Letter to the Editor: Response to ‘Johnson: Shinzo Abe’s attempt to improve Japan’s image misdirected’

Justin Orlando

The opinion piece posted on Feb. 5 criticizing Shinzo Abe’s action to denounce McGraw-Hill Education’s publication piqued my interest. My concern with the piece is that it fails to mention this topic as a contested controversy with each side accusing others of manipulating the facts regarding the degree of coercion, compensation and direct involvement by the Japanese military.

There is no denying that the substantially large Korean diaspora across the Pacific has aided in skewing the view of this issue in the United States, where it is constantly repeated that more than 75 percent of the 200,000 forcibly-conscripted comfort women perished. Western academia tends to support this historical laziness wherein attention is placed on a very small percentage of studies done on the topic — mostly focusing on the lack of apology from the Japanese government. The opinion piece seems to be a direct extension of that.

I question Ms. Johnson’s breadth of knowledge regarding this comfort women topic past Wikipedia pages written in English and two or three academic articles whose evidences provided are several documents away from the original source. There are many testimonies that refer to receiving monetary compensation while working voluntarily as prostitutes as they were recruited by local Korean pimps. Some accounts of forced conscription are murky as they refer to being supposedly kidnapped by Japanese soldiers in a region in Korea where no Japanese military was present.

At some point, we do need to question the credibility of the testimonies — an act that some would consider revisionist. But sometimes those steps must be taken in pursuit of the truth.

It might be good to pick up a book (C. Sarah Soh’s might be a good start) to become educated on the issue itself instead of jumping to premature conclusions aided by the sentiments fueled by President Park’s administration in South Korea that is as equally nationalistic as Abe’s leadership.

Justin Orlando