THE TRUTH ABOUT THE “COMFORT WOMEN”
―How Fiction Became Fact―
By NISHIOKA Tsutomu,
Professor at Tokyo Christian University,
Deputy Chairman of the National Council for
the Rescue of Japanese Abducted by North Korea
CHAPTER 1: THE MAIN FORCES BEHIND LITIGATION INVOLVING FORMER COMFORT WOMEN
I first became involved with the comfort women controversy in 1991. Most of my recent work concerns North Korea, particularly abductions of Japanese nationals. But my specialty is Japan-Korea relations (the title of my master’s thesis is “How Postwar South Korean Intellectuals Perceive Japan”). Between 1950 and 1980, I devoted a great deal of time and effort to research exploring topics that have incited Koreans to criticize Japan over the years, and the logic behind the criticism. Then, from 1982 to 1984, I was a specialist researcher attached to the Foreign Ministry at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
The research topic assigned to me by the Foreign Ministry was “South Koreans’ Perception of Japan,” which was essentially an extension of my master’s thesis. It was then that I encountered the first problem having to do with history ? what I call the “first textbook incident.”
This problem was contextually very similar to the comfort women problem, which reared its head later. Anti-Japanese elements in Japan embarked on a mammoth campaign devoted to publicizing a lie: they claimed that the Ministry of Education had ordered textbook screeners to substitute “expansion” for “aggression” in accounts of modern Japan-China relations in Japanese middle school history textbooks. Consequently, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kiichi Miyazawa issued an apology to South Korea on behalf of the Japanese government. Then another criterion was added to the list to be observed during the textbook-screening process: “Textbooks ought to show understanding and seek international harmony in their treatment of modern and contemporary historical events involving neighboring Asian countries.”
I am not a historian, but as a regional studies researcher, I’ve been observing situations like this for quite some time. If I were asked what threw Japan-Korea relations off kilter, or how the perception gap arose, or who caused it, I could tell you. My first book, which came out in 1992, was entitled The Mountain of Misconceptions Separating Japan and Korea.1 It deals with the controversies over the comfort women and textbooks. Since then, I have been following these controversies, and participating in the debate against the Japan-bashers over the comfort women.
Now, to describe the course of events: in 1983, a book was published ? one that greatly distorted the Japanese and Korean perceptions of comfort women. Entitled My War Crimes: Abduction of Koreans, it was written by Yoshida Seiji. In his foreword, Yoshida writes:
For about three years, from 1942 until Japan lost the war, I was head of a labor mobilization group called Yamaguchi Prefecture National Labor Service Assciation. My job was to procure Korean laborers. I was a loyal citizen, a self-sacrificing patriot serving my country by going on “slave hunts.” (…) I hope Japanese born after the war will read my book and learn that during one chapter of history, we enslaved Koreans. By showing remorse for such behavior, we Japanese will have taken a step toward becoming civilized human beings.2
In 2007, a resolution demanding that the Japanese government “formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force’s coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as ‘comfort women,’ during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II”3 was submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives, creating a huge uproar. The origins of this resolution, which has no basis in fact, can be found in Yoshida’s fictional confession about “slave hunts.”
One of the main themes of my book involves tracing the path from Yoshida’s lies to the U.S. House of Representatives. To that end, I must again quote from Yoshida’s book. This is a lengthy citation, and not pleasant reading, but I ask readers’ forbearance.
I ordered an immediate roundup of the women in the village. Houses lined the road, each one surrounded by a stone wall. My crew, armed with wooden swords and guns, opened the doors, entered the houses, and began searching for women.
I climbed up on a wall and looked around. I saw 20 or 30 women gathered at a large house in front of me. Young girls, along with older women, were sitting in rows in a room with a wood floor and on the veranda, weaving rushes to make cylindrical Korean hats. When I signaled, my crew and the soldiers rushed into the house.
The women began to scream, and I could hear the crew and soldiers yelling. Some men emerged from a silent, nearby house, and ran down the street. There were about a dozen of them. They gathered inside the wall around the house; I could tell they were agitated. My crew emerged from the house, in pairs, each dragging a wailing woman by the wrists to the road. They had captured eight young women. The other men were yelling something in Korean.
The road was narrow, with stone walls on both sides. Our path was blocked in both directions by more than 100 villagers. Among them were 20 or 30 half-naked robust-looking men, who might have been fishermen. They didn’t seem to be afraid of us Japanese, and began walking toward us, snarling and screaming.
Sgt. Tani ordered the soldiers to fasten their bayonets, but the villagers kept on yelling. He ordered the soldiers to advance. My crew followed them, dragging the eight girls, who were sobbing. Five or six strong Korean men came forward; they stood in the road, blocking our way. They were waving their arms excited and howling. Exasperated, one of the higher-ranking soldiers with a mustache raised his sword, yelled and started running. The villagers screamed and retreated; the men escaped inside the wall.
