TOKYO (Reuters) – Early in December, dozens of journalists and editors from the Japan Times gathered for an emergency meeting in a glass-walled conference room in their brand-new 14th floor office.
On the agenda was a single, incendiary issue: the newspaper’s new descriptions of how Japan compelled thousands of foreigners into military brothels and labor during World War Two.
Past - Japan - Times - Workers - Laborers
In the past, the Japan Times described Korean workers as “forced laborers” and comfort women as those “forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during World War II.”
But the five-sentence note published on Nov. 30 said the country’s oldest English-language paper would refer to Korean workers simply as “wartime laborers.”
Paper - Experiences - Comfort - Women - Women
The paper also said that because of the varied experiences of comfort women, it would describe them as “women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will.”
Such terms are social flashpoints in Japan and a topic of bitter dispute with South Korea, whose government argues comfort women were clear victims of wartime abuse.
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The changes come amid simmering tensions; South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled in October that Japanese companies must compensate South Koreans forced to work during the war.
The executive editor of the Japan Times, Hiroyasu Mizuno, told staff in the December meeting that he had two goals: to avoid creating the perception the paper was “anti-Japanese,” and to increase advertising revenue from Japanese companies and institutions.
Readers - Change - Japan - Actions
Some readers said the change glossed over Japan’s wartime actions.
Prominent Japanese conservatives, meanwhile, applauded the move, calling it a coup for nationalist activists agitating for English-language news outlets to change such descriptions.
Email - Mizuno - Reuters - Editorial - Managers
In an email, Mizuno told Reuters he and senior editorial managers decided to revise the paper’s descriptions to “better reflect a more objective view of topics that are both contentious and difficult to summarize.”
He said the Nov. 30 note did not...
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