history of WW2?

    It is to deepen mutual understanding and create peaceful world.

    It is meaningless to continue to hate the old enemy and criticize the war crimes of one country only for many years.

  2. April 2, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    I have many Japanese friends.

    I love Haruki Murakamai, Junichiro Tanizaki, Shusaku Endo, and Yasunari Kawabata.

    I went to Japan as an exchange student when I was 19.

    I will not see “Letters from Iwo Jima.”

    I am not a racist.

  3. jion999 said,

    April 2, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    You must know Korean-Americans hate Japanese so much.

    Most of Korean believes “Japanese caused all of war crimes. And Koreans were victims.”

    And all of Korean children are brainwashed to believe so and learn how to hate Japanese.

    The comfort women controversy and Yoko Kawashima’s book are the typical examples.

    They will continue to do any kind of efforts to criticize and degrade Japanese.

    Unfortunately, this chain of hate is a reality.

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