To look into how other newspapers covered the comfort women issue, microfilm kept at the National Diet Library and databases of the various companies that allow for searches were used to check articles that appeared, particularly since the late 1980s, in the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun and the Sankei Shimbun.
The thrust of the research focuses on three main points looked into by The Asahi Shimbun in this special coverage. The points are: how was the late Seiji Yoshida covered; was there confusion between "comfort women" and "women volunteer corps"; and was the term "forcible taking away " used in reporting on the comfort women issue.
Yoshida gave testimony that he "hunted comfort women" on Jeju Island in South Korea. The Sankei, which has criticized the Asahi's past coverage of Yoshida, ran a series of articles in its evening edition published by the Osaka head office in 1993 under the title "Thoughts on human rights."
This Sankei series included wide coverage of Yoshida. The theme of the series was "thinking along with ‘witnesses' about war, which is the greatest infringement of human rights, and re-examining it."
An article that appeared in the Sept. 1, 1993, edition had a headline of "Victimizer, an endless pilgrimage of apology" and included a photo of Yoshida apologizing to Kim Hak-sun, the former comfort woman. He was introduced as "'a witness' who has revealed taking away roughly more than 1,000 women from Jeju Island, South Korea, to serve as comfort women."
While the article pointed out that "some voices had begun to raise doubts about the reliability (of his testimony)," it added "it cannot be said that forcible taking away did not exist even if there is no testimony from the victims. It is certain that Yoshida holds an important key as a witness."
The series received the 1st Sakata commemorative journalism award given to outstanding reporting based in the Kansai region. The series was turned into a book published by the Buraku Liberation Publishing House Co. in 1994.
The Yomiuri also carried an article about Yoshida in its Aug. 15, 1992, evening edition. The headline was "Theme is comfort women, a meeting to think about ‘war victims.'" The article said, "Seiji Yoshida, who headed the mobilization section at the Shimonoseki branch of the Yamaguchi Prefectural Romu Hokokukai labor organization talked about taking away 100 Korean women to Hainan island by telling them ‘you will receive a good salary as a general maid doing laundry and preparing meals at a hospital.'"
The Mainichi also carried articles in its morning editions of Aug. 12 and 13 in 1992 reporting on Yoshida's visit in the same month to South Korea to apologize.
There was also confusion over "comfort women" and "volunteer corps" in the early 1990s.
The Yomiuri, which criticized past articles in the Asahi for confusing the two terms, published an article in its Aug. 26, 1991, morning edition with the headline "Shedding light on ‘military comfort women,' active movements in Japan, South Korea such as compiling collection of documents and organizing symposiums." The article said, "During the Pacific War, Korean women were gathered under the name of ‘women volunteer corps' and sent to the front lines as military comfort women. While the number is said to have been 200,000, the actual situation is still unclear."
In an article that appeared in the Jan. 16, 1992, morning edition about Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's visit to South Korea, there is also confusion about the two terms with such a passage as "during the war, there were said to be between 100,000 and 200,000 Korean military comfort women who were forcibly taken away under the name of ‘volunteer corps.'"
In an article that appeared in the Mainichi's Dec. 13, 1991, morning edition under the "People" section about Kim Hak-sun, the former comfort woman, a passage said: "Women 14 years old and above were taken away from the Korean Peninsula under such names as volunteer corps and made military comfort women. The number is said to be 200,000, and they were left behind on the battlefield after the end of the war."
The Asahi inquired about the present understanding of the three newspaper companies toward the articles that have been mentioned here. The Mainichi and Sankei submitted the following responses, but there was no response from the Yomiuri.
Comment from the official in charge of public relations in the president's office of the Mainichi Shimbun: All of the articles reported on events that happened at that time, so there is nothing we can comment about at this time.
Comment from the public relations department of the Sankei Shimbun: The articles in question not only introduced the testimony and actions of Seiji Yoshida, but also pointed out the voices of doubt over its reliability. Subsequently, we have reported that his testimony was a ‘fabrication' and ‘fiction' on the basis of further information-gathering and research by scholars."