Japan and Turkey: On ‘Comfort Women’ and Genocide

The sleepy town of Glendale became the center of a major international controversy on July 9, when the City Council approved a memorial to the “comfort women,” a euphemism to describe the up to 200,000 young women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during its occupation of Korea and neighboring countries before and during World War II.

The City Council, after hearing conflicting testimonies from members of the local Japanese and Korean communities, approved with a 4 to 1 vote the installation of a monument in Glendale in honor of the “comfort women.” At the unveiling ceremony of the monument, Council members Ara Najarian and Zareh Sinanyan expressed sympathy for the plight of the “comfort women,” as their own Armenian ancestors had suffered mass atrocities in Turkey.

Concerned by the parallels drawn between the genocide of the Armenians by Turkey during World War I and the Japanese military’s sexual enslavement of “comfort women” during World War II, the Consulate of Japan in Los Angeles sought a meeting with the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) to present its government’s position on this issue.

During Deputy Consul General Masahiro Suga’s meeting with ANCA, it became evident that the Japanese government has been far more forthcoming regarding the crimes committed by the imperial Japanese army than the Turkish government has on the Armenian Genocide. Suga explained that Japan had recognized its responsibility in violating the rights of the “comfort women” by issuing an apology, and offering compensation to the victims.

Nevertheless, the “comfort women” and their relatives remain dissatisfied with Japan’s acts of “atonement,” accusing Japanese officials of making conflicting announcements on this issue. Most “comfort women” have also rejected the offered financial compensation, claiming that it was partially provided by private sources and not the government of Japan. In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution in support of the “comfort women,” urging the Japanese government to “formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.”

To find out how Japan’s reaction to the issue differed from the Turkish government’s denialist stand on the Armenian Genocide, I interviewed Jun Niimi, the consul general of Japan in Los Angeles. He fondly spoke about his “affinity” toward Armenians developed during his 1995-98 service at the Japanese Embassy in Tehran, and his subsequent visits to Armenia while stationed at the Embassy of Japan in Moscow.

Regarding the Japanese government’s position on “comfort women,” Niimi explained that Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement in 1995, expressing “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.” Japan also “provided atonement through the Asian Women’s Fund.”

Turning to the differences in the reaction of Turkey to the genocide and Japan’s to the abuse of “comfort women,” Consul General Niimi made three points:

“The government of Japan is well aware of the tragedy of the Armenian people at the beginning of last century. We would like to express our deepest condolences and sympathy to the victims. It is our strong belief that this kind of tragedy should never be repeated. The second point is regarding the position of the Turkish government. This is about another country’s position. Even though we are aware of that atrocity, yet, we are not in a position to grasp the details of precisely what happened a century ago in that area. So we cannot make a comment on the Turkish government’s position. But, I would like to repeat that we are aware of the tragedy and would like to express our sympathy and condolences. And the third point is that, regardless of the position of the Turkish government, the Japanese government’s position on the issue of ‘comfort women’ is that it expressed apology and remorse and made efforts to extend support to former ‘comfort women.’”

I informed the consul general that Japan’s position on the Armenian Genocide is not much different from that of Turkey’s. I asked him to relay to his country’s foreign ministry that Japan’s lack of acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide reinforces the skepticism of those who question the Japanese government’s sincerity in dealing fairly with the issue of “comfort women.”

In response, the consul general of Japan expressed his understanding that “the word tragedy doesn’t sound good to you, because it’s genocide.” He promised to convey to his government “the sentiments of the Armenian community” on this issue.

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

18 Comments

    • nobody asked your ancestors to come to our lands and mess up our lives, denialist.

      you don’t like our ‘obsession’, gather up your denialist buddies and go back to Nomadistan. your ancestral homeland. nobody will bother yous there.

  1. Aarshag,if i was obsessive i would have commented on every news related to turks here which i must say is almost 80 percent of this news paper’s content :) now tell me who is obsessive? you guys or me?