When we arrived at our truck parked in the road, the girls started screaming and struggling. They were sturdy young women. As they squirmed, their tanned faces stiffened, and you could see their white teeth as they twisted and turned, attempting to escape from their captors. When they succeeded, crew members tried to grab them from behind. The girls fell onto the grass in a heap. Their white Korean robes opened up in front, exposing their breasts, and rode up at the bottom. They kicked out with their sandaled feet; all in all, they gave the crew a hard time. The soldiers thought the whole scene was very funny and entertaining. My crew finally subdued the girls, grabbed their arms and pushed them into the back of the truck, which was covered with canvas. The crew left right away.
After we had driven east on a main coastal road for about five or six kilometers, Sgt. Tani ordered us to drive the truck into a thicket near a rocky hill. Then he said, “The soldiers expect a reward for protecting the procurement crew. Let’s stop here for a rest for 30 minutes and let them have some fun.”
The soldiers were delighted when they heard Sgt. Tani order a rest break. Once my crew had gotten out of the truck, they jumped into the back. When the girls screamed, the soldiers laughed. No sooner were they procured than the soldiers initiated them: they were comfort women now.4
The comfort women portrayed by Yoshida would indeed have been sex slaves ? if he was telling the truth, that is. Later he writes that the procurement of comfort women was done in accordance with an order from the Japanese Army instructing him to “mobilize a Korean female volunteer corps.”
On May 15, 1943, a first lieutenant from Western District Army Headquarters arrived at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Police Department’s Labor Administration office. The officer delivered a labor mobilization order addressed to the Yamaguchi National Labor Service Assciation chairman (also governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture). The head of the Labor Administration Section was also secretary of the National Labor Service Assciation. As head of the Shimonoseki Branch Mobilization Department, I was asked to be present because I would be executing the mobilization order.
The lieutenant explained that the mobilization order was issued to National Labor Service Assciations in prefectures in Japan’s Western District, and in each province in the southern part of Korea. Two thousand workers were to be mobilized. The order delivered to the Yamaguchi Prefectural National Labor Service Assciation contained the following information.
1. Volunteer corps of 200 Korean women to serve as entertainers for the Imperial Army
2. Age: 18-29 (married women acceptable; pregnant women not acceptable)
3. Healthy women (medical examination required, especially tests for venereal diseases)
4. Duration: One year (renewal possible if desired)
5. Remuneration: \30 per month
6. Clothing allowance: \20 (to be paid in advance)
7. Place of assignment: central China
8. Recruiting areas: southwestern Korea and Cheju Island
9. Departure date: 12:00 noon, 30 May 1943
10. Meeting place: Western Army, Unit 74
The women’s National Labor Service unit was renamed the Female Volunteer Corps. Students at girls’ schools and local girls (members of girls’ youth groups) working in munitions factories were called “Female Volunteer Corps,” but the female volunteer corps that provided entertainment to soldiers of the Imperial Army were actually comfort women.
The order to mobilize 200 Korean comfort women was reissued as a procurement work order and handed to me by the head of the Labor Administration Section.5
After his book came out, in December 1983, Yoshida visited Korea, apologizing wherever he went; he even had an expiatory tablet erected. But his efforts seemed to end there, and the problem seemed to have gone away.
When I read the book, soon after it was issued, I was suspicious. The scenario Yoshida describes didn’t seem credible. It didn’t jibe with what I had heard from older Koreans who had experienced colonial times.
Japanese specialists in Korean history, the masochistic media (especially Asahi Shimbun) and other Japan-haters swallowed Yoshida’s confession whole, without even bothering to check the facts. Consequently, after the late 1980s, an increasing number of historical works and dictionaries carried references to the coercion of comfort women. People born too late to know about the colonial era began to believe them. Then, in 1989 or so, Socialist Party members began bringing up comfort women in Diet sessions.
At about the same time in South Korea, feminist movements and the left-wing media pounced on the myth about the coercion of comfort women. It was then that the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan got its start.
As I will explain later, rumors that the female volunteer corps and the comfort women, which bore no resemblance to each other, were one and the same were already becoming ingrained in people’s minds. When Yoshida used the term “female volunteer corps” to refer to the comfort women, the die was cast.
