Date: 3/5/2007 5:50:00 PM
From: Rick Straus
Subject: NBR'S JAPAN FORUM (POL) Comfort Women
I think it is important to understand what was common in Japanese society itself at the time in the late 1920's and 1930's. Japan, badly hit by the world-wide depression, was undergoing tough times. Farmers, in particular, were hard hit, and incurred heavy debts. It was by no means uncommon for farmers to sell their own daughters into prostitution, as their only means of holding on to their lands. Women enjoyed no rights under the law; they were seen as objects to be passed from father to husband. For the farmer it was more important to hold on to their land than to keep a daughter who was going to another family once married, with no duties to her own family.
During my research into my book, I happened to come across, by pure chance, an extensive US Army interrogation report on 20 Korean "comfort women" in northern Burma in the summer of 1944. I am inclined to give more credence to this report than anything I've read since then. This ten page report can be found at the National Archives under Entry 366A, RG208, 350/73/30/5, Box 226.
Following are some of the most pertinent quotes from that report. "Early in May, 1942 Japanese agents arrived in Korea for the purpose of enlisting Korean girls for "comfort service" in newly conquered Japanese territories in Southeast Asia. The nature of this service was not specified but it was assumed to be work connected with visiting the wounded in hospitals, rolling bandages, and generally making the soldiers happy. The inducement used by these agents was plenty of money, an opportunity to pay off the family debts, easy work, and the prospect of a new life in a new land---Singapore. On the basis of these false representations many girls enlisted for overseas duty and were rewarded with an advance of a few hundred yen. (Note: Whether the girls' fathers were fooled by this talk is at least moot). The contract they signed bound them to Army regulations and to work for the "house master" for a period of from six months to a year depending on the family debt for which they were advanced money".....The girls lived in near-luxury in Burma in comparison with other places...They lived well because their food and material was not heavily rationed and they had plenty of money with which to purchase desired articles. They were able to buy clothes, shoes, cigarettes and cosmetics to supplement the many gifts given to them by soldiers who had received "comfort bags" from home...They amused themselves by participating in sports events with both officers and men, and attended picnics, entertainments and social dinners.
The "house master" received fifty to sixty per cent of the girls' gross earnings, depending on how much of a debt each girl had incurred when she signed her contract. This meant that in an average month a girl would gross about fifteen hundred yen (Note: a tidy sum at the time), of which she turned over half to the master.
"In the latter part of 1943 the Army issued orders that certain girls who had paid their debt could return home. Some of the girls were thus allowed to return to Korea.
"The interrogations further show that the health of these girls was good. They were well supplied with all types of contraceptives, and often soldiers would bring their own which had been supplied by the Army. A regular Japanese Army doctor visited the houses once a week and any girl found diseased was given treatment, secluded and eventually sent to a hospital.
"The soldiers would often express how much they enjoyed receiving magazines, letters and newspapers from home. They also mentioned the receipt of "Comfort bags" filled with canned goods, magazines, soap, handkerchiefs, toothbrush, miniature dolls, lipstick and wooden clogs...the girls couldn't understand why the people at home were sending such articles. They speculated that the sender could only have had themselves or the "native girls" in mind.
A listing of the girls provided their names, ages and home addresses. The ages ranged from 19 to 31, with an average age of about 23."