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Here’s the Japanese rock song so offensive it took North Korea’s focus off U.S.

From 1910 through its defeat at the end of World War II, Japan forced tens of thousands of Korean women into sexual slavery as "comfort women." Korea was a Japanese colony at the time; since then, this abuse has come to symbolize the worst of Japanese practices in Korea. But it's also become a touchy subject in Japan itself, an abuse so profound that nationalists sometimes refuse to acknowledge it happened. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has hinted he might "revise" the country's formal apology – or, in very extreme cases, even boast about its past.

A far-right and otherwise obscure Japanese rock band called Scramble, seizing on renewed political attention to the issue, has released a song about comfort women, called "Slashing Koreans." I haven't been able to get a full translation of the lyrics yet, but an Agence France-Presse story says the song alleges that the women were all prostitues, an allegation often made by far-right Japanese. The song also urges violence against the elderly survivors of Japan's wartime sex slavery.

The song is so offensive that North Korea's official media outlet, the Korean Central News Agency, dedicated its "daily commentary" to it. The daily KCNA editorial is typically a screed against "American imperialists" or their South Korean "lackeys." For the last two weeks, it's been wholly consumed with escalating tensions against the United States, so the fact that they set aside an entire daily commentary to call out Scramble for its song suggests that they might really, sincerely be incensed by it.

The song likely came to North Korea's attention after some South Korean survivors of the sexual slavery system, women now in their 80s and 90s, filed a defamation suit against the band. It seems that the women learned of the song when someone mailed a CD of it, along with the lyrics helpfully translated into Korean, to a shelter for comfort women survivors in South Korea. It's not clear who sent the CD, but it's worth noting that Scramble took care to include a Korean-language translation of the song's name when they posted it to YouTube, suggesting that they like the idea of rubbing the song in Koreans' faces. Perhaps one of the band's few fans wanted to help in that mission.

The video, posted above, includes footage from anti-Korean protests in Japan and photos of some disputed islands, which are called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

It's hard to disagree with KCNA's offense at the song. Still, few readers outside of North Korea will agree with KCNA's thesis that the song proves that Japan is "the worst human rights abuser." In many ways, it appears to be using this incident to preemptively defend against the United Nations' proposed investigation into North Korean human rights abuses, which Japan supports. Here's KCNA, with my emphasis added:

Japan has no face to talk about other's human rights as it has shunned the redemption of its crime-woven past for decades by drenching the continent with the blood shed by Asians in the last century.

The Abe government has gone to extremes in its approach towards such shameless acts as distorting the history and denying the past crimes including the issue of "comfort women" for the Imperial Japanese Army, a hideous crime against humanity.

Abe dismissed as a serious error the news report that he "apologized" for the issue of the sexual slavery for the Imperial Japanese Army at the talks with the then-U.S. president in April, 2007, when the former was in office.

There take place a series of despicable acts in Japan. A rock troupe, ultra-right music band of Japan, composed songs insulting the victims of the sexual slavery to be disseminated and posted on Web sites was a composite photograph insulting a girl bust disclosing the sexual slavery as a prostitute. This is the picture of Japan.

Sadly, it is true that Abe, in 2007, suggested that the Japanese military had never actually enslaved thousands of "comfort women" as part of its occupation of Korea. It's also true that the Scramble song is horribly offensive. Fortunately, Abe appears to have backed off his threats that he might annul his country's formal apology; though his rhetoric remains unhelpful for Japanese-Korean relations, it's an improvement. Also fortunately, Scramble is a fringe group in Japan with a fringe fan base. It probably has more listeners in North Korea today than in Japan itself.



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Caitlin Dewey · April 4, 2013

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