Seiji Yoshida was a novelist and member of the Japanese Communist Party. Some of his pseudonyms included Seiji Yoshida, Toji Yoshida and Eiji Yoshida. As the author of the book “My War Crimes,” published 30 years after the end of the Second World War, Yoshida stirred up quite the controversy surrounding Comfort Women. In 1996, Yoshida admitted the book was fictional, however information presented in the book was used as fact in newspapers, historical references and in UN reports.
In his book, Yoshida claimed that there were 200,000 comfort women. Contemporary historians dispute this, citing the number closer to 20,000. The larger number supposedly referenced the number of women forced to serve in the civil labor corps, which did jobs such as cleaning and nursing.
Both in 1977 and 1983, Yoshida published a set of memoirs detailing actions during the war. The popularity of his books are credited for bringing an apology to Korea by the then-minister of foreign affairs Yohei Kono. Suspicion surrounding the factual nature of his books emerged along with its popularity. A historian at Takushoku University noticed inconsistencies between the two publications, and began an in-depth investigation regarding claims made throughout the book. An instance of this prompted South Korean newspapers to interview residents of Jeju Island, where the “forced recruitment” Yoshida wrote about was supposed to have taken place. They found no one who remembered a sweep through a button factory which was detailed at length in the 1983 memoir.
After revealing to a reporter that his story was in fact fictional, The Asahi Shimbun admitted to errors in several publications regarding the Japanese Comfort Women issue. The redaction and correction comes more than 20 years after the first accusation of errors in April of 1992. The Asahi newspaper reported using Yoshida’s accounts in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
The impact of Yoshida’s books was great. In 1992, the New York Times reported on the confession of the fabrication of his memoirs. Australian journalist George L. Hicks wrote a book titled “The Comfort Women: Sex Slaves of the Japanese Imperial Forces”, stating that slave hunting was conducted whenever other methods failed, based on Yoshida’s book. The UN Commission on Human Rights used numbers from the Yoshida Testimony in their 1996 report.
To date, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe maintains Japanese connection to matter by upholding the Kono statement, which admitted that Japanese authorities were
“… directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.”
“The (Japanese) government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere”
The legacy of Comfort Women is ongoing. Academics in search of the truth are often stifled by publications such as Yoshida’s, whose narratives are much more appealing. In Yoshida’s own words- “There is no profit in writing the truth in books. Hiding the facts and mixing your own assertions into the story is something that newspapers do too”.