COMFORT WOMEN By Deaconess Katherine Kim JANUARY 16, 2016.
The Bronze statue of a teenage “comfort woman” in front Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea represents one of many thousands of Korean young women who were forced to serve as prostitutes in wartime military brothels for imperial Japanese soldiers. Citizens’ group paid for the statue in 2011. Well-wishers bring her flowers, shoes and in stormy weather even a hat and raincoat. Now the statue will be moved to a different location as part of a landmark agreement between the two countries(Japan and South Korea). On 12/28/2015,theyfinally try to settle their dispute oncomfort women.
The war time sexual slavery, so-called “comfort women” are set up by the Japanese army. They were kidnapped, coerced, lured, tricked and sold into prostitute for the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific war.Poverty and scarcity of jobs in rural area were themain cause of draft. The majority of these women were from Korea, but many were also from China, Indonesia, Philippines, and other countries under Japanese occupation. Eighty percent of these women were aged between 14 to18. These young and naïve girls are drafted against their will. Tens of thousands of comfort womenwere raped dozens of times a day, beaten and infected with venereal diseases.
Only 46 survived to date now. Under the deal, South Korea will set up a fund for victims into which the Japanese government will pay $8.3m for their medical and nursing care. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe has expressed “sincere apologies and remorse” for their suffering.
Two countries’ foreign ministers called a “final and irrevocable” resolution. The agreement is to face protest in South Korea; Groups representing the survivors say that the women were not consulted. South Korean activists will oppose moving the statue. Calls may grow for Japan’s Prime Minister Abe to come and make a personal apology to survivors, rather than through Korean President Park. Citizen’s group have been demonstrated in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul. They are angry and are protesting the agreement saying that 24 years of demonstration of screaming and yelling for the truth went into a vapor(disappeard)….asking Japanese government’s real apology and regrets.
I came to find out Comfort Women when I went Seoul, S. Korea in year 2001 with Korean consultativegroup of Women’s Division for a leadership training. I have been personally involved since; we demonstrated in front of Japanese embassy. In 2004 I testified in front of GBGM legislative committee of General Conference requesting Japanese emperor Hirohito’s apology, sending a rep to Tokyo Women’s tribunal, many meetings… the last one in San Francisco city council’s hearing on building comfort woman monument. SF city council unanimously passed the matter. I am glad it is finally over, but I think we need to have Abe’s personal apology and direct compensation to the victims. At SF hearing, few local Japanese argued that they paid all the debt through The Japanese-South Korea Basic Treaty of 1965. In fact Comfort women were completely left out of the terms. Due to Korean War in June 1950, comfort women were not a priority of Korean government. Most comfort women were from the poorer, lower classes, the issue was insignificant to the S. Korean politicians.
The Tokyo War Crimes Trial for the WWII remained largely silent about the comfort women.One novel civil society initiative was the 2000 Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal. The Women’s Tribunal was supported by women’s NGOs throughout Asia and instigated by the Violence against Women in War Network, Japan. The Women’s Tribunal declared the proceedings of the Tokyo Trial incomplete because they had failed to adequately consider sexual enslavement or to prosecute those responsible for these crimes. It is worth to notice that the use of comfort stations by Allied soldiers was one factor in extending blanket immunity.
Upon return to their family after the war, most comfort women kept silent for their experiences. But they suffered psychologically, physically and emotionally. Their war time experiences ruined many comfort women’s chances of a stable family life. Rejected by her family and society, no money, no matter how much, can ever compensate us for what we went through one woman said.
In a society dominated by patriarchal views of chastity and morality, and a lack of openness about sex, the shame of the whole experience silenced many women. Many may have felt themselves to blame for their fate. Women in such a position were more likely to keep their whole war time ordeal silent rather than demonstration for compensation.
These are few testimonies; the soldiers were allotted 30 minutes for sex and they lined upin front of the cubicles at the “Comfort station.” The Japanese government must compensate us. They should also publicize the crimes committed and take measures not to repeat them. The Korean government asked us to come out from hiding and speak out the truth. So I did. I spoke out my past that hidden even from my mother. Now I wish the Korean government would be more forceful in representing our interests, and help us regain our dignity. All these years, I have lived in secret, in shame, and in pain. I was totally exausted. I could keep neither my sense of humiliation nor my dignity. I felt like a living corpse. When soldiers came to my room and did it to me one after another, it was done to a lifeless body. Neither did they provide sanitary provisions, nor condoms or any other means to prevent venereal diseases, not to speak of disinfectants. The most painful thing was continuous forced sex acts with soldiers. Saturdays and Sundays are the worst, facing 30 to 40 men a day. I never married. I have no children. All these years, I have earned my living, working as a maid or in restaurants. I miss the ordinary life that most women enjoy; getting married and having a family. How would you feel if your own daughter met the same fate as mine.
Jan Ruff, a Dutch woman testified; they had taken everything away from me, my self-esteem, dignity, freedom, possessions, and my family. But there was one thing that they could never take away from me. It was my Faith and my love for God… It was my deep faith in God that helped me survive all that I suffered at the brutal, savage hands of the Japanese. I have forgiven the Japanese for what they did to me but I can never forget.
1. The Comfort Women by George Hicks W.W. Norton & Co, Inc. 1995
2. Comfort Women Speak. Testimony by Sex slaves of the Japanese military. Edited by Sangmie Choi Schellstede. Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc. 2000.
3. The Economist January 2nd -8th 2016.
4. Memory of an Injustice: The “Comfort Women” and the Legacy of the Tokyo Trial. Nicola Henry. Asian Studies Review, 2013.
5. “Comfort Women” Merit Remembrance. China Today October 2014.
6. Christian Times in Korean. Jan 3, 2016 & Jan 10, 2016.