Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Taiwan still waiting for an apology from Japan that might never come - OPED - Taipei Times -- guest commentary

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2010/08/18/2003480676


Taiwan still waiting for an apology from Japan

By Dan Bloom
Aug 18, 2010

Japan recently apologized to South Korea for its colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, seeking, an Associated Press report said, “to strengthen ties between the two countries ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Japanese annexation of the Korean Peninsula.”
During Japan’s occupation of Korea, many Koreans were forced to fight as frontline soldiers for Japan’s Imperial Army, work in slave-labor conditions or serve as prostitutes in brothels operated by the Japanese military. Sound familiar?

Substitute “Taiwan” for “Korea” in the news reports, and the picture becomes clear. Japan also owes an apology to Taiwan for drafting young Taiwanese men to fight as frontline soldiers for Japanese military campaigns and for forcing thousands of Taiwanese women, many of them Aboriginal girls, to serve as “comfort women” in Japanese military brothels. Just as many older Koreans still remember atrocities committed by Japan, many older Taiwanese also remember.

Although the issues do not remain as sensitive here in Taiwan all these decades later, the mental and psychological toll of the Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan cannot merely be airbrushed away by Japanese spin doctors.

“For the enormous damage and suffering caused by this colonization, I would like to express, once again, our deep remorse and sincerely apologize,” Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the Korean people earlier this month.

His statement was intended specifically for the ears of South Korean people, in contrast to earlier apologies by Japan for wartime actions made broadly to the Japan’s Asian neighbors, including Taiwan.

Kan also said Japan plans to return some “stolen” Korean cultural artifacts, including historical documents that it “acquired” while ruling the Korean Peninsula.

History is a cruel reminder of what some nations do to other nations, and while many South Koreans were glad to hear of Kan’s remarks, many older people in Korea told reporters covering the story that Tokyo’s most recent apology was insufficient, saying it should be backed up by specific measures, such as reparations for victims, prosecution of wrongdoers and a record of the Japanese military’s history of sexual slavery in Japanese textbooks.

After Kan’s remarks were publicized, a small group of activists protested in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, urging Japan to offer a more sincere apology and return all Korean cultural artifacts in its possession.

One activist said: “We no longer welcome apologies of words without action.”

Kan’s apology comes ahead of the 100-year anniversary of Tokyo’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula on Aug. 29. The 100-year anniversary of Tokyo’s forced annexation of Taiwan occurred in 1995.

Will Japan also agree to return some of Taiwan’s cultural artifacts that were also transported to Japanese museums during the colonial days and also apologize in a humble and heartfelt manner for forcing young Taiwanese women into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers during the war years, some as young as 16 and 17?

Certainly, war is terrible and ugly, and unspeakable acts often occur, but where are the apologies from Japan. Germany, after World War II, apologized to the world, and it has been in apology mode ever since. Has Japan ever really apologized for the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, for the atrocities committed all over Asia during what it calls the Pacific War, for the unspeakable horrors that the Taiwanese, Dutch and Korean comfort women had to live through?

Will Taiwan ever get a similar apology from Japan? Only history knows, and for now, history’s not talking.



Dan Bloom is a US writer based in Taiwan who lived in Japan in the early 1990s for 5 years and worked for a newspaper there.

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ORIGINAL TEXT WAS:

Should Japan apologize to Taiwan for colonial rule?



Recently, the island nation of Japan apologized to South Korea for

its colonial rule (1910 - 1945), seeking, according to an Associated

Press report, "to strengthen ties between the two countries ahead of

the 100th anniversary of the Japanese annexation of the Korean

peninsula."



During Japan's occupation of Korea, many Koreans were forced to fight

as front-line soldiers for Japan's Imperial Army, work in slave-labor

conditions or serve as prostitutes in brothels operated by the

Japanese military. Sound familiar? Substitute "Taiwan" for "Korea" in

the news reports, and the picture becomes clear. Japan also owes an

apology to Taiwan for drafting young Taiwanese men to fight as

front-line soldiers for Japanese military campaigns and for forcing

thousands of Taiwanese women, many of them Aboriginal girls, to serve

as "comfort women" in Japanese

military brothels. Just as many older Koreans still remember

atrocities committed by Japan, many older Taiwanese also remember.

Although the issues do not remain as sensitive many decades later here

in Taiwan, the mental and psychological toll of the Japanese colonial

rule of Taiwan (1895 - 1945) cannot merely be airbrushed away by

Japanese spin doctors.



"For the enormous damage and suffering caused by this colonization, I

would like to express once again our deep remorse and sincerely

apologize," Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told the Korean people

in early August. His statement was intended specifically for the ears

of South Korean people, in contrast to earlier apologies by Japan for

wartime actions made broadly to the island nation's Asian neighbors,

including Taiwan.



Kan also said Japan plans to return some "stolen" Korean cultural

artifacts, including historical documents, that it "acquired" while

ruling the Korean peninsula in the early half of the 20th Century.

Will Japan also agree to return some of Taiwan's cultural artifacts

that were also transported to Japanese museums during the colonial

days and also humbly and heartfeltly apologize for forcing young

Taiwanese women into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers during the

war years, some as young as 16 and 17?