    • Anton, the only real obsession is the collective Armenian peoples demand for justice for the nearly 1.5 million, men women and children, murdered and their lands and wealth stolen, who the descendants of the perpetrators today, what you call Turkey, pretends that it either didn’t happen or the victims some how deserved it: Anything to avoid just compensation and restitution let alone an apology… I mean, if you really want to know the obsession, that is..

  2. @avery, im not bothered at all im just lauhing to this tragic obsession to be honest orinary turks dont even care about armenia,we will go to mongolia right after americans leave america to native indians, deal? ;)

    • it is a deal, anton.
      except you got it backwards: first in, first out.

      you guys invaded Armenian lands long before Armenians immigrated to America: you Turks leave Armenian lands first, and I promise, we Armenians will leave America to Native Americans.
      So start packing.

      Oh btw, Turk: how are you going to convince all non-Armenians to leave America ?

  3. let us see about that obsession thing, anton.
    I read TodaysZaman and Hurriyet regularly: have done so for many years.
    I have never seen your name under Comments.

    yet you, a Turk, regularly visits ArmenianWeekly and tries to sneak in denialist disinformation and propaganda.
    How is it that you only comment at an Armenian news site ?
    Why are so obsessed with everything Armenian ?
    Do you ever comment at (English language) Turkish web sites ?
    which ones ? tell us, so we can check.

    and your math is backwards: 90%+ of the content and titles of AW concerns Armenians and Armenian issues.
    Check this current issue and count the titles: see how many concern Turkey and Turks; how many Armenia and Armenians.
    I did: there are about 50 article titles. Out of those approx 50, I counted about 5 that can relate to Turkbeijan or Turkey: that makes it 10% related to Turkics. If I really stretch it, I can find remotely related about 8 articles: about 20% max
    Did you learn deniamath at the same denialist school where they brainwashed you to believe there was no Armenian Genocide to come up with the 80% ?

    There are occasional articles regarding TatarTurks, Turks and Turkey @AW, which by extension necessarily concern Armenians: you Turks are on our lands; you Turks murdered 2 million of our civilians (1895-1923) and deny it; you Turks stole all the wealth of those you murdered, and got rich off of the stolen loot. Still are.

    Denialist Turks and the Denialist Turkish state today pause an existential threat to Armenia and Armenians of Caucasus, after having previously successfully eliminated Armenians from their ancestral homeland in Western Armenia.
    What do you think: we’d just forget and move on ?

    • avery , please hold your horses :) now, your saying you didint see my name under comment section of TZ and TDN that cause you do mostly comment to news in TZ and rarely in tdn,me on the othr hand only post to tdn and just read TZ,its not everyday i post comments thre and here in AW total number of my posts should be between 10-20 is that too much considering i follow this paper almost 2-3 years? :)

      whats bothering you is that a turk opposing your opinions thats all you gotto admit this one dear avery :)

      iam not obsessed with armenians im pointing out the obsession on your part dont try to twist it, i see many anti turkish armenians comment to turkish daily news and dont even bother to answer to them that how much iam obssessed with armenians :)

      the number 80 percent was aproximate, thought one would understand the point is armenians should get on with their lives and be concerned more with their challenges in armenia than turkey

      you need to understand one thing avery nobody is telling you to forget what u belive in, im just saying your stuck in this midset so much that yoy gus couldnt make armenia bettr place to live, a 3rd world country with nothing is what you have now,

      one thing i know for sure is that there is no way turkish state will ever say she genocided armenians and is willing to give back eastern turkey to you, this is absoluetly zero chance, the question is why do you spend your energy?

  4. The reason why Japan, and other countries for that matter, take responsibility for their past misdeeds and come clean with their criminal past and financially compensate for their transgressions is because that is where everything ends. In a manner of speaking, they are buying their way out of their shameful acts and the sufferings they caused on their victims.

    In the Armenian case, on the other hand, the admission and the acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government does not end there and instead it is where everything begins. The admission of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government will be like opening a Pandora’s Box which will uncover a whole series of “unexpected” problems for Turkey. But unlike a series of unexpected problems, Turkey is well aware and has already calculated and foresees all the “expected” problems that will follow. That is why it is much more economical and sound for Turkey to lie, to issue empty threats and blackmail any nation that speaks about the Armenian Genocide.

