Advertisement

History Wars in the Memory of the World: The Documents of the Nanjing Massacre and the “Comfort Women”

  • Kyung-ho SuhEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Heritage Studies book series (HEST)

Abstract

The Memory of the World (MoW) Programme is undergoing a “comprehensive review” as a consequence of the crisis provoked by the actions of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Member States, following the 2015 nomination to the International MoW Register of documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Within the context of the “history wars” that have raged for decades in East Asia, Japan campaigned to block the inscription of documents on the “Comfort Women” system of World War II, nominated in 2017 by an international alliance of NGOs. In early 2018, UNESCO bowed to Japanese pressure, suspending both the operation of the International Register and the implementation of revised MoW General Guidelines and Code of Ethics newly authorized by the Programme’s International Advisory Committee (IAC), thereby calling into question the integrity of its processes as well as the expertise of its document specialists. Such interference in existing policy at the behest of one Member State is unprecedented in UNESCO’s history. The author attempts to create a record of what happened and why, for those engaged in the disciplines of documentary heritage.

Keywords

Nanjing Massacre “Comfort Women” Wartime atrocities Human rights “History wars” 

References

  1. A false memory: Nominating the “Nanjing Massacre” to the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. (2015, April 9). The LibertyWeb. http://eng.the-liberty.com/2015/5778/.
  2. Armstrong, P. (2012, February 23). Fury over Japanese politician’s Nanjing Massacre denial. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/23/world/asia/china-nanjing-row/index.html.
  3. An, B (2017, September 18). China tells Japan not to defame UNESCO heritage application regarding comfort women. China Daily. http://www.xinhuanet.com//english/2017-09/18/c_136618756.htm.
  4. An, B. (2015, October 5). Japan seeks to “block” application for Nanjing. China Daily.http://www.alpha-canada.org/historical-issues/japan-seeks-to-block-unesco-application-for-nanjing-massacre.
  5. Carney, M. (2014, March 18). Japanese WWII veterans seek UNESCO World Heritage status for kamikaze pilots’ letters and photos. ABC. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-18/kamikaze/5328942.
  6. Champion, E. (2014, February 10). Japan submits Kamikaze letters to be World Heritage artifacts. War History Online. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/world-heritage.html.
  7. Charlesworth, H. (2010). Human rights and the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. In M. Langfield, W. Logan, & M. N. Craith (Eds.), Cultural diversity, heritage and human rights: Intersections in theory and practice (pp. 21–30). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. ‘Comfort women’ Memory of the World listing now in doubt. (2017, October 27). Asahi Newspaper. http://true-history2.jugem.jp/?eid=2280&target=comment.
  9. Gil, Y. (2018, August 31). UN recommends Japan adopt victim-centered approach for comfort women issue. Hankyoreh Newspaper. http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/860134.html.
  10. Governor of Japan broadcaster NHK denies Nanjing massacre. (2014, February 4). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26029614.
  11. Grossman, J. (2014, September 14). The New History Wars. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/opinion/the-new-history-wars.html.
  12. Gunter, J. (2018, February 3). Holocaust law wields a ‘blunt instrument’ against Poland’s past. BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42920934.
  13. Hirano, K. (2016, September 19). Memories of ‘comfort women’ to be preserved. ABS-CBN News. https://news.abs-cbn.com/overseas/09/19/16/memories-of-comfort-women-to-be-preserved.
  14. Historical Awareness Research Committee. (2017, October 9). Statement of scholars of Japan opposed to the joint registration of the “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’” of the Japanese military with UNESCO’s “Memory of the World”. http://harc.tokyo/en/?p=135. Accessed 27 January 2019.
  15. History wars: Japanese taxpayers funding anti-Japan activists. (2018, January 26). Sankei Newspaper. https://japan-forward.com/history-wars-japanese-taxpayers-funding-anti-japan-activists/.
  16. Israel rebukes Poland PM for ‘Jewish perpetrators’ remark. (2018, February 18). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-43102226.
  17. International Committee for Joint Nomination of Documents on the Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’ to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. (2017, October 31). Statement regarding the Postponement of our Nomination Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’ to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.Google Scholar
