Shii: I have here the minutes of the discussion at the second workshop of the House of Representatives Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration on May 27, 1997 that includes Mr. Abe’s remarks. The minutes show that you stated that all seven textbooks submitted for screening contain descriptions of the so-called military comfort women and that this was problematic. You said that if military comfort women were there not as a result of coercion, there is no need for the textbooks to take up the theme, adding that there are no official documents that verify whether there was such coercion. In this statement, you meant to demand that the description of the “military comfort women” be deleted.
What is more, you blame the “Kono Statement” for the inclusion of the military comfort women issue in the textbooks and said that the “Kono Statement” has become groundless. If you intend to “follow the ‘Kono Statement’,” why don’t you admit that you were wrong in making remarks attacking it?
Abe: My understanding at that time was that the Kono statement was intended to admit that the Japanese government was involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the recruitment of comfort women, express apologies and remorse for that, and promise to study in what way the government should express its apology and remorse. At the time, I questioned whether a junior high school textbook should include descriptions of military comfort women. For example, I thought it was necessary to first take into account the state of children’s development. I also thought it important to ascertain whether there was coercion in the narrow sense of the word. I said that if there are differences of opinion regarding the facts, we may have to reconsider including the material in the textbook.
I said that nothing substantiates the fact of coercion in the narrow sense of the word. When I discussed this issue, I pointed out that the name of YOSHIDA Seiji cited in textbooks as a person in charge of the recruitment of comfort women was later found to be a mistake. That was a question I raised in my statement.
Shii: You have just said that the allegations about “coerciveness” in the narrow sense of the word are groundless. The “coerciveness in the narrow sense of the word,” I think, implies the coercion that was present in relation to the transfer of comfort women. However, the “Kono Statement” pointed out that there are many cases of women being recruited against their will. This is part of the government findings. Do you still deny everything including what you call cases of coercion in the narrow sense of the word? Isn’t it coercion if women were recruited against their will? Do you deny this fact cited in the “Kono Statement”?
Abe: I meant that there could be coercion in the narrow sense of the word and coercion in the broad sense of the word. The question should be whether the women were taken out of their houses forcibly, or they wanted to choose to not go but they were in an environment that compelled them to go in the end. The latter can be regarded as a case of coercion in he broad sense of the word.
Shii: You tried to argue about the narrow sense of the word and the broad sense of the word. But the minutes show that you did not argue about the difference. You flatly denied the fact of the use of coercive recruitment of women in general. That is why you called for change in the practice because the prerequisite of the argument has collapsed. I am saying that if you accept the “Kono Statement,” you need to look back on what you did and correct the mistake. What do you think? Again, the minutes contain no such phrases as “narrow sense of the word,” or “broader sense of the word.” It is an argument you have just begun come up with.
Abe: What I said was whether it is appropriate to contain the issue in the junior high school textbook. As I have repeatedly said, my position as the prime minister is one of following the “Kono Statement.”
This is important, because Prime Minister Abe has been the victim of mistranslation, and possibly spin, by virtually every western news source. There is the article I linked from Yahoo, and then there is also the New York Times article by Norimitsu Onishi. The mistranslation in the NYT is so bad that I have to wonder if Norimitsu Onishi can even understand Japanese.
The original quotes in Japanese were –
The NYT translates that as –
“There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it,” Mr. Abe told reporters. “So, in respect to this declaration, you have to keep in mind that things have changed greatly.”
Amazingly, the NYT and every other article in English about this that I have read omitted the main subject of the quote, because Prime Minister Abe is talking about definition of a word. Here is my translation of what Prime Minister Abe said –
“It is a fact there was no proof to support coercion as it was initially defined”
“We must premise it [the Kono statement about comfort women] on the thought that the definition of it [coercion] had been greatly changed from its [initial] definition”
I worked that out without even seeing the exact context. It is no wonder I was not able to find a big fuss about it on Japanese websites because without the actual context of what Prime Minister Abe said the statement does not even make any sense (in Japanese – the misquote in English makes sense but is misleading).
Basically what Prime Minister Abe is saying is that the Kono statement about comfort women in 1993 “was intended to admit that the Japanese government was involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the recruitment of comfort women, express apologies and remorse for that, and promise to study in what way the government should express its apology and remorse.”, but saying that there no proof to support the assertion that “the women were taken out of their houses forcibly” but accepting that in “many cases” the women “wanted to choose to not go but they were in an environment that compelled them to go in the end”.
Prime Minister Abe’s opinion on the Kono statement about comfort women differs from the way it is seen by others like Koreans or some members of the US Congress that think the Kono statement about comfort women was an admission that Japanese soldiers had kidnapped some 200,000 women from their homes and villages and forced them into sexual slavery. That is what the Prime Minister Abe’s statement is about.