Sunday, March 4, 2007

The world according to Japanese media

As my bus from the Incheon Airport approached into the streets of Seoul City on March 1st, I saw many Korean national flags were hoisted. It was obvious that people were celebrating a special occasion, but to my great regret and shame now, I had no idea what it was. As I learned from The Korea Herald and The Korea Times the following day, March 1st was a national holiday of Korea, the anniversary of the 1919 independence movement against Japanese colonial rule.

Both newspapers carried a big picture of people celebrating the occasion on the front page. The Korea Herald carried an article (Reuter) “Roh urges Japan to atone for atrocities” on page 3 of March the 2, 2007 issue. Korean President Roh Moo-hyun was quoted as saying the following.

“Japan may try to cover the sky with its hand, but were able to confirm once again that the international community does not forgive the atrocities committed by imperial Japan.”
“We hope that Japan will not try to glorify or justify a mistaken past but instead show sincerity by following conscience and the international community’s generally accepted precedent.”
“Recently at a U.S. lower house hearing on comfort women, there was vivid testimony by elderly women who had to endure hardship and persecution beyond any human imagination.”
“Now we have no choice but to work together to contribute peace and prosperity of ‘Northeast Asia.’”

Because my trip to Seoul was only a one night/two day trip, I was in a hotel near Kansai/Osaka airport on Friday night, March 2nd. I purchased a copy of Asahi Shimbun, a rather leftist, but in my view, a populist paper, to see how the news was dealt with. The paper, the 13th edition, only carried two very small articles of Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Siozaki’s comments on the “comfort women” (see below) and Roh’s adress. On the former issue, he was quoted as saying “much of the U.S. resolution is not based on objective facts.” He was also quoted:“we regard the president’s address as one that stresses the importance of the relation of the two countries.” Regarding the issue of comfort women, he only mentioned, according to the paper, Korea has different views and some of the words in the address were ‘thorny’.”

In my home today, I learned that Mainichi Simbun, which I like and subscribe to, gave a larger article on the second page on Friday, and the consequent report on Sunday, today. But the articles were not as large as those of Korean newspapers.

The Japan Times, which I purchased on my way home from Tokyo (I needed to go from Seoul to Tokyo via Osaka before I came home in Hiroshima), carried a relatively large article (Associated Press) on the first and the second pages, carrying a witness of Yasuji Kaneko, 87, an ex-Japanese soldiers about the rape he himself committed together with other Japanese soldiers.

As you see, there is a huge gap between Japanese media and English media. Once again, I realized that I cannot satisfy myself with news provided by Japanese media alone. If only to know about Japan itself, you need another language other than Japanese.


Yosuke YANASE said...

The Japan Times (Tuesday, March 6, 2007) reports as follows:

"Abe told Monday's committee session that there was no evidence showing that Japanese military officials took the women by force -- such as by kidnapping -- to the brothels -- again denying there was coercion by the military in a strict sense.

But he acknowledged that private-sector businesses that acted as agents for the military sometimes used force on the women."

I wonder what point Abe wants to make by making a tiny and petty distincition of "coercion in a strict sense." All I can guess is he is just trying to refuse his nation to be critisiced in any ways by all means. By denying Japan's "coercion in a strict sense" he and his like-minded conservative people may believe that they maitain "pride" of their nation. But is it not like an immature type of sentimental, emotional nationalism? I don't think it is fit for a national leader, much less an international leader.

Juuso said...

I think that the Japanese media try to harmonize the image of Japan and maintain a harmonius society without strong comments and opposition.
The media's lack of critisizm can be traced back to the legislation of Japan. The "anti-subversive activities act" can be used against any media that create "disturbance" to the public. The nature of the law is ofcourse NOT to supress the freedom of speech, but in a country where a strong political opposition is literally non-existent, the leading party has little to fear, if it decides to use this law against "disturbing reporting". Also the omnipresence of journalist clubs and the pool-reporting thereof lead to a production of more homogenous news.

Therefore it's safe to conclude that there are indeed many Japanese people who are malinformed about their country and its past, since they only read and trust Japanese sources. Many rightwing minded and even regular Japanese citizens critisize foreign sources of information as "not being able to understand the Japanese mind/society"... I personally have encountered many people of this kind during my stay in Japan. As to Abe's comments: he is merely repeating the slogans from the past. This tactic has been used by many Japanese primeministers and seems to prevail even today.

Yosuke YANASE said...

Dear Juuso
I think it is true that the Japanese media tries to maintain the image of the 'harmony' of Japanese society. News obtained from Japanese television channels and major newspapers is quite limited in that sense.

What I fear is when this 'harmonious' society backfires. Ominous scenes are already in sight in some blogsphere and publishers. Some anti-Korean and/or anti-Chinese voices in Japan are simply ugly.

For those who raise such voices, however, this blog may be extremely 'anti-Japanese.' I disagree. I am a patriot who would like to see both good and bad aspects of the country.