What is comfort women for the Japanese military?
The term “comfort women”is a euphemism for the young women who were forcefully recruited from old colonies (i.e. Korea and Taiwan) and occupied countries (i.e. China, the Philippines, and Indonesia), and served as sex slaves against their own will during World War Ⅱ.
The Japanese military and governmental officials and private operators deceived, lured and kidnapped as many as 200,000 girls and women into forced sexual slavery throughout its colonies and occupied territories.
These women were at the time referred to as “comfort women” “comfort girls, “i從軍慰安婦 (jugun ianfu) or military comfort women”or “military-serving women” but they are currently defined as “military sex slaves”meaning that they were victimized as sex slaves.
What are comfort stations(military brothels) for?
During the Japanese aggression over China, the soldiers frequently raped local women and provoked strong back lash from local people. Furthermore, the Japanese military suffered loss of its troops to venereal diseases. As a result, the military authorities set up “comfort stations”across its battlefields in order to meet sexual desires and prevent further loss of its troops. Historians pointed out that as early as from 1904 through 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese military severely suffered from venereal diseases so it needed a facility where its troops could be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. In 1932, right after the Manchurian Incident of 1931, the Japanese soldiers were increasingly raping local women around Shanghai, which made the army build “comfort stations(military brothels)”following the navy. (Note the soldier’ notes and public document of Japan)
There were two kinds of “comfort stations” 1) some were built and run directly by the Japanese military 2) others run by civilians. Even those operated by civilians had been planned, licensed, 242 controlled and supervised upon the approval of Japanese military. Rules and regulations for “comfort stations” focused on using condoms and STD-testing and military surgeons conducted the testing about once a week. (Note the public document of Japan and the Allied Forces) However, witnesses from Japanese troops show that Japanese soldiers didn't stop raping local women even after military brothels were set up.
How were the comfort women taken into sex slavery for the military?
Girls and women were deceptively recruited, often with the involvement by the police and governmental officials, sometimes tricked or kidnapped and deployed to “comfort stations”in battlefields. The victims are revealing how they were taken and forced to become sex slaves for the Japanese military.
Deceptive recruitmentIs there any evidence that can prove there was coercion of recruitment for comfort women?
When Soran Kim was 18(in 1940), her sister told her that she could get paid for washing bandages and cleaning in hospitals, and she applied for the job of her own volition. Yet, she was enslaved and forced to be a sex slave for Japanese soldiers in Manila, the Philippines. (Note 3.J.) When Doori Park turned 16, one Japanese and two people who appeared to be Koreans came to her and offered a job at a factory in Japan. She took the job without questioning the offer and ended up as a sex slave in a “comfort station”in Changhwa, Taiwan.(Note 3.H.) When Kumju Hwang became 19(in 1941), the wife of her boss at a sweatshop told her about a job at a Japanese company and she applied for the job, but ended up as a sex slave in a “comfort station”near Girin in China. (Note 3.E.) Wonok Gil can not remember how old she was when she was taken as a sex slave because she was too young. When she turned 12(in 1940), she went to Manchuria to earn money and became a sex slave in a “comfort station”in Haerbin. (Note 3.I.) Soonduk Kim followed a Korean who pretended to recruit women for a factory in Japan when she was 16 years old in 1937 and ended up being a sex slave in a “comfort station”in Shanghai. (Note 3.A.)
Involvement of police and governmental officials
Ilchool Kang was taken at the age of 16 in 1944 by a gunned soldier and a sworded policeman and, unable to let her parents know of her whereabouts, forced to become a sex slave in a “comfort station”in Heilongjiang, China. (Note 3.F.) When Haksun Kim was 17 years old in 1941, she was dragged together with her older sister by 40 to 50 Japanese soldiers in Beijing and taken to Tiebizhen, China to become a sex slave. (Note 3.B.)
