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Legal action against controversial book should be pursued carefully

Legal action against controversial book should be pursued carefully

Posted December. 08, 2015 09:37,   


A number of Korean and Japanese intellectuals have announced a statement criticizing Korean prosecutors’ indictment of Park Yu-ha, a professor at Sejong University, on defamation charges. They claimed that the indictment of her controversial book “Comfort Women of the Empire” is in violation of freedom of study and speech. It is shameful that the comfort women issue is met with another challenge when the Japanese government has neither admitted their legal responsibilities nor has offered a sincere apology.

The book raised an issue as soon as it was first released in August 2013, by allegedly describing sexual slavery from a false perspective. Former comfort women filed a complaint in June last year and won an injunction against publication of the book in February, the court ordering that a total of 34 parts of the book to be removed. Those include her writings describing the relationship between comfort women and Japanese soldiers as "comrades," or saying that the comfort women system was "in fact indistinguishable from prostitution" as it guaranteed a certain level of income. Regardless of any academic value of such a view, it has offended the victims strongly.

The prosecutors’ office said that they have confirmed that the book is based on false facts and has defamed the victims, citing reliable sources including United Nations reports, case studies of the Korean Constitutional Court, United States House of Representatives Resolution, and the Kono Statement. Prof. Park maintained her view that the Japanese government has no legal responsibility on the issue even in the revised edition. On page 191, she wrote, “It is hard to say that Japan as a country is accountable for forcible recruiting of comfort women. In other words, the assaults or forcible labor that took place against the victims are primarily committed by the brokers and soldiers as individuals.”

Such a view is essentially different from that of the international community seeing that the issue is clearly a wartime crime committed by Japan and that the country should be legally held accountable. In addition, another part of the book on page 219 describing Korean comfort women as "military supplies" while raped victims of Holland and China as "booties" is questionable as well. There are of course some claims that do make sense, such as revealing that Koreans were involved in the recruit process and that there is no evidence supporting the number of total comfort women known as many as 200,000.

Another victim has passed on Saturday, leaving only 46 former comfort women alive now. Prosecutors cannot but consider the hardships and emotions of these old women in making indictment decisions on the book. However, an objective evaluation of the content of the book should be left with the academia and the civil society, and legal punishment against the author should be determined in a cautious manner.