Ex-journalist in Japan loses defamation suit against ‘comfort women’ deniers

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Nov. 19 (UPI) — A former Japanese journalist who has said he received death threats for his investigation of “comfort women” has lost a defamation lawsuit in Japan’s Supreme Court.

Takashi Uemura, who first reported on the women in 1991, has previously sued Yoshiko Sakurai, a former anchorwoman at Nippon Television. On Thursday, Japan’s highest court dismissed Uemura’s case of defamation, upholding earlier court rulings. Sakurai will no longer need to issue a statement of apology or pay damages, Kyodo News reported.

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In 1991 Uemura wrote the first reports on Korean comfort women forced to serve in Japan’s wartime brothels. Right-wing critics have said Uemura’s stories are fabrications, but former comfort women later came forward about their traumatic experiences and began a movement in South Korea demanding Japanese government compensation.

The issue of comfort women has been a source of tensions between South Korea and Japan. Japan’s nationalists, supportive of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, have said Uemura’s work hurts Japan’s image.

Sakurai, the defendant in the case, has previously said Uemura needs to be held accountable for distorting history. Right-wing activists in Japan say the women were prostitutes who opted to serve in brothels.

Uemura’s suits against Sakurai and three publishers began in 2015. In 2018, a Sapporo district court ruled Sakurai’s editorials damaged Uemura’s reputation but did not defame him. Last year, Tokyo District Court said Uemura was defamed by the publisher of weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun and a scholar, but rejected his claim of damages.

Comfort women activists have often used artwork, including statues, to raise awareness of the issue. Japanese politicians recently called for the removal of a comfort woman statue in Berlin, but a civic group in Germany filed for an injunction against a removal order, according to Yonhap.