Tokyo (AFP) – More than 2,000 people are suing the liberal Asahi newspaper to demand that it place international advertisements apologising for its coverage of wartime sex slavery, saying it has stained Japan’s reputation, local media said Thursday.
The move is the latest salvo in the battle over Japan’s history, which pits an increasingly aggressive revisionist right wing against an ever-more cowed mainstream that accepts the country’s guilt over its World War II atrocities.
The group of plaintiffs, including Japanese nationals living in the United States, filed the class action with the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday, according to Japanese newspapers, including the Asahi.
They argued that Asahi reports on the so-called “comfort women” system have been instrumental in forging global opinion that the Japanese state and its military were involved in organising a formalised system of sex slavery.
They also claim that the paper’s reports contributed to the drive to build statues of former “comfort women” in California and other US locations, which they say led to their mental distress.
The claim is demanding the Asahi pay three million yen ($253,000) in compensation and place advertisements in major US and European newspaper apologising for the coverage.
Last month, some 8,700 people, including conservative lawmakers and professors, filed a similar lawsuit with the district court against the Asahi.
Despite a dearth of official records, mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, many from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, served Japanese soldiers in military brothels called “comfort stations”.