Uemura Takashi (former Asahi reporter)’s Lectures in the U.S. | H-Japan | H-Net
The comfort women issue was rather suddenly created in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s, just as the generations who knew the truth of the matter became lessened in population. Meanwhile, some Japanese anti-Japan activists went to South Korea and instigated litigation demanding reparations from the Japanese government. This was backed by the Asahi Newspaper which launched a public awareness campaign built on fictions, making the comfort women issue become a major diplomatic matter between Japan and South Korea. The Asahi Newspaper’s reporter who played the central role at that time was Mr Takashi Uemura. He continues his battle even after his former employer admitted its wrong doing and made a public apology.
Mr. Takashi Uemura, do you really want to hurt us more ?
Mr. Uemura, the former Asashi Newspaper reporter, who is directly responsible for disseminating inaccurate information and inflaming the comfort woman issue, is planning to give speeches at renowned universities in the United States from the end of April to early May this year. Despite the clear evidence that Mr. Uemura misled general public regarding the controversial comfort woman issue he claims that he has been unfairly “slammed and threatened by right wing revisionists”.
I would like to take this opportunity to make it very clear that it is totally incorrect for him to make the claim that it is only right wing extremists who are angered and unfairly harassing him. The truth of the matter is in fact that a significant portion of the Japanese general public is outraged at what he has done. We do sympathize with some of the inappropriate actions which have occurred and the safety of his family should be guaranteed but this situation could have been avoided from the beginning if he had taken responsibility for his actions as his former employer, Asahi Newspaper has done.
Mr. Uemura should have never been permitted to write articles regarding the comfort woman issue in the first place, because his mother-in-law heads the “Association for the Pacific War Victims and Bereaved Families” that organized a lawsuit, seeking an official apology and reparations from the Japanese government. He denies this clear conflict, but if that were the case, why did he write inaccurate articles in support of the court case without revealing this relationship?
What he wrote was also highly questionable.
On August 11,1991, the Asahi Newspaper published a major scoop written by Mr. Uemura. The article featured the statements of Kim Hak Sun, a former comfort women living in Seoul. The opening paragraph of the article began: “A ‘Korean military comfort woman’ forced to provide sexual services for Japanese military personnel after being taken to the combat zone under the name of the Women’s Volunteer Corps during the Sino-Japanese War and World War II has been found living in Seoul … ” From the beginning, the article gave the impression that the woman had been forcibly taken away by the Japanese military and forced to be a comfort woman. (Recently Mr. Uemura admitted that he confused the “Comfort women” with the “Women’s Volunteer Corps,” but he made an excuse that previously not only himself but also many others confused the two organizations.)
Only three days later, on August 14 1991, Ms. Kim Hak-sun held a press conference in Seoul. South Korean newspaper articles clearly depicted Ms. Kim’s personal history that “she was sold by her mother to a kisaeng( female entertainment) house in Pyonyang at the age of 14. After finishing three years of training, her adoptive father told her that she could make money if she went to China and took her to Northern China where the Japanese troops were stationed.”(Kisaeng is the traditional Korean prostitution system which legally operated until 2004)
Moreover, on December 6, 1991, when she sued the Japanese government, Ms. Kim firmly stated at the Tokyo District Court, “I had been in kisaeng house for three years from the age of 14 when, at 17 years old in the spring of 1939, I was told about a place where ‘if you go, you can make money.…’ ‘Accompanied by my adoptive father, I was delivered to that place in China.’”
Although we are deeply sympathetic with Ms. Kim’s plight, the implications of “a comfort woman forcibly taken away by the Japanese military” and an “unfortunate comfort woman sold off by her parents” are strikingly different. Mr. Uemura is fluent in Korean, so he had to have known what “being sold to a kisaeng house” meant, but he made no mention that she had been sold by her parent – only that she had been taken to the battlefield under the designation as a Woman Volunteer.
Today Mr. Uemura contends that he never fabricated the story. If he had made genuine mistakes, then he should’ve corrected or retracted his articles when he realized these mistakes. No matter what his intensions were it cannot be denied that what he did was at the very least highly unethical and misleading which significantly damaged Japan’s international reputation.
His former employer, the Asashi Newspaper, officially apologized in 2014 for continuously reporting these fabricated stories without any verification and for not withdrawing them following the revelation that those stories were totally unfounded. Mr. Uemura, should he wish to repair his integrity as a professional reporter should take responsibility for these inaccurate articles he published. Contrary to this, however, he is painting himself as being a victim of some backlash from right wing extremists.
We once trusted the Asashi Newspaper and his reporting of this issue. The Japanese general public have been deeply hurt and offended not only by his misleading stories but even more so by his attitude in refusing to accept responsibility for his actions and instead playing the role of a victim despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary. We sincerely request that he refrain from causing further damage with his filing of a lawsuit claiming he is the victim of ultra-nationalism.