    Unlike the Japanese issue and apologies and compensations to the victims, tied to the Armenian Genocide by the Turks are the occupied Armenian provinces in which their victims lived and called home for thousands of years, in which they were murdered and from which they were expelled and deported. The criminal Turkish government is fully aware of this and that is why they have to lie and make up different stories year after year to deny their criminal past. If this was not the case, the Armenian Genocide resolution would have already been a thing of the past.

    One of the primary enablers of Turkey to continue on this path of misinformation and denial is its NATO membership. Turkey’s insincere and opportunist criminal leaders know they can always play the “loyal” NATO member country role and make empty threats against their European and US NATO masters by reminding them of Turkey’s significance in the region and the many corrupt and spineless NATO member countries will fold like lawn chairs because at the end of the day most of them, while fully aware and with first-hand knowledge in this matter, are after their own self-interests.

    The way you make Turkey face its genocidal past and the way you bring Turkey to its knees is by working toward isolating Turkey. By reducing and eventually eliminating its significance in the region to the adventures, or misadventures depending on your point of view, of the westerners you create the ground work for the expulsion of Turkey from the NATO alliance. The day Turkey ceases to be a NATO ally is the day the Armenians will get their long-awaited justice fully and unequivocally.

  5. If you’re so sure of your position that the Genocide of Turkey’s Christians never happened, then tell your Govt. to stop obstructing efforts to compile the forensic evidence of its crimes by allowing “victim recovery” organizations like Necrosearch to research areas in Turkey where it took place. The last time it was attempted, when the forensic scientist left the country for a short period, the Turkish Govt. bulldozed the site where the remains of women and children were found (presumably Armenians), claiming they were just old “Romans”.
    In an article by Mr Mouradian, he describes a once armenian inhabited village in Turkey where perhaps thousands of residents were marched into a huge cavern underground and killed. Let’s send a neutral forensic team in there and discover the truth of what happened there. They have equipment that can find victim remains under 6 feet of concrete and an airplane that can find remains using hi-tech imaging technologies. (you can google the Necrosearch website).
    The Assyrians claim about 500,000 of their Christian ancestors also “disappeared” in the killing fields of Turkey. They too, want to recover their ancestor’s remains and should be invited to join the research effort.
    The Kurds, some of whom were involved in looting and killing during the Genocide have admitted their complicity and even issued apologies. Why don’t you ask them what happened (and where), since they were eyewitnesses to the slaughter?
    The forensic record will confirm the mass-murder of Turkey’s Christians all the way into Syria where the largest “burial” sites exist.
    The question of genocide will not be decided in the comment section of a newspaper or through speculation or conference, it will be proven by a court using forensic evidence from a lab. You will be amazed at what can be learned when these foresaken victims begin to “speak” from the grave through science and DNA. Then, the victims can receive a proper Christian burial-something cruelly denied them by Turkish Govt. decree. The next “battle” with the Turkish Govt. will be “fought” by diligent researchers on Turkish soil. Why, by obstructing and prohibiting these efforts, is Turkey so reluctant to learn the truth? That’s the question you should be asking.
    Nobody is interested in what you, or the Turkish Govt. “think” or “feel” happened there
    Also, since you mentioned it, Americans are ashamed of their treatment of native peoples and many support the return of lands taken from them by the US Govt. Large sections of land will be returned to them in the future just as, someday, the Turkish Govt. will return Mt Ararat to Armenia as well as at least some adjacent land (even if we have to get it from the Kurds).
    Neither the Armenians nor American Indians will ever be even partially “repaid” for what was done to them.
    Both peoples are “obsessed”-with justice, and that’s exactly why they’ll both prevail in the end.

