Abe's 'Comfort Women' denial: U.S. reaction, a victim speaks, and classifieds

Just joining us? See this entry and this follow-up.

New developments:

  • U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte would not comment on Abe’s specific words, but AP reports:

    “Our view is that what happened during the war was most deplorable,” he said when asked about the sex slave issue. “But … as far as some kind of resolution of this issue, this is something that must be dealt with between Japan and the countries that were affected.”

  • Occidentalism posts two Korean newspaper ads from 1944 seeking 慰安婦, or “comfort women,” who were promised what amounts to a salary and a signing bonus. From the post:

    The newspaper ads suggest that, at least in Korea, the recruitment of “comfort women” was open, legitimate, and socially acceptable. They are also evidence that the women were well paid. For example, a commenter going by the name of “Void” wrote that the salary of a lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army was only 110 yen per month, which means that the women would have been receiving almost triple the salary of a Japanese army lieutenant.

    Even the Kono Statement acknowledged that some women were recruited in the open and some by force. The ads certainly don’t imply “legitimate and socially acceptable.” Just because you can buy something from a newspaper ad doesn’t mean society thinks it’s OK. Further, the newspaper may have been controlled by Japanese forces, and under imperial administration, it would be misleading to say open press reflected the norms of the people being dominated.

  • Meanwhile, a Korean woman who has spoken out at the U.S. Congress about her experience as a sex slave reemphasized to reporters in broken Japanese her experience of abduction and brutal rape during enslavement. Hers is only one example of several that have surfaced in the day’s press reports. Here’s Lee Yong-soo, 78:

    “I cried ‘mother, mother,’ but they never stopped. They used electric shocks to torture me. They kicked me. They cut me,” she said tearfully in broken Japanese.

    “After I returned home after the war, I did not tell anyone about what happened to me,” she said.

    She said she has been staging protests for 16 years outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul to demand an apology.

    “Japan forcibly took me away. I am a living witness. I will tell my story wherever,” she said. “I demand the prime minister of Japan apologise.”

    I don’t have any independent information on this woman’s account, but what she describes sounds a lot like “coercion” to me.

3 thoughts on “Abe's 'Comfort Women' denial: U.S. reaction, a victim speaks, and classifieds

  1. [email protected]

    Hi Graham,

    “The ads certainly don’t imply “legitimate and socially acceptable.” Just because you can buy something from a newspaper ad doesn’t mean society thinks it’s OK.”

    I am guessing that Gerry is saying that because it was legal, it had a certain degree of acceptability, even if people in the sex industry are looked down on by society as a whole. You could say the same thing about Korea today (except now it is illegal but tolerated).

    Obviously there are guys like you and I that take an interest in the issue of comfort women, but most people will never be able to wrap their heads around it or understand it.

    While there are testimonies like the one you give above that claim they were abducted by the Japanese army, the Japanese government has not been able to find any documentary evidence anywhere to support that ever happening, even once. I suppose that does not mean that it never happened, but it certainly does indicate that it was not systematic, and that it was not the policy of the government.

    There is also confusion about the meaning of “comfort women”, as many people include battlefield rape victims as among the comfort women.

    What the documentary evidence does tell us, both Japanese and two US army reports on Koreans and comfort women, is that often the women were sold by their own families to serve a term of 6 to 12 months as prostitutes for the Japanese army.

    Once the family had received and advance, a small fortune, and signed the contract, then the daughters fate was sealed. Of course many would not want to go to be prostitutes, but they would have been pressured by their families. The Japanese and Korean people of the day treated women like chattel, so their would have been no recourse to the police, either. The woman would have to go, and if she was not cooperative when she arrived, then it is quite possible that she would have been forced to have sex. I can imagine just such a girl being screamed at like “if you don’t want to work, then pay us back the 1000 yen we advanced your family!”. Of course, there is no way such a girl would have that money or she would not be a comfort woman in the first place.

    From everything that I have read in the colonial era of Korea, I honestly believe that a girl that had been kidnapped would have recourse to the police and courts if they had not been sold by their families.

