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Why the Resurgence of the Term ‘Military Comfort Women’ in Our Textbooks?



I have written on this subject time and again, but the phrase “Military Comfort Women” was coined long after the war ended. 


This terminology has induced the misconception that comfort women, like war correspondents, were under the direct management of the military. And it was only from 1997 that this dubious expression was first used in junior high school history textbooks.


Comments made four years before that by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, formed the backdrop for this development. Specifically, he acknowledged that wartime comfort women were forced into labor. Yet, it should be noted that there is no evidence of comfort women being sent to combat areas by the military or government authorities.


Moreover, it later became evident that Kono’s remarks were made for political reasons and had given undue priority to diplomatic relations with South Korea in making the remark.


Some began to question whether shaming one’s country was truly a fitting way to teach history. One opinion leader, sensing an impending crisis due to biased descriptions in textbooks, formed the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (JSHTR).


Young Liberal Democratic Party members of the Diet also began to take a stand. “History education should instill sympathy and a healthy pride concerning the place where one was born and one’s nation, its culture, and its history.” These remarks were made by one of them, and he’s now the Prime Minister.


The term “military comfort women,” no longer used after 2004’s textbook approval, has been brought back to life in textbooks written for the academic year starting in 2021. Also conspicuous are terms like “Nanjing Incident,” intended to underscore the cruelty of the Japanese military. (RELATED ARTICLE: Why Do We Let Japanese Textbooks Carry Debunked Propaganda From China, South Korea?)


Meanwhile, textbooks written by JSHTR were not approved. What indeed happened?


“We once again realized that the study of history and related discussions must be public in nature,” wrote the late Takao Sakamoto, historian and an early promoter of JSHTR. His comment came in a passage in Rethinking History Education, about the upsurge in debate on textbooks around the time JSHTR was founded.


In a nutshell, the term “military comfort women” has seen a resurgence because so many have lost interest in textbooks.



Author: The Sankei Shimbun