Former comfort women denounce Japan
In August 1991, about eight years after Yoshida’s book was published, Asahi Shimbun came out with an article under a banner headline reading “Korean Former Comfort Woman Breaks Silence After Half a Century.” It begins as follows:
During the Sino-Japanese War and World War II, Korean women were told they would be joining Female Volunteer Corps, but were instead transported to battle zones and forced to provide sex services to Japanese military personnel. It has come to light that one of these so-called “comfort women” lives in Seoul. The Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Yun Chung-ok, co-chairwoman: umbrella organization for 16 groups with a total membership of approximately 300,000). The Council interviewed the woman, and on August 10, turned over a recording of the interview to an Asahi Shimbun reporter. On the tape, the woman can be heard saying, “Even now, remembering those days makes my skin crawl.” Nearly 50 years after the war, she is finally able to talk about experiences that she had kept hidden deep inside.6
In the article the woman was given a pseudonym, but she revealed her real name (Kim Haksun) when the Japan-bashing continued at a press conference on August 14. At the end of the year, Kim toured Japan, telling her story at every destination. She then sued the Japanese government, demanding compensation.
Asahi Shimbun gave this woman and her story extensive coverage. Numerous articles about comfort women appeared in other publications, laying the foundation for the still-unresolved comfort women controversy, and a grass-roots campaign aimed at forcing the Japanese to take responsibility in some way. Soon the campaign would evolve into a domestic consensus and conviction that as a nation, Japan had committed an unforgivable crime.
Then an article by Chuo University Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a historian, appeared on the front page of the January 11, 1992 edition of the Asahi Shimbun. Yoshimi announced that he had uncovered sources at a Defense Agency research institute stating that the Japanese military was involved in the abduction of comfort women. His disclosure threw the government into a panic, prompting Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Koichi to issue a statement of apology. This was exactly the effect intended by Asahi Shimbun and the reason for its intensive coverage of the issue.
As it later became clear, Prof. Yoshimi had been aware of the sources in question for quite some time. However, Asahi Shimbun didn’t release the information until Kim Haksun had filed her suit, the comfort women controversy had reached frenzy level, and Prime Minister Miyazawa’s visit to South Korea was only a few days away.
Newspapers commonly attempt to inform the public by explaining a topic, concept or term when it comes into the news for the first time. When Asahi Shimbun announced Prof. Yoshimi’s “discovery,” it supplied the following explanation at the bottom of the front page:
In China in the 1930s, Japanese military personnel raped a great many women. To hold anti-Japanese sentiment at bay and prevent the spread of venereal diseases, brothels were established. According to former soldiers and army doctors, 80% of the women who worked in the first brothels were Koreans. With the outbreak of the Pacific War, women ? mainly Korean women ? were transported to the brothels under the pretext that they would be serving in a female volunteer corps. Their numbers are estimated to have been 80,000 or 200,000. (Italics supplied.)7
There is tremendous significance in the italicized portion of the text. At that time, Japan was mobilizing workers in accordance with the National Mobilization Act. “Female volunteer corps” was the name given to groups of women drafted to work in munitions factories. The term was never used in connection with comfort women. I know plenty of women who were mobilized into female volunteer corps, and all of them have assured emphatically me that their groups had nothing to do with comfort women.
Members of female volunteer corps were mobilized in accordance with National Labor Service Cooperation Act, which stated that unmarried women between the ages of 14 and 25, as well as men aged 14-40, would join National Labor Service Corps. Beginning in 1943, married women were also urged to join female volunteer corps but, as the term implies, they were not obligated to join. When the Female Volunteer Labor Act (Imperial Order No. 519) was enacted in 1944, women between the ages of 12 and 39 were legally bound to join volunteer corps.8
It is unlikely in the extreme that Asahi Shimbun was unaware of these historical facts. In actuality, it was the conventional wisdom among left-wing, masochistic scholars of the time that the mobilization of workers into compulsory “volunteer” groups in colonial Korea also included comfort women.
Here are some examples of that conventional wisdom.
Beginning in 1943, approximately 200,000 Korean women were mobilized into teams called “female volunteer corps.” Approximately 50,000-70,000 young, unmarried, women among their number were forced to become comfort women.9
In August 1944, the Female Volunteer Corps Labor Act was promulgated. Several hundred thousand Korean women between the ages of 12 and 40 were mobilized; several tens of thousands of unmarried women among their number were pressed into service as comfort women for Japanese military personnel.10
The origin of both of these “explanations” is Yoshida Seiji’s book. As I wrote earlier, he stated that there was a roundup of women in 1943 on Cheju Island for a volunteer corps of comfort women.
By stating that “women ? mainly Korean women ? were transported to the brothels under the pretext that they would be serving in a female volunteer corps,” Asahi Shimbun was claiming that they were compelled to become comfort women, as Yoshida wrote. This is “coercion in the narrow sense” of the word, which Prime Minister Abe has denied.
