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Even after 62 years, Grant Goodman, a retired Kansas University history professor, still is involved in a World War II-era Japanese dispute.
On Friday, nationalist Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied that the Japanese Imperialist Army ever owned and operated military brothels, or "comfort stations," during World War II and questioned the nation's public apology made 14 years ago for its involvement in sex slavery.
Goodman, 82, who uncovered documentation that proved the brothels indeed existed, was shocked.
"I was disbelieving," he said about Abe's statement. "I thought this is cuckoo, why now? This issue has been buried for years."
The retiree sat in his Brandon Woods Retirement Community home, adorned with Japanese decor, and shared an account of a visit in August of 1993 with a former Japanese consul general in Kansas City, Mo.
"He told me thanks to my documents, the Japanese government had been forced to admit that they were responsible for the comfort women," he said.
The meeting was a memorable moment, Goodman said, and the consul appeared grateful, but he said the apology was likely done out of political and economic interests.
Goodman discovered the documents when he was serving as a second lieutenant for the U.S. Army's Military Intelligence Service during World War II. He gathered intelligence about the morale of Japanese armed forces, interrogated captured Japanese prisoners of war and translated Japanese documents for the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section at Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters in Manila, Philippines.
Goodman was 20 when he was translating documents about Japanese armed forces amenities. Some of those amenities included opportunities for leave, geishas and brothels. He translated a 12-page document outlining the direct involvement of the Japanese military in the organization and utilization of brothels. He said it caught his attention, and he knew that U.S. military intelligence had known Japanese military brothels had existed since 1937, but he didn't know what to do with the information at the time.
He kept a copy of the documents and mailed them home to his parents. He didn't touch them again until 1992.
It was in that year that Goodman noticed a news account about Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki, of Chuo University in Tokyo, who had found similar documents in the Japanese Defense Agency archives. Soon afterward, Japan's prime minister offered a public apology for the government's role in the matter of "comfort women."
After the apology, Goodman was reminded of the research report he possessed. He released his copy of the documents to a Japanese journalist in order to prove the government's role in the brothels.
Goodman said he doesn't understand why the current prime minister would contradict the evidence, and why now.
"He must think he's going to gain some internal political mileage," he said. "Otherwise, I really don't get it."
Takao Shibata, a Japanese lecturer at Kansas University and former Japanese general consul in Kansas City, Mo., said the prime minister should not have made the comment.
Shibata said Abe was referring to technicalities of historical evidence when he stated the military wasn't coercive in mobilizing the women because the military was authorizing private companies.
"The fact is there is no evidence to prove there is coercion, that's what he's saying," Shibata said. "We should take the responsibility; we apologized in 1993 and that is the sentiment of the Japanese people, and the prime minister should have expressed that." Instead, the nation appears to be avoiding the responsibility of the historical deplorable act, Shibata said.
Goodman said it's going to be an unpleasant issue among Japan, Korea and China because so many Koreans and Chinese were enslaved. According to editors of the book "Legacies of the Comfort Women of World War II," to which Goodman contributed a chapter, 200,000 Asian women were enslaved during the war.
Goodman said he has documentary films of Korean women who were sex slaves.
"I break up every time I see it," he said. "It's terrible how they were treated.
"It's an unfortunate phenomenon all the way around."
Japanese prime minister refuses to apologize again
Tokyo (The Associated Press) -
Japan will not apologize again for its World War II military brothels, even if the U.S. Congress passes a resolution demanding it to do so, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament today.
Abe, elaborating on his denial last week that women from across Asia were forced to serve as frontline prostitutes, said none of the testimony in hearings last month in the U.S. House of Representatives offered any solid proof of abuse.
"I must say we will not apologize even if there's a resolution," Abe told lawmakers in a lengthy debate, during which he also said he stood by Japan's landmark 1993 apology on the brothels.