Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spamming the Comfort Women

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American legislatures are fast becoming aware of the Comfort Women issue. Two factors appear to be at play. One is a greater awareness and prosecution of human trafficking. The other is the growing political influence of the Asian-American community.  Together they push the Comfort Women tragedy beyond its specific historic period and merge it with contemporary campaigns to combat sexual slavery and other grave violations of human rights.

Resolutions and proclamations honoring the Comfort Women now all urge education on their history as an example of contemporary human trafficking. The original 2007 US House of Representatives resolution, H. Res. 121 (100th Congress, 1st Session) focused on the need for an unequivocal state apology. New legislative activity starts with a discussion of trafficking drawing clear connections between the Comfort Women and modern forms of sexual violence and slavery.

For example, on April 23, Maryland's Montgomery County Council presented a proclamation that emphasizes the problems of human trafficking in the county while honoring the Comfort Women. Presented by Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D), the Proclamation resolved that “the County Council of Montgomery County, Md. hereby extends our profound hope that the crimes against the comfort women of World War II will serve as a lasting reminder to the world that crimes against humanity will not be condoned or tolerated.” The proclamation also recognized the work of Del. Susan C. Lee (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda to pass state legislation against human trafficking.

As you can see from the video above, the Proclamation was presented to prominent members of the local Asian-American community: State Delegate Susan Lee; Judge Chung Pak; Linda Han, President, Korean American Association of the Washington Metropolitan Area; Christine Choi, President, Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues; Christina Shin, President, Korean American Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Young Ha Kim, Montgomery County Korean American Association; and Stan Tsai, Chairman, Chinese Culture and Community Service Center.

On May 23rd, the House of Representatives of the Illinois General Assembly passed its own resolution on Comfort Women. The Resolution, HR0365, "urges Illinois educators to share with students the story of 'comfort women' when discussing World War II history and expresses a commitment to explore ways to develop an Asian American social science and history curriculum for public schools concerning the subject of 'comfort women' and other Asian American experiences."

Introduced by Representative Elaine Nekritz (D), the Resolution also focuses on the contemporary problems of human trafficking. Among the several clauses highlighting the issue, the first  notes "The State of Illinois stands against human trafficking in all its forms, as evidenced by the 2005 formation of the Illinois Rescue and Restore Coalition, a partnership between the Illinois Department of Human Services and the federal government to combat labor and sex trafficking in Illinois."

On June 20th, the New Jersey State Senate will likely approve Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 124. This vote will make the resolution one of the entire state legislature. Unlike the two above, it is narrowly focused and does not generalize the Comfort Women experience. It says: "The General Assembly commemorates and supports comfort women in their fight for proper acknowledgement by the Japanese government of the suffering they endured during their forced internment in military comfort stations and calls upon the Japanese government to accept historical responsibility for the sexual enslavement of comfort women by the Imperial Japanese military and educate future generations about these crimes."

Legislators in all the states mentioned above have been spammed by a coordinated campaign to discredit the Comfort Women and to intimidate lawmakers. The rightwing Nadeshiko Action Japanese Women for Justice and Peace tracks pro-Comfort Women activities in the U.S. and organizes detailed English-language email spam attacks on anyone associated with an identified   American Comfort Women bill or program. Their uniform "emails" claim that the Comfort Women were mere prostitutes and that the issue was created by Koreans to humiliate Japan.

The group also assists Japanese diplomats and businessmen approach American government officials in an effort to dissuade any Comfort Women initiatives. Recently, according to Nadeshiko and Yonhap News, they have had success. A library in suburban Detroit has been "persuaded" to halt plans to erect a Comfort Women memorial.  

In the end, this is all about hate speech and a political agenda that find national pride in another's humiliation. The Internet has given new life to the Right. In the new book, Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet, the authors who are leaders in the Anti-Defamation League, find that "haters have embraced the new technologies to spread their lies, to recruit and to mislead. Today, while it is a marvelous medium for education, communication, entertainment and commerce, the ways in which the Internet is being used to disseminate and promote hateful and violent beliefs and attitudes are astounding, varied and continually multiplying."

Other Japanese organizations that coordinate denier history hate campaigns are the Japan Society for History Textbook Reform, Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, and Nippon Kaigi.

For more about Human Trafficking in Asia see HERE.

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