History is a cruel reminder of what some nations to do other nations,

and while many South Koreans were glad to hear of Kan's recent

remarks, many of the older people in Jorea told reporters covering the

story that "Tokyo's [new] "apology was insufficient, saying it should

be backed up by specific measures such as reparations for victims,

prosecution of wrongdoers and a record of the Japanese military's

history of sexual slavery in Japanese textbooks."



After Kan's remarks were publicized in Korea, a small group of

activists protested in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, urging

Japan to offer a more sincere apology and return all Korean cultural

artifacts in its possession. Said one activist: "We no longer welcome

apologies of words without action."



Kan's apology comes ahead of the 100-year anniversary of Tokyo's

annexation of the Korean peninsula on August 29. Did Japan offer a

similar and yet specific apology to Taiwan in 1995 to mark the

100-year anniversary of Tokyo's forced annexation of this island? If

it did, I am not aware of it. And has Japan really ever made up for

what it did to the so-called "comfort women" of Taiwan who were forced

to "comfort" Japanese officers and soldiers in military brothels as

unpaid prostitues, sometimes servicing as many as 20 men a day?



Okay, war is terrible, ugly, and unspeakable acts often occur. But

where are the apologies from Japan. Germamy, after World War II, did

apologize to the entire world, and has been

in an apooogy mode ever since. Germany saw the light and humbly said

the Nazi era was an abomination. Has Japan ever really apologized for

the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, for the atrocities committed

all over Asia during what it calls the Pacific War, for the unspeakble

horrors that the Taiwanese, Dutch and Korean "comfort women" had to

live through?



In his statement in August, Kan expressed "deep regret over the

suffering inflicted" during Japan's rule over Korea, and his official

cabient endorsed the statement.

Saying that Japan will hand over some important cultural artifacts

that South Korea has been asking for, including records of an ancient

Korean royal dynasty, Kan tried to own

up to his country's past, including the unsavory history of Japan

forcing some 200,000 non-Japanese women, mainly from Korea, Taiwan and

China, to service

the Emperor's soldiers as prostitutes.



How did South Korea's ruling party react? A party statement said Kan's

speech was "a step forward" from past statements, but "not enough to

allay" Korean anger.

The Korean government said that Kan's words did not contain "[any]

mention of illegitimacy of the forced annexation and Koreans forced to

work as sex slaves or manual laborers by the Japanese army."



So where does Taiwan stand in this developing story? Will Japan

someday offer a similar apology to this country's people?



As the Taipei Times reported ("Protesters demonstrate for Japan's

'comfort women'", p. 2, August 12), "Japan still refuses to admit it

ever recruited women [from Taiwan] for use as sex slaves by its

Imperial Army, let alone apologize or compensate them."



"As part of a globally coordinated action, activists for former

comfort women's rights .....staged a demonstration outside Japan's

representative office in Taipei, ahead of the 65th anniversary of

Japan's surrender [at the end of WWII], demanding Japan apologize for

the recruitment of [Taiwanese] comfort women," the Taipei Times

reported. "Holding up signs that read 'I won't forget until I die' and

'Japanese government, apologize,' dozens of demonstrators ...chanted

slogans as they demonstrated outside ...the Japanese representative

office in Taipei."



Kang Shu-hua (康淑華), director of the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation,

noting that even 65 years after Japan surrendered, said : "We would

like to urge the Japanese government to honestly admit its wrongdoings

in the past, so that the mistakes won't be repeated again." According

to Kang, Japan still refuses to even admit it ever recruited ''comfort

women'' and has declined all demands for an official government

apology or compensation.



Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), who also

attended the protest, told reporters: "I don't remember how many times

I have demanded Japan's apology. If Japan can apologize to South Korea

for its invasion of that country, it should also apologize to those

Taiwanese who suffered under Japanese imperialism."



At issue here in Taiwan is not only the "comfort women." Chung

Sheng-huang (莊盛晃), director of the Kaohsiung City Association for

Taiwanese Veteran Soldiers, noted: "In fact, Japan not only recruited

'comfort women' during World War II, it also deployed more than

200,000 Taiwanese [young] men to serve in the Japanese Imperial Army

in Southeast Asia and China. We should not forget the history." Not

all of them came home, Chung might have added.



There's a telling coda to the story of the recent protest outside the

Japanese trade office. When the demonstrators went to the Japanese

trade office to deliver a letter of protest, it was duly accepted by

someone from the Japanese representative office who nevertheless

refused to give his name or title. What could this man, an officer at

the trade office, be afraid of? He works for a major world power --

Japan, third leading ecnomy in the world -- and he wouldn't tell

reporters his name or position?



There's more: When the demonstrators asked the Japanese man if could

please place a final puzzle piece into a map of Taiwan with pictures

of victims of Japanese imperialism and colonialism, he refused,

according to the Taipei Times.



Kang's response to Japan's silence on these issues sumed up the

current state of affairs between Taiwan and Japan in terms of ever

getting an official apology from Tokyo. "The puzzle symbolizes the

historical memory, which can only be full if the Japanese government

faces history," she said. "We regret that it could not be completed

because the Japanese government was reluctant to join."



So will Taiwan ever get a similar apology from Japan that

Tokyo recently issued to South Korea? Only history knows, and for now,

history's not talking.