In 1997, Asahi Shimbun changed the focus of its coverage to the hardships the women experienced once they entered the brothels, i.e., the coercive nature of their environments. But in 1992, the newspaper had charged that the recruitment of the comfort women was “systematically coercive.”
Meanwhile, the living witness to the slave hunts (Yoshida), and former comfort woman Kim Haksun had been making frequent appearances on Japanese television and in newspaper articles.
The January 23, 1992 edition of the Asahi Shimbun carried an editorial entitled “The Comfort Women.” It quoted Yoshida as saying, “They used the police, a state power, to abduct women in the colony using means that precluded escape. They transported them to battle zones and confined them there for a year or two years. They were gang-raped, and abandoned when the Japanese military retreated. It’s my guess that half the men and all the women I personally abducted died.”11 This was followed by a portion of a conversation between the author of the editorial and Yoshida: “I was concerned that Mr. Yoshida would be inconvenienced if his name appeared in the media. When I asked him about that, his cheerful reply was ‘That’s all right. It doesn’t bother me anymore.’”12
When I read the editorial, I realized that Yoshida was the answer to Asahi Shimbun’s prayers. Now the trio was complete: Yoshida (the conscientious witness), the documents unearthed by Prof. Yoshimi, and the former comfort woman, the victim. This unfortunate alignment created the mistaken impression of being evidence that women were abducted in slave hunts, and forced to service Japanese soldiers. Asahi Shimbun, other anti-Japanese media and activists had seized upon them and used them in their attempt to ruin Japan’s reputation.
The prevailing view at that time was that Japanese troops had abducted Korean women and forced them to become prostitutes, but the Japanese government would neither acknowledge nor apologize for these inhuman crimes.
I have vivid memories of Keio University Professor Okonogi Masao’s January 1992 editorial in Sankei Shimbun : “What I have learned is so horrible it makes me want to cover my eyes.” He had offered his political conclusion without ever bothering to examine the facts.13
Then, on January 13, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Koichi issued an official statement, saying that “we would like to offer our heartfelt apologies to the women who endured unspeakable suffering while serving as comfort women.” This was the first government statement issued in connection with the comfort women problem. On January 17, Prime Minister Miyazawa went to Korea, where he apologized to President Roh Tae-woo eight times.
Japanese instigated suit instituted in Korea
The February 1992 issue of the monthly Hoseki carried transcripts of interviews conducted by journalist Usuki Keiko with former comfort women. The title was “Another Pacific War: Former Korean Comfort Women Tell Their Stories: the Depravity and Shamelessness of the Japanese Soldiers Who Abused Our Bodies.” Those who agreed to the interview were Kim Haksun and two women who used pseudonyms.
Curious about what they had said, I immediately obtained a copy of the magazine. I was wondering whether they were going to say they had been abducted, thereby proving Yoshida Seiji was right.
But Kim Haksun said that she had been sold into prostitution for \40. Neither of the other two women said anything about having been kidnapped by Japanese soldiers. “What’s this?” I thought.
Poverty was a very serious problem in both Japan and Korea prior to World War II. In those days, women were indeed sold into prostitution. Everyone is aware of that; it is not news. What was supposed to make the comfort women newsworthy was their coming forward to say they were coerced.
Reading the apologies offered by the chief cabinet secretary and the prime minister, and the emotional coverage in the Japanese media, I thought, “Something’s wrong here. This may be a huge scam. No one has offered any proof that those women were coerced into prostitution.”
I was aware that, for the court proceedings held in connection with the suit instituted by Kim Haksun, et al. against the Japanese government, Japanese had gone to Korea and posted fliers advertising for plaintiffs.
Actually, theirs was not the first suit filed in connection with comfort women. Its precursor went to trial in 1990. When I learned that that suit had been instituted by Japanese, I realized that there must be some huge lies involved.
It so happened that the monthly Bungei Shunju had printed an article entitled “Japan-Korea Relations Have Deteriorated So Much that We Must Apologize” in its March issue, which hit the stands on February 10, 1992. The article is a dialogue between Sato Katsumi, director of the Modern Korea Institute, and Takushoku University Professor Tanaka Akira. These two pioneering specialists in postwar North and South Korean studies, who have many friends in South Korea, were also my mentors.
Both men spoke candidly. They deplored the state of the relationship between Japan and South Korea, reminding us that all reparations had been paid in accordance with the [Japan-Korea Treaty]. They mentioned a white paper, a statement of claim issued by the South Korean government, which lists the uses to which monies received from Japan were put, including monies intended for individuals. During their discussion, they indicated that the repeated apologies offered by Japan in response to South Korean demands had caused anti-Korean sentiment to spread against the Japanese. They also referred to the fact that the “comfort women trial” had been instigated by Japanese.
