JAPAN: Revealing the Facts or Covering Tracks?

LEXIE TUCKER WRITES – Retracting a story is a bold move in the field of journalism and tends to suggest a lack of research. On August 5, The Asahi Shinbun decided to retract not one story, but all stories that included a quote made by a Japanese man who claimed to have kidnapped and forced about 200 Korean women to work as comfort women during World War II.

Author Seiji Yoshida’s tale was first published in September 1982, and was also mentioned in about 16 articles throughout the 1990s. His stories, however, could not be confirmed. Potential errors in Yoshida’s account were eventually unearthed by historian Ikuhiko Hata in April 1992.

Historian Ikuhiko Hata.
Historian Ikuhiko Hata.

Hata stated there was no evidence to back up Yoshida’s claim that he participated in “human hunting” by forcing hundreds of women on Jeju-do Island in present-day South Korea to leave their families. Even local residents questioned by Hata rejected Yoshida’s story. Mainstream historians have now concluded that Yoshida’s statements were false.

In November 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had previously been disapproving of Asahi’s reporting, dubbing Mr. Yoshida a “crook” during a debate at the Japan National Press Center. Abe claimed that the controversial comfort-women issue was broadcasted and created tension across the country “because of the inaccurate reporting by Asahi.”

As previous articles on our site have shown, it is clear that the comfort women debate has been fueled mostly by outrage and desire for recompense, not just media coverage.

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