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California high school textbooks likely to call comfort women “sex slaves”

By Sho Nakamura in Los Angeles


Documents of the California state education board show that history and social science textbooks to be adopted for public high schools in California from 2017 are very likely to call comfort women who worked for the Japanese Imperial Army “sex slaves.” While some revisions or deletions may still be made to the proposed curriculum revisions announced last December, the expression “sex slave” has been retained in the draft that will be finalized in July.


It is believed that this will be the first case of inclusion of the comfort women issue in a curriculum based on state educational guidelines. South Korean groups are already campaigning for curriculum revisions in other states. California’s decision is certain to affect other states.


An account on the comfort women issue is included in Grade 10 textbooks. The proposed revisions include: “The sex slaves, or the so-called comfort women, were abducted by the Japanese occupation armies before and during the war” and “it is possible to teach the comfort women system as institutionalized sexual slavery or the most serious case of human trafficking in the 20th Century.”


Japanese residents and descendants in California have asked the education board to reconsider through emails. As of early May, the passages on “the most serious case of human trafficking in the 20th Century” were deleted, and replacing the expression “sex slave” in some instances is being considered. However, “it is possible to teach this issue as institutionalized sexual slavery” remains.


The Japanese government rejects the term “sex slave” and categorically denies any forcible abduction. There is growing concern that accounts contrary to this position may be included.


The education board is holding experts’ meetings and public hearings on May 19 and 20. While this issue will continue to be discussed, a formal decision is expected to be made in mid-July.

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