Gunja Kim ended up as a sex slave in a military brothel in Hunchun, China after following a uniformed Korean man who she thought asked her to run errands for him. It was 1942 and she was 16. (Note 3.G.) Yongsu Lee at the age of 16 in 1944, followed a Japanese man who gave her a dress and a pair of leather shoes and asked her to accompany him and was coerced to become a sex slave in a military brothel in Hsinchu, Taiwan. (Note 3.D.)
Oksun Lee was forcefully taken by strong men on a street at the age of 15 in 1942 and forced to be a sex slave in Girin, China. (Note 3.K.) Tokkyoung Kang then 15 in 1944, joined volunteer corps at a Fujikoshi in Toyama Prefecture, Japan at the recommendation of her school teacher, but hunger and severe labor led her to flee. Yet, she was captured by troops and forced into sexual slavery for the military in Japan. (Note3.C.)
As mentioned in the previous testimony, “comfort women”were forcefully recruited by Japanese troops and officials. Kinbara, a medical officer of the Japanese Department of Army, wrote, in his duty log that “he army needs to assign the village heads to set up comfort stations with extra precautions being taken to permanent venereal diseases”in Indonesia. This clearly shows that the army itself was forcing village heads to recruit “comfort women.”(Note 4.D.) Some were deceived to become “comfort women”by job fraud, but still the army was involved in selecting job agents to carry out the recruitment and controlling comfort stations.
A Japanese job agent who, in 1932, took Japanese women to a comfort station in Shanghai by deception was found guilty at the highest court of overseas transfer and overseas abduction according to the criminal code in 1937.
This ruling shows that taking a person somewhere against one's will was recognized as crime, and that the definition of being forcefully taken somewhere was being applied to cases in a broader term. (Note. 4.G.)
5.C. and 5.F. indicates that the Japanese army, the police, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan were involved in recruiting “comfort women”and aware of international conventions regarding women trafficking and forced transfer.
These data can be found in public documents in Japan, National Archives and Records Administration in the United States, records at International War Crimes Tribunal in Netherlands, and etc.
How were the lives of military sex slaves in comfort stations?
Girls and women were deceptively recruited, often with the involvement by the police and governmental officials, sometimes tricked or kidnapped and deployed to “comfort stations”in battlefields. The victims are revealing how they were taken and forced to become sex slaves for the Japanese military.
ViolenceWhat is the total number of forcibly recruited comfort women?
Gunja Kim had her right eardrum ruptured after a Japanese solider hit her in the cheek, but she was hardly treated at a hospital and now she has a hearing loss in her right ear. One victim was violently beaten by her owner for attempting to run away. Oksun Lee’ owner called a military policeman who beat her with a leather belt and made her bleed at the nose. She lost hearing ability of one ear after being beaten by a Japanese policeman. Ilchool Kang was hit in the head by a Japanese officer for screaming during her first intercourse and she still has the scars. Once her arm was fractured after being twisted. Her right thumb was twisted so hard that bones cracked and pierced through skin. She was threatened to be burned alive by Japanese troops for contracting typhoid but barely managed to survive with the help of a Korean. Her hands are still trembling because of the beating. Doori Park witnessed that one woman’ mistake led to military-kind group punishment, troops forced every woman to keel and hit them in their thighs with a thick stick. One day, she was brutally beaten for not waking up an asleep visitor and she’ lost most of her hearing ability due to the beating. Wonok Gil was hit in the head by a Japanese sword for resisting and still has the scars. She claims that if one ran away, the rest was subject to punishment. Kumju Hwang refused to accept an officer’ demands and was savagely beaten. She passed out for 3 days. Yongsu Lee says she once passed out in electricity torture for not obeying the brothel managers.
Slaughter and suicide
Sex slaves deployed to battlefields followed Japanese troops. When the Allies intensified their offense and a military unit was about to collapse, higher ranking unit commanded lower ranking units to do Gyokusai(group suicide) and numerous troops followed the order. There’ a testimony that some soldiers slaughtered sex slaves around them. The picture taken in September 1944 featuring corpses abandoned around bordering areas between China and Myanmar vividly shows how brutally Korean “comfort women”of the day were killed. (Note the picture) Sex slaves who were unable to work any more because of disease or injuries were shot to death or abandoned with little treatment. According to Kumju Hwang women at the military brothels often got sick after 2 to 3 times of forced abortions and those seriously sick and unable to provide sexual services were taken by soldiers to unknown places and never came back. Soonduk Kim says many of Chinese sex slaves had run away or committed suicide.
