SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) - Japan's prime minister has stopped short of apologizing for his nation's role in World War II and is being accused of trying to change history books by demanding removal of accounts of so-called 'comfort women.'
On Wednesday, Shinzo Abe expressed remorse for the American lives lost during the fighting, but added that "history is harsh… what is done cannot be undone."
70 years have gone by since Japan's brutal occupation of China and Korea, as well as the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
By now, Japan's history should have been settled, but Prime Minister Abe wants part of Japan's dark history erased, and re-written from an American textbook.
"I think what Abe is doing is wrong, but I also think it's stupid and it's going to fail," said Elaine Kim, University of California, Berkeley Professor of Asian American Studies.
Abe has demanded that U.S. publisher McGraw-Hill Education edit out two paragraphs on comfort women - or wartime sex slaves.
The Japanese Army forcibly recruited...as many as 300,000 women aged 14 to 20 to serve in military brothels.
The so-called comfort women served up to 30 men each day. At the end of the war, soldiers massacred large numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation. Now it's Abe who is trying to cover up the country's ugly past, said Kim.
"I think the horse has left the barn, there's no way that the Abe government can change the way history happened and there are too many witnesses, too many people who know," said Kim.
Surviving comfort woman Lee Yong Soo said Japanese soldiers kidnapped her when she was 16. She was flown to Washington from South Korea ahead of Abe's visit to demand an apology.
"Japan has been arguing that comfort women were willing prostitutes and that during World War II Japan was just trying to liberate Asia from Western imperialism," said Mili Yoon, a UC Berkeley student. "That itself is so disrespectful and cowardly to Korea's only 53 survivors left."
As Abe visits the Bay Area Thursday, Koreans and Chinese in the Bay Area will be watching what he says.
"The Japanese government has been denying this history for such a long time it almost seems ridiculous that he would attempt to try and do the same thing again," said Cal student James Cho.
Protesters said they planned wait for Abe at a Stanford appearance Thursday to remind him that, 70 years later, Japan should own up to and face the truth.
McGraw-Hill has said it will not make any changes to the passages about comfort women.
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