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Friday, August 17, 2007

Newspapers 新聞

News in English isn't hard to find in Taiwan, even in a small city like Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原. The local cable provider shows CNN, and most of the convenience stores stock at least one of the three English-language newspapers. In fact, compared to Japan, it's much easier to find an English newspaper. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the quality of the papers. Perhaps it's because of the relatively small size of the market (there being fewer ex-pats, for example), but none of the three newspapers here (China Post, Taipei Times and Taiwan News) can be favorably compared to the Japan Times, or even the Daily Yomiuri. True, they all provide a good overview of international events provided by the major wire services like AP, AFJ and Kyodo News 共同通信社. But the quality of their local news coverage varies. The China Post is probably the worst in this regard. Domestic news stories are often poorly translated, and betray a pro-KMT 中国国民党 bias. The Taiwan News is better, but that paper is closely allied to the Democratic Progressive Party 民主進步黨 (DPP). The Taipei Times is by far the best of the lot, and generally pretty consistent, but even it screws up once in a while. Take today for example...

On Page 2 in today's issue, there was an article by one Loa Iok-sin entitled "`Comfort women' protest in Taipei" http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2007/08/16/2003374424. The writer shows a clear bias in favor of the comfort women 慰安婦, and in one paragraph the following is written:

"During World War II, an estimated 200,000 Asian women were forced by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve as "comfort women," or sex slaves.

Tokyo has not apologized, but set up the Asian Women's Fund in 1995 to issue compensation."

Now the plight of the comfort women is one deserving of both support and sympathy, and the Japanese government's handling of the issue has been rightfully condemned by many. But Loa apparently didn't bother to do any research for this story, because it seems as if he/she has never heard of the Kono Statement. Back on August 4, 1993, Yohei Kono 河野洋平, who at the time was the Japanese government's Chief Cabinet Secretary (i.e. it's official spokesman), issued a statement in the name of the Japanese government on the comfort women. In it, he clearly stated

"The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women."

It may not have satisfied many of the former comfort women and their supporters, but it clearly is an apology. The Japanese government has stood by the Kono Statement ever since - even Shinzo Abe 安倍晋三 has refused to refute it. It seems Loa got his/her background information for the article in question from the people that he/she interviewed, and didn't bother to crosscheck any of the facts.

The Japan Times has a commentary today by Tom Plate on Taiwan's recent failed UN 国連 bid, "Taiwan sets itself up for yet another fall" http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20070816tp.html. It's a sympathetic piece in general about Taiwan and its situation, but critical on the way the Chen government has gone about trying to gain admission to world bodies like the UN and WHO 世界保健機関, basically saying it's a waste of time due to China's objections. Perhaps he's right, but hopefully Taiwan's persistence will keep attention fixed on the situation. A better way for Taiwan vis-a-vis the matter of its representation in international bodies might be to coordinate its actions with sympathetic friends, like Japan and the United States, instead of trying to go it alone.

How do say "Chinese stooge" in Korean, Ban Ki-moon? Is it 중국 조연 (according to Babel Fish, not the most reliable of translators)? Just wondering :)

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