    I think that is the real scandal about the comfort women issue, although it does not apply to every single one of them. The problem with considering the issue this way is that it can no longer be used as an issue to bash the current Japanese government with because it becomes a more generalized issue about the oppression of women. Koreans do not want to face their substantial role in what happened to some of the comfort women, so it is in their interest to try to frame the issue as a black and issue of supporting or denying the comfort women. The US Congress resolution being undertaken now does just that. It does not even allow for any nuance or details at all, and the resolution demands that the number of comfort women, 200,000, be accepted despite no methodology used to reach this number, along with accepting that every single one of them was forced, usually from their homes or villages at gun point by the Japanese army, to serve as sex slaves.

    Personally, I do think the average Joe on the street will ever be able to understand this issue, and the media never provides more than sound bites of testimonies and the predictable denials that follow. I am glad there are guys out there like you that are following the issue in detail.

    Reply
  2. BACKGROUND OF 'COMFORT WOMEN' ISSUE

    BACKGROUND OF ‘COMFORT WOMEN’ ISSUE / Comfort station originated in govt-regulated ‘civilian prostitution’

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20070331dy01.htm

    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Controversy over the so-called comfort women has been inflamed again. The U.S. House of Representatives has been deliberating a draft resolution calling for the Japanese government to apologize over the matter by spurning the practice as slavery and human trafficking. Why has such a biased view of the issue prevailed? The Yomiuri Shimbun carried in-depth reports on the issue Tuesday. The writers are Masanobu Takagi, Hiroaki Matsunaga and Emi Yamada of the political news department. Starting today, The Daily Yomiuri will carry the stories in three installments.

    To discuss the comfort women issue, it is indispensable to understand the social background of the time when prostitution was authorized and regulated by the government in Japan. Prostitution was tacitly permitted in limited areas up until 1957, when the law to prevent prostitution was enforced.

    Comfort women received remuneration in return for sexual services at so-called comfort stations for military officers and soldiers. According to an investigation report publicized by the government on Aug. 4, 1993, on the issue of comfort women recruited into sexual service for the Japanese military, there is a record mentioning the establishment of such a brothel in Shanghai around 1932, and additional similar facilities were established in other parts of China occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army.

    Some of them were under the direct supervision of the military authorities, but many of the brothels catering to soldiers were privately operated.

    Modern historian Ikuhiko Hata, a former professor at Nihon University, says the comfort women system should be defined as the “battleground version of civilian prostitution.”

    Comfort women were not treated as “paramilitary personnel,” unlike jugun kangofu (military nurses) and jugun kisha (military correspondents). During the war, comfort women were not called “jugun ianfu” (prostitutes for troops). Use of such generic terminology spread after the war. The latter description is said to have been used by writer Kako Senda (1924-2000) in his book titled “Jugun Ianfu” published in 1973. Thereafter, the usage of jugun ianfu prevailed.

    In addition to Japanese women, women from the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan, both then under Japanese colonial rule, and China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries invaded by the Imperial Japanese Army were recruited as comfort women.

    Hata estimates that 40 percent of the wartime comfort women were Japanese, 30 percent Chinese and other nationalities and 20 percent Korean.

    The total number of comfort women has yet to be determined exactly.

    According to a report compiled by Radhika Coomaraswany of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 1996, there were 200,000 comfort women from the Korean Peninsula alone. The figure in the report was based on information Coomaraswany had obtained in North Korea. But this report contained many factual errors, and its quoted sources lacked impartiality. Foreign Minister Taro Aso rejected the figure of 200,000 as “lacking objective evidence.”

    The reasons cited for the need for comfort women and wartime brothels are as follows:

    — To prevent military officers and soldiers from raping women and committing other sex crimes in occupied areas.

    — To prevent venereal disease from spreading through troops who would otherwise contact local prostitutes who did not receive periodic medical checks.

    — To prevent military secrets from being leaked by limiting the women who provided sexual services to officers and soldiers to recruited comfort women.

    Such a system and the use of wartime brothels generally are not limited only to the Imperial Japanese military.

    The U.S. troops that occupied Japan after the war used brothels provided by the Japanese side. There was a case in which U.S. military officials asked the Japanese authorities to provide women for sexual services. During the Vietnam War, brothels similar to those established for the former Japanese military were available to U.S. troops, a U.S. woman journalist has pointed out.

    Hata said: “There were wartime brothels also for the German troops during World War II. Some women were forced into sexual slavery. South Korean troops had brothels during the Korean War, according to a finding by a South Korean researcher.”

    (Mar. 31, 2007)

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