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Ignoring Facts, U.S. Newspapers Repeatedly Misreport on Japan, Comfort Women




An article published in the January 30, 2019, edition of The New York Times on the comfort women controversy currently straining Japan-South Korea relations quickly drew a sharp rebuttal from a spokesman for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The rebuttal was carried in that same influential American newspaper.


This is not the only instance of the Japanese government taking exception to some of the content in the extensive coverage The New York Times has given to the comfort women issue. Indeed, increasingly it seems that the bickering between the two Asian neighbors concerning history issues is being played out in U.S. newspapers.


The article in question appeared on page A-20 of the print edition of The New York Times under the byline of Choe Sang-Hun, the paper's Seoul bureau chief. The article, occasioned by the death of former Korean comfort woman Kim Bok-dong on January 28, characterized Ms. Kim as a “former sex slave for the Japanese military during World War II whose tireless campaigning helped bring international attention to the suffering that thousands of women like her endured.”


The article went on to state, “Japan has rejected the women’s demands for a formal apology and reparations.” The report thereby ignored the fact that in 1995 Japan had established the Asian Women’s Fund, with contributions from the Japanese government and other sources which distributed atonement money to many of the comfort women.



Moreover, concerning the 2015 agreement between the governments of Japan and South Korea for the final and irreversible resolution to the comfort women issues, Choe noted caustically, “It’s denunciation by Ms. Kim and other former sex slaves meant that it was all but dead on arrival.”




Foreign Ministry Calls Out Mistakes in NYT Reports


A letter from MFA press secretary Takeshi Osuga, published in the February 7 online edition of The New York Times, pointed out: “Japan has extended its sincere apologies and remorse to former comfort women on many occasions.”


Osuga went on to note that the 1965 treaty restoring basic diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea had legally settled all claims between the two nations, including the comfort women issue. He added, “Japan has made an effort to recover the honor and dignity and heal the psychological wounds of all former comfort women.”


In addition, Choe’s article gave the impression that all the self-identified comfort women had refused to accept money from the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation established by South Korea with the financial support of Japan. Osuga emphasized that 34 of the 47 surviving women had “received support from the fund and welcomed the effort.”



In providing the Japanese government’s response to The New York Times coverage of the comfort women issue and mistakes in its description of the Japan-South Korea agreement, Osuga’s letter affirmed, “This is an undeniable fact.”


According to the newspaper, Choe joined The New York Times in 2005, after a previous stint with the Associated Press (AP). An article he wrote in 2000 while working as a correspondent for AP concerning a massacre of South Korean civilians at No Gun Ri Bridge by the U.S. military in the early days of the Korean War (the “No Gun Ri Incident”) won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.



Articles and Editorials Based on Misunderstanding of the Facts


Even after The Asahi Shimbun’s August 5, 2014, admission of error and retraction of all comfort women articles based on accounts by a man named Seiji Yoshida, The New York Times continued to publish articles and editorials filled with misrepresentations of the facts. In the retracted Asahi accounts, Yoshida claimed he had participated in the "forcible conscription" of numerous comfort women. His claims were later found to be untrue, prompting the retraction of all articles based on his false testimony.


For example, in its online edition dated December 2, 2014, the New York Times published an article labeling as "(historical) revisionists" those individuals who wanted to revisit the August 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. Language in the “Kono Statement” declared without evidence that in many cases the comfort women were recruited to work in military brothels against their will.



Likewise, on December 4, 2014, The New York Times published an editorial on “Whitewashing History in Japan.” In it, the paper contended Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “pandering to Japanese political forces that are demanding that Japan’s wartime history be revised” amounted to “playing with fire.”


It further argued that this was not only inviting criticism from China and South Korea, but also had become an object of concern in the United States.


On December 15, 2014 The New York Times carried a letter from Sumio Kusaka, consul general of Japan in New York, as a rebuttal from the Japanese government. Among other things, it argued: “Prime Minister Abe has repeatedly said we should face up squarely to the country’s history.”