  18. Japan accuses UNESCO of lacking transparency over Nanjing row. (2015, October 14). Pakistan Defense. https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/japan-continues-angry-criticism-on-unesco-over-nanjing-row.403038/.
  19. Japanese Committee for Joint Nomination to the UNESCO MoW Register. (2017, October 27). Statement concerning the IAC review for the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.Google Scholar
  20. Japanese WWII pilots’ last letters eyed for UNESCO listing. (2014, February 8). Yomiuri Shimbun. https://www.asiaone.com/asia/japanese-wwii-pilots-last-letters-eyed-unesco-listing.
  21. Jiang, Y. (2014, January 15). Comfort women may be listed in UNESCO Memory of the World. Focus Taiwan. http://focustaiwan.tw/news/asoc/201401150012.aspx.
  22. Lee, S., & Han, H. (2015). Comfort women: A focus on recent findings from Korea and China. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 21(1), 40–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Maki, K. (2016). Unfolding the “comfort women” debates: Modernity, violence, women’s voices. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  24. Many submitted materials on ‘Comfort Women’ incompatible with UNESCO guidelines. (2017, October 23). Sankei Newspaper. https://japan-forward.com/many-submitted-materials-on-comfort-women-incompatible-with-unesco-guidelines/.
  25. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. (2014, February 10). Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference. https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2511_665403/t1127036.shtml. Accessed 27 Jan 2019.
  26. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. (2015, October 10). New inscriptions on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, Statement by Foreign Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura. https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/release/press4e_000887.html. Accessed 27 January 2019.
  27. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. (1993, August 4). Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the result of the study on the issue of “comfort women”. https://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/women/fund/state9308.html. Accessed 25 Jan 2019.
  28. MoW Guidelines Review Group. (2017). UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. General guidelines, approved text December. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  29. Nanjing massacre and “comfort women” might be listed as “Memory of World”. (2014, June 11). Xinhua News Agency. https://bostonese.com/2014/06/nanjing-massacre-and-comfort-women-might-be-listed-as-memory-of-world/.
  30. Nakano, R. A. (2018). A failure of global documentary heritage? UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ and heritage dissonance in East Asia. Contemporary Politics, 24(4), 481–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nuland, V. (2011, October 31). US Department of State Daily Press Briefing. https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2011/10/176434.htm. Accessed 27 January 2019.
  32. Over 100 scholars oppose UNESCO registration of ‘comfort women’ documents. (2017, October 20). Sankei Newspaper. https://japan-forward.com/89-japanese-scholars-oppose-unesco-registration-of-comfort-women-documents/.
  33. Ramzy, A. (2014, June 13). China and Japan Face Off Over Documentation of Wartime Atrocities. https://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/13/china-and-japan-face-off-over-documentation-of-wartime-atrocities/. Accessed 27 January 2019.
  34. Russia slams Japan for ‘violently distorting’ UNESCO dossier on soldiers held in Second World War. (2015, October 23). South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1871263/russia-slams-japan-violently-distorting-unesco-dossier-soldiers-held#comments.
  35. Russia urges Japan to discuss addition of Maizuru collection to UNESCO list. (2015, October 22). The Sputnik News. https://sputniknews.com/world/201510221028966165-Russia-Urges-Japan-Add-Maizuru-to-UNESCO/.
  36. Ryall, J. (2014, June 14). UN heritage body refuses request to preserve letters of kamikaze pilots. South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1532127/un-heritage-body-refuses-request-preserve-letters-kamikaze-pilots.
  37. Ryall, J. (2015a, October 19). Japan furious at UNESCO listing Nanjing Massacre documents. Deutsche Welle. https://www.dw.com/en/japan-furious-at-unesco-listing-nanjing-massacre-documents/a-18790477.
  38. Ryall, J. (2015b, November 9). Angry Japan tells UNESCO to do a better job after China submits its version of 1937 Nanjing massacre into world archives. South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/1877146/angry-japan-tells-unesco-do-better-job-after-china-submits-its.
  39. Seoul ‘regretful’ of Unesco’s postponement to list comfort women documents. (2017, November 1). Korea Herald. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/942282/seoul-regretful-of-unescos-postponement-to-list-comfort-women-documents.