    • @ dave, you got me wrong,its only my opinion that it wasnt planned genocide but the result of dire conditions,country was under heavy invasion turks were fighting on 6 fronts inside turkey against brits italians russians french greeks and bulgarians, any male who could hold weapons was in the army, at some places even womens, now under these circumtances armenians the neighbours of turks and kurds betrays their state and took arms against turks with help of russians,tell me what would you have done if you were in charge? you would probbaly executed everyone who was involved yet you would have had the man power to do that cause your mens were figtings already, turks had to do something,there was an inside threat to be taken care of, now what the turks did wrong was to send innocent armenians(women childs elderly) to deserts without caring what would happen to them,

      nobody is saying many armenians died, people are just arguing it wasnt genonice like nazis well planned and executed, in case of armenians a desicison was made pretty fast and the aim wasnot to kill all armenians but to save mainland, now is thre a crime here? yes turkey should pay for those innocent armenians they were turkish citizens and had to be punished for the action of some armenians, their properties should either be given back or be compensated their cizizenships if they should be returned,

      turkish states offers stand on table which is to form resarch party of historians and academic to investigate what really happened yet this offer is not accepted by armenian side, why? if one has no doubt about it and have evidence then whats the problem?

      as for native indians,the remaning indians are so small that it doesnt matter if america did what you said they would,it just symbolic gesture thats all, what avery is saying “take 75 million turks and leave”east to armenians and west greeks and so, my offer was when imported americans from europe leaves america all the whites then this argument will be valid and turks will be packing

      look i dont know how i come across but i feel really sorry for armenians, as much as i want turkish state to make up for the loss of life she caused, i know turkey wont ever give back an inch of land and ararat, whoever comes to office in turkey can not change this

    • @anton, you should consider writing fiction as a career. If I did not know any better I would think your remark was written by a 2nd grader. You make it sound like the Turks were so busy defending territories, previously stolen from the natives, they had to make hasty decisions overnight about the civilians and as a result of their hasty decisions so many millions died.

      I feel sorry for a denialist like you who knows no better than making up excuses for the Turkish mass murderers. Let me remind you of the mass extermination of 300,000 Armenians 25 years prior to the 1915 Genocide in 1890s by Sultan Abduhamit II. What war and on how many fronts were the Turks fighting at this time that as a result hundreds of thousands of Armenians were butchered?

      You need to go back to school and do alot more research before you post such fairy tales. Go study the ideology of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Turanism and the fascist Turkish leaders behind them. Study the Turkish defeats in the Balkans and their effects on genocidal Turkish leaders bent on ethnically cleansing what was left of the empire from all non-Muslims and non-Turks and to carve out and save Turkey for the Turks only at any cost.

      You see there is a pattern here. The Turks could not and would not allow the Armenians live freely in their ancestral homeland of thousands of years and long before there were any Turks to speak of in the region. In order to crush the Armenian wishes and to get rid of this problem once and for all they preplanned and executed a genocidal policy in the chaos and under the cover of a World War to eliminate the Armenian Question once and for all by eliminating the Armenians themselves. All the Turkish lies and distortion of history today is nothing less than completing the last phase of the Armenian Genocide.

      Well, after centuries of lies and misinformation manufactured to portray the Turks as “noble” people we come to find out that Turks are nothing more than despicable murderers and cowards for they not only nearly wiped out an entire race by killing off its people regardless of their age and gender to satisfy their wolf-like appetite to rob and steal their properties but to this day they deny and try to cover up their appalling crimes like cowards would.

    • ararat, as long as you refuse to form historians to decide what happned then i ll think your afraid of the outcome, why dont you shame turks with those historical facts of genocide once and for all? you know what this means right?