Pregnancy and forced abortion
Gunja Kim got pregnant but was forced to have an abortion by her owner. Oksun Lee testified that there was a woman who was unaware of her pregnancy and had her baby taken away by a Japanese soldier right after the delivery. Tokkyong Kang learned that she was pregnant on her way back home after Korea was liberated from the Japanese colonial rule. She became pregnant right after her first period. Being aware of her pregnancy, she tried to commit a suicide by throwing herself into the sea. On her returning trip, she could not out her plan, though, due to watchful eyes around her that sensed her plan. She gave birth to a child in Korea, but she had to leave her baby to an orphanage being unable to bring her baby home. Kumju Hwang says officers got many sex slaves pregnant because they did not use condoms. After the women had insides of their uteruses scraped off three to four times at a hospital, they became barren for good.
Soran Kim had 2-3 tests for venereal diseases a month and once had malaria. Gunja Kim says she had Salvarsan 606 injection for syphilis. Oksun Lee also had syphilis and had salvarsan 606 injection and mercury treatment that made her unable to conceive a baby for the rest of her life. Ilchool Kang had blooded urination owing to sex slavery at a military brothel and once developed a venereal disease. Doori Park got a venereal disease called lymphogranuloma venereum in her groin. and had a surgery which left her 5cm scars. Wonok Gil also had a surgery for a venereal disease. Her trumpet was blocked, so she had ovary-cystoma. She had the tumor removed when she came back to Korea. Haksun Kim received salvarsan 606 injection from a military surgeon. Yongsu Lee as well had to serve soldiers while on 606 injection. Kumju Hwang says all of the 7 sex slaves including herself suffered swollen uterus and pus coming out of uterus. She was the only one among the 7 “comfort women”to come back home on foot when the Japanese colonial rule ended. Soonduk Kim did not get venereal diseases but suffered bleeding vagina and had trouble urinating, so she was treated at a hospital. She was diagnosed later in Korea after the war ended that she had tilted uterus.
Oksun Lee testfies that she was given only a small loaf of Chinese bread, so she always suffered from hunger and that many women died of hunger-related diseases. According to Doori Park, a small bowl of steamed rice, miso soup and anchovies were given only twice a day. Rice was hard to get, so the women often had to skip meals. Gunja Kim says she sometimes had nothing but strained bean lees to eat.
Rules regulating “comfort stations”required users to pay for services. In reality, however, the payment might have been gone to brothel operators and rarely to sex Soran Kim, they were not given any money or military payment certificate but only meals. Gunja Kim witnesses that she did not get any money either. Doori Park says the female manager kept the money for her, wrote it down on a book and gave the money to the brothel owner. She never got any money for about 5 years. Wonok Gil says she did receive military payment certificates but not actual money. The “comfort women”were virtually deprived of freedom, so military payment certificates were of no use to them. What’ more, these certificates became as good as wastepaper after the Japanese colonial rule ended. Haksun Kim heard that the ranks were supposed to pay 1.5 won and the officers 8 won but she was never paid. Soonduk Kim left all of her military payment certificates in the brothel manager's charge and was assured she’ get them all later but she ended up coming back to Korea empty handed. Soran Kim did receive the certificates from soldiers but they were useless because she could not go outside.
“comfort women”were closely monitored and movement was restricted. They were locked up and lived like slaves. As a result, some women got mentally ill after suffering homesickness and fear of war. As the situation in battlefields got worse, they became short of supplies including sanitary napkins not to mention clothes. Some women were given morphine injections by soldiers at the brothels and some fell into opium. Some sex slaves had to serve Japanese soldiers even during their periods. Haksun Kim says she had to serve soldiers during her periods so she put cotton wool inside her body to stop blood coming out. Oksun Lee claims the women at the brothel didn't have to serve soldiers during their periods according to the rules, but the brothel manager forced them to plug vagina with cotton wool and to serve soldiers, which was approved by military surgeons at the brothel. Many women killed themselves out of horrific conditions at military brothels. It was almost impossible for the comfort women to run away from the brothels due to the tight security and their lack of knowledges of local language and geography. All the living victims assert that their lives at military brothels of the day were out of question inhuman.
