Monday, December 28, 2015

$8.3 million for the comfort women

One of the great puzzles of the Second World War is how Germany has  escaped all responsibility for the war it started, while Japan is still stuck in 1945. The most recent example is the Netflix mini-series, The Man in the High Castle, featuring an America split between occupying powers. West of the Rockies are the Japanese Pacific States. In the east, a swastika identifies the "Greater Nazi Reich" — not German, mind you, but Nazi. The villain is addressed as Obergruppenführer, and he makes occasional reference to Herr Hitler back in Berlin, but his nationality is ambiguous. He might even be an American, like most of his fellow bad guys in the Greater Nazi Reich.

Meanwhile, in today's Berlin, Angela Merkel is celebrated as the new Lady Liberty, welcoming the huddled masses to Germany, there to breathe free and collect welfare benefits. And in today's Tokyo, politicians must regularly tie themselves in knots with yet another apology for Japan's wartime atrocities, mild as they were compared to Germany's. "The Japanese government bears a heartfelt responsibility" for forcing women to become sexual slaves in its military brothels, thus "severely injuring the honor and dignity of many women," explained the Japanese foreign minister last month. 

Japan will endow a South Korean foundation with $8.3 million. That comes to about $415 for each sexual slave, or $34,874 for each of those who overcame her shame and outed herself as a former prostitute, or $181,193 for each of those still alive. In the nature of things, most or all of them were teenagers when they were forced to serve as "comfort women" for Japanese soldiers and sailors. Perhaps Japan's problem is not the directness of the apology but the size of the purse. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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