Scholars who have been engaged in research on South Korea for 30 years, or 40 years, came out and said that we must stop apologizing to the Koreans, that the more we apologize the worse relations between the two nations will become, using their real names. The shock waves were mammoth. Their statements were met with harsh criticism from the South Koreans, who pronounced them absurd.
Fact-finding investigation commissioned by magazine
As repercussions rippled throughout Japan and Korea, the editorial division of the monthly Bungei Shunju asked me to investigate the comfort women controversy and write up the results. To be candid, I wavered about accepting the assignment. As I wrote earlier, at that point I was having serious misgivings about the Japanese and Korean media coverage of the problem, and the Japanese government’s response. Therefore, I knew that someone had to do painstaking research into the facts and make the results known to the world.
But at the core of the problem was sex, a topic that people are generally unwilling to discuss frankly. Also involved was the fact that I, a citizen of a nation that had colonized Korea, might end up criticizing old women who had been victimized. I would rather have someone else do this job.
But as I vacillated, the lies continued to spread. I finally assented, believing that I could not, in good conscience, refuse. I was afraid that Japan’s relationship with Korea, a nation where many of my professors, mentors, friends and acquaintances live, might be irreparably damaged.
I was convinced that there is nothing more absurd (or harmful) than debates and apologies that have no basis in fact. I was fully prepared to be the first to offer an apology if I was proven wrong, if this wasn’t a scam and my investigation revealed that Japan had used force to victimize innocent Korean women.
The editor in chief of Bungei Shunju told me, “When you conduct your investigation, resign yourself to being vilified, along with me.” He promised me the editorial division’s full support. He assigned one of his most capable editors to the project full time, and told me I could use as many investigators as I wanted, and buy as many references as I needed. He said my research should be done wherever it needed to be, and not to worry about money. Therefore, I wasn’t a solo investigator, but part of a team working on the same project.
The objective of my research was to discover whether the comfort women were so poor they had to sell their bodies to stay alive, or whether they were sex slaves coerced into prostitution by military or government personnel.
First of all, I scrutinized the document that Prof. Yoshimi offered as proof of military involvement. It permitted me to confirm an important fact. Yes, the military was involved in recruiting comfort women, but only by attempting to prevent private brokers from engaging in immoral behavior and claiming they were acting on behalf of the military.
Not only did the document prove that the military did not coerce women, it also proved that they tried to stop brokers from engaging in unlawful acts during their recruiting campaigns. Yes, the military were involved, but their involvement had benevolent intentions.
I will quote from the document as published in Asahi Shimbun. It appears in a collection of documents exchanged between the Ministry of the Army and units assigned to China and entitled “China Area Army Journal: Secret.”
Subject: Recruitment of Comfort Women (Communication from adjutant to head staff officers of North China Area Army and Central China Expeditionary Army)
China Area Army No. 745: Secret
04 March 1938
We advise Expeditionary Army personnel to exercise extreme caution in the recruiting of female workers to avoid harm to the prestige of the military and the emergence of social problems. Be aware that unscrupulous brokers may say they are acting on behalf of the military, thus causing the military to lose prestige or generating misunderstandings among the local population. They may also cause social problems by violating regulations and recruiting through war correspondents or visitors. Some of the recruiters cannot be trusted; they lack the judgment required of recruiters, and must be watched carefully, as they have previously been arrested or interrogated by the police for using improper recruiting methods akin to kidnapping. Select recruiters with care and keep control over them. Maintain close contact with the military police and local police authorities.14
This document does not prove that the military forced women to serve as prostitutes. Asahi Shimbun reported that this document and two others attest to military involvement. But they simply state that the brothels were established to improve military discipline, as rapes committed by Japanese soldiers in war zones would be used as anti-Japanese political propaganda.
Following a logical thought process, we have: the military were concerned about inciting adverse public sentiment in war zones. There was already a fledgling independence movement in colonial Korea. The military wouldn’t have dared angering the local population by coercing women to become prostitutes. Therefore, the document found by Prof. Yoshimi does not prove that the comfort women were coerced. On the contrary, it proves that they were not coerced.
But the atmosphere at the time was obviously conducive to the creation of a mass delusion and fraud (the flames of which were fueled by Asahi Shimbun’s coverage and the chief cabinet secretary’s flustered apology) ? namely, that the comfort women were victims of coercion.
CHAPTER 2: WERE THE COMFORT WOMEN ABDUCTED BY JAPANESE AUTHORITIES?
The link between the Association for the Pacific War Victims officer and Asahi Shimbun
I examined the testimony of the former comfort woman who had come forward. I wanted to know whether it would attest to her having been abducted by military or government authorities.
Since she had instituted a lawsuit, I decided to have a look at the petition, which I acquired. I discovered that it agreed with the article I had read in Hoseki. An excerpt follows.
