2016: SK Controversy Over Comfort Women

Japanische und Koreanische Regierung einigen sich: 28.12.2015
Erklärung veröffentlicht am 14..01.2016

The South Korean Controversy Over the Comfort Women, Justice and Academic Freedom: The Case of Park Yuha

by Maeda Akira

Caroline Norma, translation and commentary

Maeda Akira is a law professor at Tokyo Zokei University. He recently edited a volume of writing on theories of 'hate speech',1 and has been an active participant in the activist and scholarly 'justice for comfort women' movement since its inception in Japan in the early 1990s. In December 2015, Maeda published a series of blog posts criticising a public statement issued, initially, by 54 mostly Japanese and American academics in November 2015.2 This public statement was introduced at a press conference on the 26th, and published in the Asahi Shimbun on the 27th. Among its signatories were Oe Kenzaburo, Kono Yohei, Andrew Gordon, Peter Duus, and Ueno Chizuko.3 The group maintains a multilingual website as a show of ongoing protest.4

Their protest was at the decision of South Korean prosecutors in November 2015 to criminally indict Sejong University's professor Park Yuha for libel. Park in 2013 published a Koreanlanguage history of the so-called wartime military 'comfort women' that the court judged libelous of survivors. It was subject to a civil claim brought in 2014 by nine former victims with the support of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. A temporary injunction on the book's sale was lifted only after the Seoul Eastern District Court ordered the deletion of a number of its passages. The passages included the sentence: 'Korean comfort women were victims, but they were also collaborators as people from a colony'.5 Park's criminal indictment by Korean prosecutors in November 2015 followed this initial successful civil claim.

Maeda's withering critique of the protest statement reflects an analysis of 'hate speech' that has emerged among some Japanese progressives since the Zaitokukai hate campaigns against zainichi Koreans of a few years ago.6 This analysis moves away from traditionally American conceptions prioritizing 'free speech', and toward an approach frequently adopted in the legal systems of Europe and elsewhere. This 'group libel' approach is most recently described in a book by Jeremy Waldron that was translated into Japanese in 2015.7 It is the approach that is best known for prohibiting Holocaust denialism in Europe. The following translation excerpts parts of Maeda's 7-part blog post series from December 2015.8 Maeda is critical in his discussion of the view of statement signatories that 'free speech' and 'academic freedom' are threatened by Park's indictment. Signatories in their statement do not necessarily defend the content of Park's book, nor does the statement in any way endorse the wartime military prostitution scheme itself. Instead, the signatories hold that the indictment inhibits their ability to 'fight bad speech with good' and maintain a 'robust marketplace of ideas', and could be chilling of cross-country debate about ways to resolve outstanding issues over the history of the comfort women. CN

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