The Role of Fact-Finding and Interpretation in the Construction of Risk and Suffering: The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Comfort Women Issue
Naoko Kumagai Yoko Ikeda
This paper clarifies and examines the diverse roles of fact-finding and fact-interpretation in resolving the issues where sharply divided opinions prevail, in two very different cases involving groups of victims: the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the wartime use of comfort women. How facts are collected, selected, applied, and interpreted affects how victims are protected and how reconciliation is achieved, through the acknowledgement of culpability and victimhood, apologies, and compensation.
The issue of Fukushima deals with the confusions and ambiguities inherent in selecting facts, constructing the notion of "risk," and gaining the public's trust in the media and the academy, in light of the growing participation of laypeople in the discourse through social media. The different concerns of evacuees placed in diverse situations demonstrate the difficulty in generating trustful understanding and making decisions that a public consensus will support.
The issue of comfort women demonstrates that the two main fact-finding processes, judicial proceedings and academic research, play distinctive roles in constructing the notion of "suffering." Judicial procedure has recognized the facts of harm to, and sufferings of, former comfort women and the degree of culpability of those responsible. The downside of court proceedings is that their time-consuming, rigorous procedure is available to only a limited number of victims and, even then, has failed to meet the demands of individual compensations from former comfort women. Still, the judicial recognition of harm often serves to heal the psychological wounds of the victims. Academic research has identified the overall coercive nature of the conditions comfort women were subject to, though it suffers from the significant absence of official documents, faces the challenges of the tendency for position-driven interpretation, and bears the responsibility of finding a balance between analytical rigor and sensitivity for victims.
Policy-making for genuine resolution and reconciliation, whether it takes the form of apologies, punishment, and/or compensation, requires incorporation of these distinctive processes of fact-finding and fact-interpretation, taking their varying effects into consideration.