2016: A Year of Memory Politics in East Asia

Japanische und Koreanische Regierung einigen sich: 28.12.2015
Erklärung veröffentlicht am 14..01.2016

May 1, 2016
The Asia Pacific Journal/Japan Focus, Volume 14 | Issue 9 | Number 3

A Year of Memory Politics in East Asia:
Looking Back on the “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan”

Jordan Sand

In spring 2015, I participated in the drafting and distribution of the statement on the "comfort women" and Japanese war responsibility issued under the title "Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan." That letter took inspiration from a statement issued in Japan by the Historical Science Society (Rekishigaku Kenkyūkai) in October 2014 and built on a letter published in March 2015 in the American Historical Association's magazine Perspectives condemning the Japanese government's effort to suppress passages about the comfort women in a US-published world history textbook.

At the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in Chicago (held in March 2015), a group of us discussed writing a letter of support for our Japanese colleagues' efforts to counter the escalating campaign of denial by right-wing politicians and media. After a month of drafting and discussion by email, this resulted in the "Open Letter," signed by 187 scholars of Japan and sent first to the Historical Science Society, the Historical Society of Japan (Shigakkai), the listserv H-Asia (May 5, 2015), and the Japanese Cabinet Communications Office, then shortly afterward posted in the Asia-Pacific Journal and released to major news media in the United States and Japan as well as wire services.

Most of the signers in the first group of 187 were teaching at universities in North America, but during the week after the Letter's initial release, roughly 360 more supporters signed, many of them from Europe. We chose not to seek signatures in East Asia in order to represent a voice from outside the countries of the perpetrators and the victims in the comfort women case.

The mass media in Japan gave the Open Letter far greater attention than we had anticipated. ...

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