Kim Hak-sun’s family was poor, so she stopped going to school. To earn some money, she did babysitting and maid’s work. She was adopted by Kim Tae-won, who sent her to a school for kisaeng (entertainer-prostitutes) when she was 14, for three years. In the spring of 1939, when Kim Hak-sun was 17, her adoptive father convinced her and another girl named Emiko, who was one year her senior, to go with him to China, “where you can make a lot of money.”15
Kim Hak-sun states clearly that she became a kisaeng because her family was poor. When I discussed her case with the Bungei Shunju editors, we agreed that it was similar to those of young Japanese women who were sold into prostitution by their parents. But how can anyone claim Kim was abducted?
The more I investigated, the more malicious the Asahi Shimbun editorial seemed. Then I learned that the daughter of Yang Sun-in, the former executive director of a South Korean organization that goes by the name of Association for the Pacific War Victims, is married to Uemura Takashi, a reporter for Asahi Shimbun. If my sources were accurate, it did seem as though Uemura had manufactured his article out of whole cloth to give his mother-in-law and her accomplices an edge in court.
In any case, I had decided to track down absolutely every lead, including this one. That meant going to South Korea to meet Yang Sun-in. The people at the Bungei Shunju editorial division expressed concern when I told them of my plans. They were afraid that I might be assaulted by survivors, activists, or their agents; I was encouraged to travel with a reporter and a bodyguard. I declined their offer to save myself from having to interpret for an entourage.
Once in Seoul, I obtained the phone number of the Association from a Japanese foreign correspondent. I made an appointment to meet Yang Sun-in at the organization’s office. Actually, if luck hadn’t been on my side, that meeting might have been canceled at the last minute. Takagi Ken’ichi, the Japanese lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the suit, was scheduled to visit the Association’s office at about the same time to prepare for the trial. Since I had criticized his activities in Gendai Koria (Modern Korea) and other publications, I was sure he knew who I was. If Takagi had showed up at the office prior to my appointment, Uemura would have warned Yang Sun-in about me, and she would not have agreed to the interview. Fortunately, I arrived in Seoul a few days before he did.
I went to the Association’s office bearing a gift, a box of fruit, and proffered my business card (the one that says I’m a university professor). I announced that I was doing research on Korea. When I mentioned that I was particularly interested in the comfort women controversy, Ms. Yang opened up to me.
I asked her how the lawsuit had come to be filed. (I will describe her response in detail later.) Then I told her, “The Japanese government has already paid $300 million in cash and tendered $200 million in loans to South Korea in accordance with the 1965 treaty. The South Korean government paid 300,000 won out of that amount to victims’ survivors. Why demand further compensation from the Japanese government, especially at this late date?”
Her strange reply was: “The 1965 treaty was imposed on the weak (South Korea) by the strong (Japan). We don’t care if a thousand treaties were signed. We won’t recognize them.”
Then I said I’d heard that her daughter was married to an Asahi Shimbun reporter. “Yes, that’s true,” she replied.
To make sure I had the correct information, I asked, “Is his name Uemura?” “Yes.” Now I had the information I needed, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Criminalization of the Japanese military
The next task on my agenda was to interview Kim Hak-sun, the former comfort woman who had come forward. I wasn’t able to do that, unfortunately, because she had been hospitalized. Instead, I managed to track down and meet with a Korean resident of Japan, a woman who had arranged for Kim to appear on Japanese television programs, and acted as her interpreter.
She had come to know Kim very well after interpreting for her a number of times. She had learned that Kim had not been abducted by the Japanese military, but had been sold to a kisaeng house because her family was so poor.
Having discovered that the truth was quite different from the fiction preferred by television commentators, etc., who were determined to portray the Japanese military as a band of demoniacal criminals, my informant had begun to realize that something was terribly wrong. I believe that is why she told someone like me, who had come from Japan on a fact-finding mission, Kim Hak-sun’s true story.
She said that once she had learned the truth, she had a quiet conversation with Kim when there were no reporters around.
“Ms. Kim, you were sold to a kisaeng house, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I was.”
“Then why in the world did you come forward?”
“I was so lonely. No one ever came to see me. Then one day I saw a television program about people who were forced to work during the war and how they were going to go to court. I thought maybe that had something to do with me, so I made a phone call.”
In August 1991, Kim Hak-sun was the first former comfort woman to come forward. At that time, as already described, Asahi Shimbun gave the event a huge amount of coverage: “A comfort woman comes forward for the first time ever.” This was a scoop for Asahi, which wrote about the event before even Korean newspapers got wind of it. The author of the article was, needless to say, Uemura Takashi, son-in-law of the woman whose organization was contacted by Kim Hak-sun. He was bound to get the scoop.