  6. Anton,Ararat,Avery,Harut et al…
    Why on earth pursue primarily the land issue.Land is there it will not pull the disappearing act. KURDS are there too, in millions over 15 for sure.The Armenian genocide has been documented, filmed, proved doube triple proved in important Conferences in NY and other placed.
    Craving for land? we have liberted art very small part of it in Artsakh NK.Why the hell don’t we organze a NATIONAL INVDESTMENT TRUST FUND, invest from a 100 million dollars ea(the Armeian billionaires0 down to hundred dollar investors.Then Organize Repatriation.Monies , loans(mortgaged) to those who really aspire for a larger, stronger Armenia(now that we’re at it).
    MOST IMPORTANTLY IF WE ARE NOT A JEALOUS LOT, THEN CONSIDER, AM NOT SAYING DO IT, OR EVEN COPY AND TURN IT OVER INTO ANOTHER FORMAT(ARMENIANS GOOD AT THIS)PREPARE FILE/claim f o r B L O O D M O N E Y .LIKE THE JEWS DID AND RECEIVED. HELL, THIS CAN BE ACHIEVED MUCH MORE EASILY THAN CLAIMING ANCESTRAL LAND,WHICH IS OCCUPIED(SEE ABOVE0.WE CAN THEN WITH A HUGE multi billion dollar fund talk with k u r d s to mo v e over a bit to west and let us also repatriate there. talk is cheap, we all know that.Ideas that can be seriously consdered and implemented are those that we should opt for.not just claim land…a turkihs general gen. kenan evren 30 yrs ago said”ARMENIANS WANT LAND”???,let them come and get it.This same S.O being B,(now an MP) just a couple months ago said something even worse than that and I quote “oh yeah some 100,000 armenias d i e d >>>>”” unquote. They know how to mae us look silly and suffer. Why shouldn’t we do the same and even wrse by uttering similar…
    An example??? Nakhijevan ,and 6 villayets should right away be put back on a Greater Armeia and advertised all over. Also show facts how Jews received BLOOD MONEY from Germany(present German0 heir to the previous one….
    Armenians should be awakened to the facts (above) mentioned.OTHERWISE JUST BY draming for lands…they may wake up to find themselves with a country smaller than the present one(hard won).Here, I am ashamed of ourselves , looking on as the tiny RA is being empted because of-
    Firstly our Diaspora ineptitude, fidelling around w/paltry stuff and NOT PREARING THE C A S E vs. great Turkey.We ahve s they boast 500 string Armenian BAR ASSoc.Profdssors of history(we need them too in setting forth the CASE(passing on facts to the attorneys.We also need good PR’s, journalists like Harut to begin organizing first the 500 strong..then etc., etcf., etc

    • ADDENDUM and…
      Firstly please do forgive me for such bad writing with plenty of gramatical and tipographical erros.Wrote it in rage and carelessly!!!
      I am truly sorry for that. I trust the readers will forgive me…
      The issues raised by me are those that need to be addressed and frankly. We have had enough time to formulate our demands/objectives.
      FOCUS NOW should be placed on objectives attainable-
      I also wrote in seperate articles(sent to our press and friends) that:-
      1.We should claim back oilwells and refinaries that our countrymen, the Lazarians, mantashians, Lianazoffs(Armenian)and later Gulbenkian,initiated and owened in Baku. These were nationalzied by the soviet Gov.t, but when Axerbaijan regained independence in 1992(like RA)WERE DENATIONALIZED. The present one is semi private and partially Govt. owened I believe.
      We should combine siad Oil wells and related, PLUS properties that were owned by aforementioned AND lodge w Claim at the Int´l Court,at the Hague.Some of these have heirs apparent in various countries.Fact is one very important one has a grand nephew who is also in same trade.That of Oil prospecting refining…
      Also easily the Sumgait-Baku Armenians should come forth and combien their claim with above one.
      All this is to be referred to our attornyes..especially in Diaspora.
      RA Gvo.t may not wish to claim outright these,but then the armenian Diaspora, that pretends to be big and strong MUST ACT
      ACT WE MUST NATIONALLY…OTHERWISE, TURCO AZERIS ARE HAVING THE TIME OF THEIR LIFE,ignoring us as inept, weak people…
      I challenge our Young to come forth and press our politifcal parties to jointly push FWD the CASE, the long awaited armenian CASE vs. great Turkey adn Azxerbaiajn—-
      best hasgcoghin

  7. Dude the Armenian Genocide and the comfort women were real however the Turks are typical deniers and they will try to attack any posts that opposing them unlike Japanese so you can’t hope those Turks can brush their teeth

    Regards from Poland

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