Comfort women could be found in every Japanese military camp. However, it is impossible to confirm the exact number of them because the Japanese military destroyed related document for fear of being prosecuted for war crime. The number is just estimated based on the data which show the ratio of soldiers to comfort women. According to official documents of Japan, the USA and the Netherlands, China, Hong Kong, Macao, French-ruled Indochina, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, British-ruled Borneo, Dutch-ruled East Indies, Burma, Thailand, East New Guinea, Okinawa Islands, Okasawara Islands, Hokkaido, Kurile Islands and Sakhalin have been confirmed to have military comfort stations. A memoir of a Japanese veteran says that then-Japanese ruled Truk Island, Korol Island, Saipan Island, US-ruled Guam and India-ruled Nicobar Islands also had comfort stations for soldiers. It is safe to say that where there were military camps, there were comfort stations.
Zensiro Hara, then army officer of the Japanese Kanto Army, estimated the required number of comfort women at 20,000, taking into consideration the sexual needs and financial situation of 800,000-strong combat forces, which is translated into one comfort woman per 40 soldiers. At the time, Hara went to the Colonial Joseon Government General to demand to recruit 20,000 women.
According to Japanese military record, the Joseon Government General mobilized the police and riot police officers to recruit about 3,000 women from June to August, 1941. (Note 4.E.) According to the record by medical officer Ginbara of the Japanese Army, there was an instruction to recruit comfort women in the ratio of 100 soldiers to 1 comfort woman. (Note 4.D.)
Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki said that the turnover rate of comfort women, not the ratio, can make a big deviation. In other words, it is inferred that the turnover rate was high due to death, suicide, escape, disease and contract expiry. Japan sent about 8 million soldiers and army civilian employees to battle fields from 1937 to 1945. Based on this, the number of comfort women forcibly sent to the battle fields is estimated at around 80,000 to 200,000. It is presumed to be impossible to recruit such a large number of women without having then-Japanese ruled Korea and Taiwan into account.
What happened to military sex slaves after the war ended?
The World War II ended as the then Japanese emperor Hirohito announced on August 15,1945 that Japan would accept the Potsdam Declaration without any condition. The military sex slaves were able finally to end their long sufferings. After the war ended and Japanese troops rushed to withdraw, the military sex slaves were abandoned and then became prisoners of the Allies or returned home on their own.
Prisoners of the Allies
Soran Kim was in the Philippines when the Allies attacked the Japanese unit and caused the Japanese troops to scatter. She ran into the mountain and then later went to the beach to become a prisoner of the Allies and returned to Korea. Her records at a prisoners’camp is archived at the National Archives and Records Administration in the US.
Abandoned and returned
Gunja Kim did not know that the Japanese colonial rule ended until a man told her she could go wherever she wanted. She walked for 15 days along with 7 other people across borders and returned to Korea. When the Japanese colonial rule ended, Doori Park’ friends and her brothel’ owner scattered. Left with no other option, she got on a boat with a Korean man and returned to Busan. Kumju Hwang came back to Korea on foot by herself after Japanese soldiers disappeared all of sudden leaving sex slaves behind. The journey took her 5 months from August until December.
Oksun Lee did not know the Japanese colonial rule ended until her brothel’ operator ran away. She did not have much choice but to live with Korean in Longjing, China until when she finally came home and met her family in 1996 with the help of a Korean college professor. She is currently staying at the House of Sharing. Ilchool Kang ran away from Japanese unit and lived in a cave until the colonial rule ended. She married a Korean who was living in China. When he died in the Korean War, she remarried a Chinese man and wanted to return to Korea. Still, she couldn't come back to Korea because the country got divided. So, she went back to China and then came back to Korea in the 90s. She’ now staying at the House of Sharing. Soran Kim ran into the mountain when the Japanese troops scattered away after the attack of the Allies in the Philippines. Later she went to the beach where she was captured as a prisoner by the Allies and she was returned home. Namyi Lee in Cambodia and Subok Roh in Thailand could not make it to Korea after the Japanese colonial rule ended and they remained where they were.
