Question: Are you trying to suggest that other nations were also somehow involved in the managing of wartime brothels like the Japanese military?
Hashimoto: I have absolutely no intention of justifying the wrongs committed by Japan in the past. We have to always carry within our hearts the terrible suffering experienced by the comfort women.
We should also put an end to unreasonable debate on this issue.
Japan should not take the position of trying to avoid its responsibility. That is what causes the greatest anger among the South Korean people.
I want to bring up the issue of sex in the battlefield. I don't think that the nations of the world have faced their pasts squarely. That obviously includes Japan.
Unless we squarely face the past, we will not be able to talk about the future. Sex in the battlefield has been a taboo subject that has not been discussed openly.
Japan was wrong to use comfort women. But does that mean that it is alright to use private-sector businesses for such services?
Because of the influence of Puritanism, the United States and Britain did not allow the respective governments and militaries to become involved in such facilities. However, it is a historical fact that those two nations used local women for sexual services.
When the United States occupied Japan, the U.S. military used the facilities established by the Japanese government. This is also a historical fact backed by actual evidence.
What I want to say is that it does not matter if the military was involved or if the facilities were operated by the private sector.
There is no doubt that the Japanese military was involved in the comfort stations. There are various reasons, but this is an issue that should be left up to historians.
What occurred in those facilities was very tragic and unfortunate, regardless of whether the military was involved in the facilities or they were operated by private businesses.
Germany had similar facilities as those used by Japan where comfort women worked. Evidence has also emerged that South Korea also had such facilities during the Korean War.
The world is trying to put a lid on all of these facts.
It might be necessary to criticize Japan, but the matter should not be left at that. Today, the rights of women continue to be violated in areas of military conflict. The issue of sex in the battlefield continues to be a taboo.
It is now time to begin discussing this issue.
I have no intention of saying that because the world did it, it was alright for Japan.
Japan did commit wrong, but I hope other nations will also face their pasts squarely.
The past has to be faced squarely in order to protect the rights of women in conflict areas as well as prevent the violation of the rights of women by a handful of heartless soldiers.
Q: Do you feel there is a need to revise or retract the Kono statement on comfort women since there is wording that "the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women," which indicates trafficking was involved?
A: I have absolutely no intention of denying the Kono statement. I feel that what is written in the statement is generally based on fact.
However, it is ambiguous about a core issue.
You brought up the issue of military involvement in the transport of women. Historical evidence shows that private businesses used military ships to transport the women. Most of the employers at the comfort stations were private businesses. There was military involvement in the form of health checks to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Because a war was going on, military vehicles were used in the transport of the women.
The argument of many Japanese historians is that there is no evidence to show that the will of the state was used to systematically abduct or traffic the women. A 2007 government statement, approved by the Cabinet, also concluded there was no evidence to show the will of the state was used for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women.
The Kono statement avoided taking a stance on the issue that was of the greatest interest of South Koreans. This is the primary reason relations between the two nations have not improved.
The Kono statement should be made clearer.
Historians of the two nations should work together to clarify the details on this point.
The South Korean argument is that Japan used the will of the state for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women, while the Japanese position is that there is no evidence for such an argument. This point has to be clarified.
Separately from what I just said, there is no doubt that an apology has to be made to the comfort women.
The core argument that the will of state was used for the systematic abducting and trafficking of women is likely behind the criticism from around the world that the Japanese system was unique.
It was wrong for Japanese soldiers to use comfort women in the past. However, facts have to be clarified as facts. If arguments different from the truth are being spread around the world, then we have to point out the error of those arguments.
Q: Do you agree with the argument by Shintaro Ishihara (co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party) that Japan should not have to apologize for the war because it was forced to fight by the economic sanctions and other measures imposed by the United States?
A: Politicians have discussed whether there was military aggression on the part of Japan or colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula. This is an issue that should be discussed by historians.
Politicians who represent the nation must acknowledge the military aggression and the unforgivable colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula.
Denying those aspects will never convince the victorious nations in the war because of the terrible loss of life that was involved in achieving that end.
Politicians who represent the nation have to acknowledge the responsibility for the nation’s actions during World War II. They have to also reflect on and apologize to neighboring nations for causing terrible damage.
Ishihara does have a different view of the past.
That is likely a generational difference between those who lived through the war and those of my generation who were born after the war. This is a very difficult issue for nations defeated in the war.
Those who lived through the war believed that what their government was doing was the right thing.
The vast majority of Japanese acknowledge the military aggression and colonial domination of the war. However, it is very difficult to have all 120 million Japanese agree on this point since Japan is a democracy.
Politicians of my generation should not stir up questions of Japan's responsibility in the war. The duty of politicians of my generation should not be to justify what happened in the war, but work toward creating a better future. Politicians of my generation should face the past squarely and use their political energy for the future.
However, that does not mean that we have to remain silent about any wrong understanding of the facts of the war just because Japan was a defeated nation.
Q: Is it your view that what the Japanese military of that time was involved in does not constitute human trafficking in light of the international understanding that any involvement by any individual or organization in any part of the process is defined as human trafficking? Separately, is it your view that the testimony given by women who were forcibly taken by the Japanese military is not credible?
A: I am not denying Japan's responsibility. Under current international value standards, it is clear that the use of women by the military is not condoned. So, Japan must reflect on that past.
I am not arguing about responsibility, but about historical facts.
I feel the most important aspect of the human trafficking issue is whether there was the will of the state involved. Women were deceived about what kind of work they would do. The poverty situation at that time meant some women had to work there because of the debt they had to shoulder.
However, such things also occurred at private businesses.
I think similar human trafficking occurred at the private businesses that were used by the U.S. and British militaries.
Japan did do something wrong, but human trafficking also occurred at such private businesses.
I feel the human trafficking that occurred at both places was wrong.
I want the world to also focus on that issue that involves other nations.
I am aware that comfort women have given their accounts of what happened. However, there is also historical debate over the credibility of those accounts.
Q: If the government was aware of what was happening at the comfort stations and did nothing, isn't that a form of government and military involvement; and who should bear responsibility for that?
A: Under the present value system, the state must stop human trafficking.
In that sense, Japan cannot evade responsibility by any means.
We must think now of what the government should do when confronted by such a situation.
Source: Asahi Shimbun
I won't bother to highlight stuffs. His answers were quite a clever twists. It kinda confuses me, because the way I perceive it, he's kinda going back-and-forth between urging today's government to face the past mistake honestly but also trying to put some of the blame to "private sectors" for the "service" that they provided. Politicians >.>