The article Uemura produced, as mentioned earlier, has a very shocking beginning.
During the Sino Japanese War and World War II, Korean women were told they would be joining female volunteer corps, but were instead transported to battle zones and forced to provide sex services to Japanese military personnel. It has come to light that one of these so called “comfort women” lives in Seoul. The Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (…) interviewed the woman … .16
Nowhere here will you find the most critical part of her story: that her family was so poor she was sold to a kisaeng house. Without this information, readers would never see the true picture.
Interestingly, the portion of the article that mentions the female volunteer corps (“Korean women were told they would be joining Female Volunteer Corps, but were instead transported to battle zones”) is the same language used in the “supplementary material” supplied by Asahi Shimbun in connection with the document provided by Prof. Yoshimi. The first glimpse the Japanese reading public got of Kim Hak-sun was the portrait Uemura Takashi painted of her, which closely resembled Yoshida Seiji’s confession: the victim of an abduction.
On December 25, 1991, Asahi Shimbun carried another article under the headline “Former Comfort Woman Kim Hak-sun Institutes Suit Against the Japanese Government: Seeks Compensation for a Stolen Youth.” It contained a partial transcription of Uemura’s interview with Kim, where she says, “I heard I could make a lot of money. Someone working in my neighborhood told me. He didn’t say what type of work was involved. I accepted the offer, and so did a friend who lived nearby. It was the spring of 1939, and I was 17.” Still no mention of being sold to a kisaeng house.
Did Kim Hak-sun fail to mention the kisaeng house when she first came forward? If so, then the information in Uemura’s article was erroneous. But it would be unfair to describe it as malicious
The truth quickly emerged. After doing some checking, I learned that on August 14, shortly after Uemura’s article appeared, Kim Hak-sun held a press conference for Korean newspaper reporters. I looked for the articles and discovered that even Hankyoreh, South Korea’s most left-leaning daily, carried one about Kim.
No longer able to make ends meet, my mother sold me to a kisaeng house owner in Pyongyang when I was 14. After living there for three years, I thought I had gotten my first job. But the place I was taken by the kisaeng house owner who had adopted me was a division of the Japanese Army in North China. There were more than 300 soldiers there. First I was sold for \40, then trained to be an entertainer for a few years, and after that I went to a place where Japanese soldiers were stationed.17
It was the same story she had told from the very beginning, the one I read on the petition for the lawsuit. Every time she told it ? the first time she spoke out, on the petition, and in the Hoseki interview, it was the same: Kim Hak-sun had been sold to a kisaeng house.
Asahi Shimbun’s malicious fabrication
Uemura’s article in the December 25 edition of Asahi Shimbun begins: “I was present when the lawyers interviewed the former comfort woman, so I heard her story in detail. Here are excerpts from the tape-recorded description of her stolen youth.”
Not only in his August article, but also in the December piece, Uemura deliberately omitted important information from Kim Hak-sun’s account: the part about being sold to a kisaeng house. At that time, Uemura worked on the city desk at the Osaka office of Asahi Shimbun. Apparently, he had gone to Korea as an exchange student, where he was studying the language. There he met Yang Sun-in’s daughter, whom he later married. This means that he reads and speaks Korean. It is hard to believe that Kim Hak-sun omitted the part of her story relating to having being sold only when she spoke to him, i.e., Asahi Shimbun.
That part of Kim’s story can also be found in the petition for the lawsuit. So, if Uemura was present when Takagi and the other attorneys met with Kim, she would certainly have told them about it. Uemura must have known about it. I can only assume that he left it out because it didn’t fit in with the scenario he had concocted. He was afraid to write the truth, because then his whole drama about abduction and coercion by Japanese authorities, which was what Asahi Shimbun wanted to publicize, would have crumbled.
Asahi Shimbun’s current position is that Prime Minister Abe should stop dithering about whether there was coercion in the narrow sense or in the broad sense. If he’s going to apologize, then he should apologize, and properly. Actually, the newspaper thought that the story wasn’t worth printing unless they could make a case for coercion in the narrow sense of the word (i.e., abduction by military or government authorities). For that reason, the editors deliberately dropped the part about Kim’s mother selling her for \40.
Recently, a television program claiming that you’ll lose weight if you eat fermented soybeans was canceled and the television network that broadcast it was expelled from Minporen (National Association of Commercial Broadcasters) for misinforming the public. But Asahi Shimbun’s sins are far, far more grievous.
When an Asahi reporter claimed he had found graffiti carved in coral and was later found to have staged the incident, the president of Asahi Shimbun resigned. But Uemura’s offense was twice as reprehensible, since he lied not only to get a scoop, but also to get a lawsuit instituted by his mother-in-law off on a good footing. Their deliberate dissemination of lies has had serious consequences, worsening not only relations between Japan and South Korea, but also between Japan and the U.S.