What is the after-war damage to comfort women ?
The research team led by SungKil Min, M.D., Ph.D. at Yonsei University presented a thesis titled, ‘sychiatric Sequela of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery in Wartime in Former comfort Women’in 2003. Based on the interviews and tests on 26 former comfort women by psychiatrists and psychologists, the thesis says, “The recruit of comfort women was an organized crime by a state entity, which is unprecedented.”comfort women forcibly sent to the battle fields were confined and suffered from repeated sexual assault for a long period of time. In addition, they suffered from battery, confinement, hunger, fear of death by bombing, STDs and infections. After the war, many comfort women were killed, forced to take their own lives and deserted. Even those who managed to survive and return home had to suffer for the rest of their lives from social isolation, shame, poverty and weak physical conditions. Majority of the victims could not marry and even those who managed to marry got divorced after their past was revealed. Those who got married as a second wife were often deserted after her husband died. There are those who were deserted by her adopted children. As a result, these surviving victims are socially alienated and tend to avoid people, feeling enormous pain and suffering.
According to a study by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, Among diseases suffered by survived victims, arthritis accounts for 44.3%, gastroenteritis 19.8%, cardiopathy 16.1%, uterus disorder 12.5% and dementia 4.2%. On top of that, many of them suffer from physical aftereffects from STDs, battery, torture and trauma, which may be linked to psychological trauma to double their pains. Therefore, it is highly likely that they may suffer from psychological disorders. Twenty-five percent of the victims surveyed said they suffered from nervous disorder due to pent-up resentment or obsessive-compulsive disorder and 4.2% said that they had visual or auditory hallucination and hysteric symptoms. A victim in Seoul said that she often woke up in the middle of night, screaming and struggling to push away a Japanese solider who were attacking her in her dream. This is one of the major symptoms of PTSD. All that suggest that these victims have long been suffering from physical and psychological aftereffects even after the war. Given the fact that some Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust suffer from psychological disorders such as PTSD even after 50 years, it can be assumed that many former comfort women may also suffer from the same conditions.
As a result of the study, painful past and traumatic experiences of the survived victims have been proved as facts. Majority of them still suffer form physical aftereffects following physical injuries. All of 26 victims surveyed had PTSD and 8 of them still suffer from it. Among the major symptoms are tendency to avoid thinking, feeling and conversation related to the experiences as a comfort woman; attempt to keep away from people, activities and places which remind them of the past, repetitive and painful images and dreams, feeling of confined future, insomnia, oversensitivity, and anger.
How did the issue of comfort women become known to the world?
deported as an illegal alien. When her nationality was verified, she said that she was taken from Korea as “comfort woman.”In 1975, she received an official permission to stay in Japan as a registered foreigner. The media covered her story, making it known to the world. Kawada Fumiko wrote a book titled “ed-roofed House,”after collecting many related testimonies. However, Bae’ story was not well known among South Korean people. For, after the Korean Peninsula was divided under the cold war system, Bae’ story made big headlines in North Korea as a couple from Jochongyun, the pro-North Korean residents’league in Japan, helped out Ms. Bae. Jungok Yun, Professor of Ewha University in Korea met Ms. Bae in Okinawa and was convinced that she was a comfort woman for the Japanese military. Then, in April, 1998, she made a presentation about her field study on comfort women at an international seminar.
In January, 1990, Professor Yun began writing a series titled “racing Back to comfort Women,” In July, 1990, the research association on comfort women was launched and in November, 37 women’ organizations gathered together to establish the Korean Council for comfort women’ issues. In August, 1991, Haksun Kim (then, 67) was the first comfort woman victim who revealed herself at a press conference in South Korea.