  40. Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact. (2017, October 31). Statement concerning the decision of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register on “Documentation on ‘Comfort Women’ and Japanese Army Discipline”. http://www.sdh-fact.com/essay-article/1071/. Accessed 25 January 2019.
  41. Takahashi, S. (2017, October 19). Japan should exit UNESCO depending on comfort women inscription. Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. https://en.jinf.jp/weekly/archives/5178.
  42. Takenaka, K. (2015, October 13). Japan may halt funds for UNESCO over Nanjing row with China. Reuters. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-china-nanjing/japan-may-halt-funds-for-unesco-over-nanjing-row-with-china-idUKKCN0S70GB20151013.
  43. Takenaka, K., Kaneko, K., & Blanchard B. (2014, June 11). Japan blasts Chinese bid for U.N. recognition of Nanjing massacre. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-china-idUSKBN0EM0MH20140611.
  44. Takita, M. (2017, October 23). Japan mulls over leaving UNESCO should ‘comfort women’ material be registered. Sankei Newspaper. https://japan-forward.com/japan-mulls-over-leaving-unesco-should-comfort-women-material-be-registered/.
  45. Tanaka, T. (2002). Japan’s comfort women: Sexual slavery and prostitution during World War II and the US occupation. London/New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Taylor, T. (2016, March 31). Australia’s ‘history wars’ reignite. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/australias-history-wars-reignite-57065.
  47. Terada, R. (2017, November 30). UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ inequitable at best. Japan Forward. http://japan-forward.com/unescos-memory-of-the-world-inequitable-at-best/.
  48. Tiezzi, S. (2014, February 7). NHK Governor: Nanjing Massacre ‘Never Happened. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2014/02/nhk-governor-nanjing-massacre-never-happened/.
  49. UNESCO. (2015). Report of the 12th meeting of the International Advisory Committee of the “Memory of the World” Programme, 46 October, Abu Dhabi. (CI/MOW-IAC/2015/4).Google Scholar
  50. UNESCO. (2017, December 21). Reforming UNESCO’s action on Memory of the World (Press release). https://en.unesco.org/news/reforming-unesco-s-action-memory-world. Accessed 25 January 2019.
  51. UNESCO listing sought for Japanese POW records. (2014, March 4). Japan Times. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/04/national/unesco-listing-sought-for-japanese-pow-records/.
  52. UNESCO may weigh opposing views on Memory of the World submissions in light of Japan’s ire. (2017, April 20). Japan Times. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/20/national/unesco-may-weigh-opposing-views-heritage-register-drawing-flak-japan/#.XEaC9M1S-Mo.
  53. UNESCO shelves ‘comfort women’ document registration. (2017, November 1). Nikkei Asian Review. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/UNESCO-shelves-comfort-women-document-registration.
  54. UNESCO’s Nanjing massacre documents anger Japan. (2015, October 13). Aljazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2015/10/unesco-nanjing-massacre-documents-anger-japan-151013101119578.html.
  55. Wang, X. (2017). Historical shifts in remembering China’s Nanjing Massacre. Chinese Studies in History, 50(4), 324–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ward, T., & Lay, W. (2016). The comfort women controversy: Not over yet. East Asia, 33, 255–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wei, G. (2008). Politicization and de-politicization of history: The evolution of international studies of the Nanjing massacre. The Chinese Historical Review, 15(2), 242–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wingfield-Hayes, R. (2014, February 26). Remembering Japan’s kamikaze pilots. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26256048.
  59. Xing, X. (2018, August 14). Chinese and Japanese activists struggle to keep memory of ‘comfort women’ alive. Global Times. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1115298.shtml.
  60. Yamamoto, Y. (2017, September 27). ‘Memory of the World’ Program: How will UNESCO tackle historical distortions against Japan? Japan Forward. https://japan-forward.com/memory-of-the-world-program-how-will-unesco-tackle-historical-distortions-against-japan/.
  61. Yi, W. (2014, June 16). Korea seeks to register “comfort women” on UNESCO list. Korea Times. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2014/06/116_159578.html.
  62. Zhan, Y. (2018, August 16). Heart-wrenching memory: “comfort women” records in north China’s Shanxi (9). Xinhua News Agency.Google Scholar
  63. Zhang, H. (2017, November 2). Expert slams UNESCO for giving in to Japan on ‘comfort women’ documents. Global Times. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1073129.shtml.
  64. Zhou, Y. (2017, September 21). ‘Comfort women’ expose Japan’s designs. China Daily. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2017-09/21/content_32275371.htm.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

Personalised recommendations