On August 5, 2014 Asahi Shinbun, the second largest liberal newspaper in Japan, announced that its articles that reported atrocities of Japanese military hunting over 2,000 Korean women and forcing them to work as sex slaves were fabricated stories, and apologized and retracted all 16 related articles that were published in the 80s and 90s. This incidence is another example of the rise of public opinion that is empowered by the internet that enabled rigorous scrutiny of facts. It is now very difficult for the mass media to fabricate false story and create misperception. The implication of the reveal of this fabrication extends to the credibility of U.S. media, especially the New York Times, some U.S. politicians that have been excessively compliant to their local Korean constituents, United Nations Commission on Human Rights that filed Coomaraswamy report which was based partly on false facts, Korean diplomacy and Japanese diplomacy in general. These parties have neglected, on various extents, the simple principle – to be fact based.
2. The Reveal of the Structure of how Fabricated Story Became De Facto International PerceptionThe allegation that Japanese military forced Korean women to work as a sex slave during World War II started to become an international issue since the 80s. The structure of how Asahi Shinbun fabricated the story of “Korean Sex Slaves” and propagated to the world to make it an international issue is now revealed:
First, there is Asahi’s ideology that shapes their view to be pro-communist China and pro- North and South Korea. Based on this ideology, Asahi has been fabricating articles (with the obvious intention it is not simple misreporting). Asahi will then persuade the New York Times (which its Tokyo bureau is located inside the Asahi Shinbun’s headquarters) to report the story in the U.S. Then Asahi will report back in Japan that the global media NYT is reporting a story that is now a global issue. Asahi will also persuade Korean media to report in Korea. The fabricated story will be amplified throughout this structure bouncing back and force among Asahi, NYT, South Korean media. Eventually, U.S. politicians, international organization such as UNHCR, Korean and Japanese diplomacy will be dragged into the structure of amplification.
3. The Breach of the Amplification StructureThe acknowledgement by Asahi that the basis of its allegation was false directly hits the fundamental basis of the entire amplification structure. Although too much amplification had already been made, it is significant that the basis is destroyed. On September 14, 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that Asahi Shinbun should do its best to explain to the world – to unwind the amplification.
The incident highlights the rise of public voice empowered by the internet that increased public’s ability to cross examine facts. Asahi was pushed to admit their mistake after over 30 years of denial (despite the repeated suggestion on the inaccuracy of the articles), because the public now have access to more reliable facts. Mass media such as Asahi Shinbun that fabricate story to justify their ideology rather than to report factual news will be eventually be scrutinized.
4. Implication to the U.S. Media, Politicians, UN committees, and Japanese DiplomacyU.S. media:
U.S. media that were intentionally or unintentionally involved in the amplification structure should re-examine the fact and its own reporting. Admitting the errors in the past reports would be necessary, especially the New York Times. Fact based reporting is required rather than reporting what some loud voice is claiming.
U.S. Politicians that is involved in setting up monuments in the U.S. based on fabricated story:While getting the vote of Korean constituents must be attractive, U.S. politicians should stay away from such activity that is based on false story as true molarity will be eventually examined.
United Nations Commission on Human Rights:U.N. reports that are based on false allegation should be retracted or corrected.
Korean diplomacy:Koreans should stop using the story of “sex slaves” to try to keep the moral upper hand against Japan as the facts will eventually fire back as evidenced in the recent loss of interest to Korea in Japan.
Japanese diplomacy:Japanese diplomacy has been incapable and allowed defamation of Japanese citizens by Asahi Shinbun and the amplification structure. Here again, the past action by the government was not fact based. For example Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono made a statement, without facts, that Koran women were forced to become comfort women (sex slaves) .Diplomacy has to be fact based as well.
5. End noteThe structure of creating and amplifying fabricated story is now breached. Asahi decided to admit this and other fabrications, including false reporting regarding the evacuation of workers at Fukushima Nuclear power plant and false interview reporting on a Japanese manufacturing company. Fabricated reporting will be eventually criticised in this era and mass media should revert to the principle of fact based reporting rather than focusing on spreading its ideology.