In September, the same year, Korea Church Women United opened a hotline for comfort women and in December, three comfort women including Haksun Kim filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government for compensation. Kim’ brave testimony and civil groups’efforts encouraged many comfort women to make their stories known to the world. Also, from January in 1992, a demonstration began to be held in front of the Japanese embassy to resolve the issue of the forced sex slaves for the Japanese army every Wednesdays.
What is Wednesday Demonstration?
Since Haksun Kim, first testified to her past as a comfort woman, many victims have reported their sufferings. The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan held the first Wednesday Demonstration on January 8, 1992 and announced to continuously hold an hour-long protest from 12 p.m. to 13 p.m. every Wednesday. The 757th demonstration was held on April 18, 2007.
Victims who participate in the protest demand the Japanese government 1) to admit the compulsory draft of comfort women, 2) to make a full and complete investigation into, B. the comfort women issue, 3) to give an official apology of the Japanese government to the victims, 4) to punish those responsible for the crimes, 5) to provide legal restitution to the victims and 6) to correct distorted history education in Japan. This Wednesday Demonstration serves as a forum to interact and sympathize with each other among participants as well as to publicize their activities. In addition, for students, it serves as a real learning ground in which they can meet real witnesses of the past in person and learn the living history through them.
What is the 1993 Kono Statement?
In response to the request to investigate the comfort women issue by a politician from an opposition party in the Budget committee of the House of Councilors in July 1990, the Director of the labor Department of Japan denied only legal responsibility of the Japanese government on the ground that the recruitment of comfort women was done by private contractors. In August, 1991, Haksun Kim testified to her past as a comfort women and filed a suit against the Japanese government in December of the same year. On January 11, 1992, Professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi at Chuo University unveiled the documents from the library of the Defence Research Institute of the Defence Agency which prove the Japanese Military was directly involved in recruiting comfort women for Japanese soldiers. On January 12, 1992, Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Kato admitted the direct involvement of the Japanese Military and he delivered a statement of apology on the next day. On January 17, 1992, during the summit between Korea and Japan, then-Prime Minister Miyazawa gave an official apology with regard to the comfort women issue and said that the government would conduct an investigation and announce the result.
The Japanese government announced its progress reports on the issue in July, 1992 and August, 1993. As the government disclosed the data found in various source (i.e. in the Defence Agency, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the National Archives, the Library of the Diet and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono delivered the following statement; Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the Result of the Study on the Issue of “comfort Women”(“Kono Statement” 4 August 1993 The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime “comfort women”since December 1991. I wish to announce the findings as a result of that study. As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day.
The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to there quest of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere. As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc. were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, etc. Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women.
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 is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we can express this sentiment. We shall faces squarely the historical facts as described above instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history. As actions have been brought to court in Japan and interests have been shown in this issue outside Japan, the Government of Japan shall continue to pay full attention to this matter, including private researched related thereto.
How was the International Society’ Response to the comfort women Issue?
International organizations recognized the gravity of the issue and recommended the Japanese government to take active measures to resolve the problem. In 1994, the International Commission of Jurists presented 7 recommendations to the Japanese government including disclosing information, establishing an administrative body, taking a legislative measure, providing full rehabilitation measures for victims, if a victim refuses to take rehabilitation measures, establishing a trial court or arbitration court immediately, and providing 40,000 USD to victims as a provisional measure. The ILO experts committee have said in its reports released in 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2007 that the Japanese military comfort women fell into the category of ‘forced labor’stipulated in the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, and urged the Japanese government to take swift and appropriate measures to resolve this issue.
The UN Commission on Human Rights have adopted the reports by Special Rapporteur Radhika Coomaraswarmy in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2003. The reports urged the Japanese government to take the legal responsibility with regard to comfort women, provide full restitution and written apology to victims and establish a ‘Special Administrative Court’to punish the wrong doers. In 1998, the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights declared the Japanese Military comfort Women was the direct violation of international laws, affirmed the Japanese government holds the responsibility to compensate the victims and prosecute those involved in establishing comfort stations. It also adopted the report by Gay J. Mcdougall which called for the UN’ intervention in resolving this issue.
