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2015年11月23日 (月)

歴史観の訴追 韓国の自由の危機だ

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 21
EDITORIAL: Indictment of historian a crisis of freedom in S. Korea
(社説)歴史観の訴追 韓国の自由の危機だ

Prosecutors in South Korea have indicted a university professor on defamation charges, claiming she falsely described former “comfort women” who were forced to provide sex to wartime Japanese soldiers.
Park Yu-ha, who is attached to Sejong University, was charged without arrest on Nov. 18 in connection to her book, “Comfort Women of the Empire,” which prosecutors assert defamed these women.

Prosecutors acted on complaints made by former comfort women.

“Korean comfort women and the Japanese military were basically in a comradely relationship,” Park wrote in her book.

Prosecutors claim this, and some other descriptions in her book, are factually wrong.

While acknowledging that speech, press and academic freedoms are basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution, prosecutors contend that Park violated the personal rights of former comfort women and overstepped the boundaries of academic freedom.

There are a wide variety of views and opinions concerning the comfort women issue among former comfort women and their supporters, but it is not the mandate of public prosecutors to judge whether descriptions of historical facts are correct or not.

It is even more dangerous for authority to punish free academic activities concerning interpretations and descriptions of history.

In her book, Park mainly discussed the structural problems of imperialism that were behind the suppression of women.

She harshly blames the imperial Japan for driving these women into a situation in which they had no choice but to have a comradely relationship with soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army.

In South Korea, there have been criminal investigations and court rulings that seem to be influenced more by national sentiment than by legal theories in cases concerning issues related to Japan’s past.

The latest move by the country’s prosecutors appears to be one example of this.

After former comfort women sought a temporary injunction against the publication of Park’s book, the Seoul Eastern District Court handed down a ruling in February that banned the publication of the book unless some passages were deleted.

Many facts about the comfort women issue remain unclear, such as the actual number of them.

However, since former comfort women in South Korea began to come forward to tell their stories in the early 1990s, a lot of historical research on the subject has been conducted, mainly in Japan and South Korea. As a result, the real picture of comfort women has been gradually emerging.

These studies on comfort women have disclosed that there was actually a great diversity of cases.

Park’s book focused on this diversity and her descriptions about some cases do not necessarily fit the common image of comfort women among South Koreans as “innocent girls.”

If researchers face the constant threat of criminal prosecution over the publication of their research findings, however, the pursuit of learning is impossible.

Progress in academic research and the natural selection of academic theories take place through mutual reviews and criticism of various theories, discoveries and interpretations.

Suppressing dissenting views and opinions is a serious challenge to freedom.

The indictment of Park represents a problem that far transcends her personal concerns.

South Korean media have not given extensive coverage of the action taken by the prosecutors. We strongly hope to see a wide spectrum of the South Korean public stand up for the protection of freedom.


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