That same month the Los Angeles Times carried a similar rebuttal to an editorial it had run alleging Japan was engaged in historical revisionism, which was penned by Hidehisa Horinouchi, consul general of Japan in Los Angeles.



Criticism of Inaccurate Reporting Continues



The New York Times has, in fact, for some time served as a forum for anti-Japanese elements to express their views.


For example, in 2012 it carried an opinion advertisement by Seo Kyung-duk (aka Seo Kyoung-duk), a professor at Sungshin Women’s University, demanding the Japanese government apologize to the comfort women. In response, the Committee for Historical Facts (Rekishi jijitsu iinkai), whose members include Japanese journalist Yoshiko Sakurai, ran a rebuttal in a local newspaper in New Jersey denying the “forced conscription” claimed in Seo’s article.


A spokesman for Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, “No matter what the media, we will continue to call out inaccurate reporting.”



(Click here to read the article in its original Japanese.)




Authors: Yoshinari Kurose, The Sankei Shimbun Washington Bureau Chief, and Yusuke Hirata, Staff Writer, The Sankei Shimbun Foreign News Desk




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  1. WisdomandReason

    August 1, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Dear Japan,

    99% of the outside world have No Idea how much you've done already to please S.Korea, to compensate to apologies dozens of times from multiple PM. Most people don't know enough about their own country, how do you expect them to know relations between Japan and S. Korea in 1910 to 1945 or even from 1965 to 2019.
    Koreans are also better at telling their side of the story, harassing people who don't agree including journalist, reporters.

  2. MCFrearrangment

    February 18, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    NYT is a professional fake news maker that has been evicted from the White House Press Conference Room by President Trump. Every anti-Japan news reported by NYT is a despicable fake news that is exactly the opposite of the truth. As written in "Inconvenient and Uncomfortable: Transcending Japan's Comfort Women Paradigm" by Marshall Wordsworth, Japan Military protected Korean comfort women from exploitations and abuses, and transformed poor Korean young women into millionaires. It was a big mistake that the government of Japan apologized to the Korean comfort women because Japan is in a position to be thanked by the Korean comfort women and the Republic of Korea. Anti-Japan fake news of NYT were originally spread by Norimitsu Onishi who claims to be a Japanese Canadian. He is a Korean by blood. His family naturalized to Japan. When he was 4, his family emigrated to Canada.
    Japan rescued Korea and China from famines and epidemics, and started modernizing these barbaric countries. Japan destroyed the evil colonizers in Asia and liberated Asia through the Great East Asia War. Japan is the only sacred empire in human history.
    Between 1912 and today alone, Chinese forces massacred over 100million Chinese civilians. The history of China is full of massacres.
    During Korean War, over 4 million Korean civilians were killed by both sides. In S. Korea alone, over 1.4 million South Koreans were massacred by S. Korean Military and Police without trials.
    S. Korea, N. Korea, and China are the only insane barbaric countries that still practice cannibalism.

  3. Anthony Tony Marano

    February 18, 2019 at 2:33 am

    Most people in the USA are aware of The New York Times being fake news in line with CNN.

  4. FronTierFrank

    February 17, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    The Dec. 28, 2015 Bilateral Accord between Japan and South Korea included very specific language to resolve the Comfort Women issue "finally and irreversibly," for the United States brokered to settle that matter once and for all in order for the two allies in the Pacific to ease the strained relationship and work together against their enemies. For American news outlets to blatantly ignore the fact that most former Korean Comfort Women have accepted Japan's apology and compensation is nothing short of journalistic criminal negligence, and they should be held accountable, especially when then Secretary of State Kerry was one of the key political figures who openly applauded and welcomed the 2015 Accord. What the news outlets probably need to do is assign a non-Korean or Chinese writer for this issue - they will only further an agenda to misrepresent facts, intentionally or otherwise, which does not serve America well. Quite simply, this is a disgraceful exercise in Fake News at the international, geopolitical level.

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