In 2000, civic groups from 8 Asian countries including Korea, Philippines, China and Malaysia held the ‘Women’ International War Crimes Tribunal’in which the testimonies by 64 former comfort women were heard. The court ruled the Emperor of Japan was found guilty and the Japanese government should take the responsibility full reparations. (But the ruling was not legally bounding for it was a civil court.)
How has Japan’ Diet handled the issue of comfort women?
In April, 1998, the Shimonoseki district court in Japan ruled, in a trial filed by three former comfort women, that the Japanese government was liable to compensate the victims because the Japanese Diet had failed to take legislative steps to mitigate the pain, and sufferings of the victims. Based on this ruling, Japanese civic groups proposed a bill to facilitate the process of resolving the war-time sexual crime victims. The purposes of the bill are to urge the Japanese government to admit that organized and repetitive sexual activities were forced upon the victims and that severely undermined the dignity of the victimized women, and to offer an apology to them; and to facilitate the process of resolving the issue. However, the Japanese Diet has failed to properly deliberate the bill yet.
What does the letter of apology for comfort women from the Japanese Prime minister say?
The Japanese government acknowledged the Japanese army was directly or indirectly involved in recruiting comfort women in Kono Statement. In 1995, as a part of the ‘post-war 50 year issue project,’Murayama government established the ‘sia Women’ Fund’for comfort women victims, making a one-time atonement of a letter of apology from the Prime Minister, money, and medical support. In his statement, then Prime Minister Murayama explained the purpose of the fund, stating; “The issue of comfort women was a grave at front to the honor and dignity of women. I would like to take this opportunity once again to express my profound and sincere remorse and apologies.” In this regard, the letter of apology delivered to the victims contains the historical judgement and assesment of the Japanese goverNment concerning the damages of military comfort women issue.
However, the letter of apology delivered to the victims was a far cry from the opinion of the international society on the issue, not mentioning that it was a crime against humanity and a clear violation of the international law: When the Asian Women’ Fund offered the victims a letter of apology and atonement money, Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto made clear in the letter that the apology was based upon “is personal feelings.”Also, the letter attempted to avoid the issues of legal obligations of the Japanese government for the war crime committed by the Japanese military, stating that the government was “painfully aware of its moral responsibility.” Therefore, the money given by the Japanese government through the Fund was not governmental reparation, but a sympathy money or medical support provided on the basis of humanitarian response. This attitude of the Japanese government has made the “comfort women”victims demand governmental reparation for Japan’ past crime, not a sympathy money. Geizo Obuchi, a successor to Prime Minister Hashimoto, expressed heartfelt apology to those who suffered under the brutal Japanese colonial rule in “Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration, A New Japan-Republic of Korea Partnership towards the Twenty-first Century”at a 1998 summit with then Korean President Daejung Kim. Obuchi’ apology was the first official governmental statement. The expression of owabie in Japanese or sajoe(shazai in Japanese) in Korea was used in the declaration. Korea accepted these expressions as Japan’ acknowledgment of its past crime. However, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizmi who took office after Obuchi wrote in his letter of apology that he was “painfully aware of its moral responsibilities,”emphasizing that the apology was out of “is feelings.”This reflects Japan’ retrogressive view on history different from 1998 Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration.
Worse, incumbent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists, “here is no evidence to prove there was coercion, “and”no apology will be made even if a resolution on this is passed at the U.S. Congress.”His remarks undermined the former Prime Ministers’words of apology, denying its legal and moral responsibilities completely.
