SEOUL – The organizer of the Asian Winter Games in Japan next month has said a book denying the 1937 Nanking Massacre will be withdrawn from guest rooms at a hotel to be used as one of the athletes’ dormitories, according to South Korea’s national sports organization.
The announcement Wednesday came after the South Korean Sport & Olympic Committee said earlier in the day it had sent a letter urging the organizer of the 2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Games to take “appropriate steps” on the matter.
An official of the South Korean body said the letter states that it is “hurting the basic spirit of sports” for such a book to be placed in rooms to be used by athletes.
According to the organizer, some athletes are expected to stay at a hotel in Hokkaido operated by Apa Group.
The event from Feb. 19 to 26 involves participants from some 30 countries and territories.
The South Korean sports body said its Japanese counterpart had replied it would “make efforts to address the issue” following a request to deal with the matter by phone last Friday.
Apa Group, a major hotel chain operator, has been under fire after it was revealed in China on Jan. 15 that it had distributed the book, which was written by Chief Executive Toshio Motoya, in its hotel rooms.
The book claims the Nanking Massacre was made up by the Chinese and never happened. China says the massacre resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 people.
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Apa Group has expressed readiness to remove the book from its rooms in the hotel in Sapporo if it receives an official request from the games’ organizing committee.
The organizer said it had told the South Korean sports body of the Apa Group’s stance but had not made a request to remove the book as of Wednesday.
The book, written in Japanese and English, has also drawn criticism from South Korea as it also claims the “comfort women” in Japanese wartime military brothels were not forced to work there.
The issue has recently again been at the center of a diplomatic standoff between Tokyo and Seoul after a statue symbolizing such females was installed on a sidewalk facing the Japanese Consulate General in the southern port city of Busan in late December, prompting Tokyo to recall its ambassador in protest.
In China, the National Tourism Administration called on Chinese travelers not to use the hotel chain ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays staring Friday, during which many tourists are expected to visit Japan.
The China National Tourism Administration spokesman described APA Hotel Group’s decision to store the controversial book as an “an open provocation to Chinese tourists.”
“We demand that all operators with international tours and online platforms completely stop all cooperation with this hotel,” spokesman Zhang said.
He then also urged Chinese tourists, who are either vacationing or have plans to visit Japan, to completely boycott the hotel chain. The APA Hotel Group told CNN via mail that Chinese tourists have already started cancelling their reservations, but claimed the impact on its business has been minimum, arguing that booking by other foreign nationalities is continuing smoothly.
Last week, APA did not mince any words as it came in complete defence of the book, which is apparently written by its CEO Toshio Motoya.
“Although we acknowledge that historic interpretation and education vary among nations, please clearly understand that the book is not aimed to criticize any specific state or nation, but for the purpose of letting readers learn the fact-based true interpretation of modern history,” the hotel said.
The entire fiasco started as soon as videos of the controversial book went viral on Chinese Weibo, evoking widespread anger and criticism across Mainland China. The video was reportedly uploaded by two tourists who came across the book while their stay at one of the local APA Hotels in Japan.
The book bluntly states that China’s claim of 300,000 people dying in the ‘Nanjing Massacre’ is absolutely absurd. It based its argument on the rationale that the population of Nanjing city in 1937 was only 200,000, far less than the actual ‘death figure’ claimed by Chinese authorities.
‘Nanjing Massacre’ is a sore chapter in China- Japan relation, with former accusing Japan of perpetuating wartime aggression against its citizens. As per Beijing’s version, Japanese troops pounding of Nanjing city during the second Sino-Japanese war led to death of nearly 300,000 people. There were also claims that the Japanese army raped several Chinese women during the massacre.
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