This attitude of the Japanese government can be compared with a case of “ivil Liberties Act of 1988”of the U.S. The U.S government enacted “Civil Liberties Act of 1988”to made reparations for Japanese American victims who were forcefully detained right after “earl Harbour” offering a presidential letter of apology and 20 thousand dollars to the victims. “Civil Freedom Act” acknowledged the governmental responsibilities for its past deed and included measures for prevention of recurrence of such case and for recovery of trust such as official apology. Contrarily, the Japanese government refuses to acknowledge that “comfort women”was a crime against humanity in violation of the international law. Also, it shows no willingness to take any action about any efforts to deny its legal and moral responsibilities. A remark of apology by Prime Minister or Chief Cabinet Secretary made without Cabinet’ resolution is just a personal expression of apology, not a governmental or public one.
What does Japan s history class teach about comfort women?
Japan’ history textbooks are selected and authorized by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology out of textbook plans submitted by publishers. Schools choose one of the officially authorized textbooks and use it for teaching. Under this selection and authorization system, efforts for history distortion by the Japanese right wing have been deeply rooted. Japan, after regaining its sovereignty by the San Franciso Peace Treaty, included more subjective descriptions in its textbooks of historic events, such as its occupation of the Korean Peninsula, its invasion of Manchuria, Pacific War, and Nanjing holocaust. In 1955, Japanese Democratic Party harshly criticized the way history textbooks were written in its election campaign under the campaign pledge of the enactment of independent constitution, the establishment of the self-defense army, and the unification of national text books. In November 1955, as Liberal and Democratic party merged into Liberal Democratic party, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture swiftly made a retrogressive revision of the textbook system. It strengthened the authorization standards and started intervening even in the writing of textbooks, rejecting all the textbooks written by progressive scholars.
By the time, war criminals sentenced at the Tokyo court were pardoned and reinstated after Japan’ regain of sovereignty. They started appearing on the economic as well as political front, emerging as the main group behind the foundation of Liberal Democratic Party. This also greatly influenced retrogressive changes in history education in Japan. Saburo Ienaga, professor at Tokyo College of Education accused the Japanese government of unjust intervention in history textbooks in 1965 and 1967. In 1970, the court ruled the government’ intervention illegal, and Japanese history of invasion was again included in textbooks. However, as the highest court reversed the initial ruling of 1997, in 1982, Professor Ienaga filed the third lawsuit in 1984. In the final ruling, the text book authorization system of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture was decided illegal.
In June, 1980, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party winned landslide victory in general elections and began demanding a more tightened authorization system for history textbooks. In 1982, the Japanese right wing distorted its history by using ‘advancement,’instead of ‘invasion’and ‘protest and riot,’instead of ‘independent movement’of colonial countries, which provoked strong resentment from Korea and China. Moreover, in 1993, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’ history review committee insisted that 1) Greater East Asian War was not a war of invasion, 2) comfort women and Nanjing incident was a made-up story, and 3) efforts to revise the current textbooks were needed. Then, the Right-wing formed a group for new history books’in 1997 and declared to make new history textbooks to instill pride in students, criticizing that Japanese history textbooks had too much “masochistic view”on history. Particularly, the newly revised textbook written by the Right-wing blamed the U.S. for raising the sense of guilt of Japanese people while ruling Japan in the post-war period. Due to strong protest not only from neighboring countries but also within Japan, Japanese history textbook included its colonial rule, invasion war, comfort women, Nanjing holocaust, Unit 731, forced detention, civilian killing in Southeast Asia and other war crimes since April 1997.
In June 1998, Nobutaka Machimura, then the Minister of Education, said at Cabinet session, “history textbooks had a slanted view on modern history. They are under review for revision before submitted for authorization.”In January 1999, an official from Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology demanded textbook company owners for a “more balanced view”on history.
In April 2002, this intervention by the Japanese government reduced the number of textbooks mentioning “comfort women”from seven to three. Only one textbook uses the term, “comfort women,”and the other two describe it as “comfort facilities.” In January 2005, Japanese Education Minister Nariyaki Nakayama made an absurd remark, saying that “Japanese history textbooks include so much masochistic expressions... Many textbooks say that Japan did only bad things... It’ a good thing that we see expressions such as comfort women and forced conscription less often.”History distortion meticulously led by the Japanese government led to complete elimination of the description of “comfort women”from all the history textbooks submitted for 2007 textbook examination and approval.