Since 1992, I have been spreading the word about this incident every chance I get: in magazine articles, books, and in televised debates and public speeches, naming names every single time. Still, Asahi Shimbun has yet to issue a rebuttal, a correction or an apology; nor has the newspaper reprimanded Mr. Uemura. Far from it, it appointed him Seoul correspondent, and assigned him to write articles on Korean problems. This is inexcusable behavior.
Another individual whose conduct has been reprehensible is Takagi Ken’ichi, the attorney. We assume he read the petition, so he must have known Kim Hak-sun’s sad story: the family was so poor her mother had to sell her for \40. If he were a reputable lawyer, he would have explained things to her: “You don’t have a case. By telling your story, you are inviting humiliation for a second time.”
As the first former comfort woman to come forward, Kim Hak-sun became a pawn in the anti-Japan campaign waged by Takagi and his accomplices. She was also used by Uemura and the Asahi Shimbun. When I and other Korea specialists exposed her true past, she became expendable. After I wrote about the portion of her story that Uemura concealed in Bungei Shunju, Korean scholars conducted an inquiry. She told them a new tale, which wasn’t included in the petition. This resulted in closer scrutiny of her past; she was now trapped in a vicious cycle. It’s hard to believe that Takagi Ken’ichi cared the least bit about her human rights.
Child comfort women?
Now I’d like to return to the investigation I conducted in February 1992. On January 14 of that year, two days before Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi was to visit Korea, articles about the Japanese rounding up elementary school students to serve in volunteer corps, and editorials about forcing even elementary school-aged girls to become sex slaves appeared in Korean newspapers, fomenting resentment against Japan.
Did the authors actually verify the existence of 12-year-old comfort women? I located the person who wrote the first article about elementary school students and the volunteer corps, and met with him. His name is Kim Yong-soo, and he works for Rengo News Agency. He said he had been following this problem for quite some time.
As described earlier, in South Korea there is a misunderstanding about the wartime volunteer corps. They have been mistaken for comfort women; there was no connection. Kim knew that, but he wrote only that 12-year-olds were drafted into volunteer corps. He made no effort to explain. He didn’t claim that they had been forced to serve as comfort women. But the editorial in the Dong-a Ilbo, a Korean daily, which appeared not long after the Kim article, stated that “even 12-year old schoolgirls were mobilized to serve as sex slaves in war zones.” Presented as unassailable fact, this “information” infuriated many Koreans, and right before Prime Minister Miyazawa’s visit.
Volunteer corps were, more accurately, volunteer labor corps, which had nothing whatsoever to do with comfort women. Members were not transported to brothels, but to munitions factories in Toyama Prefecture. According to my research, in 1944, Ikeda Masae, a Japanese teacher at the Hozan National School (an elementary school) in Keijo (today Seoul), sent six of her sixth-grade students to work in a munitions factory in Toyama as members of a volunteer corps. In August 1945, the war ended; in December, Ms. Ikeda returned to Japan. By that time, all but one of her students had returned to Korea. Ms. Ikeda never forgot the girl, and after retiring from her teaching position in Japan, went to look for her. Her search ended happily in 1991, when she found the student. She learned that the girl had returned safely to South Korea, but had headed straight for her home village, without stopping at the school to announce her return.
Since Kim Yong-soo had intended to write an article describing this chain of events, he continued to gather information. He observed that a former comfort woman had come forward, and a document uncovered by Prof. Yoshimi had been given wide coverage in Japan. Then he wrote an article stating that elementary school children had been drafted into volunteer corps.
As I stated earlier, Kim did not explain that these girls were being sent to work in a factory in Toyama, not a brothel. He knew (or perhaps hoped) that his article would be misinterpreted.
I asked him directly: “Why did you write that article? You knew that those 12-year-old girls never became comfort women. In Korea, your article served as the basis for others asserting that 12-year-old Korean girls were forced to become sex slaves in battle zones. Maybe your article, and your article alone, contained no inaccuracies, but you wrote it knowing full well that it would be misinterpreted. How could you do such a thing?”
Kim’s reply: “Yes, I knew that those six children weren’t comfort women, but I’ve heard stories in Korea about children who were drafted into volunteer corps and later forced to become comfort women. So I thought that other elementary schoolgirls might have been forced to become comfort women. That’s why I didn’t bother to write that these six were members of volunteer labor corps, and not comfort women.”
His excuse was pathetic, but at least I was able to ascertain that there was no proof to back up the accusations that followed his article.
To this day, none of the sources of the rumor that 12-year-old girls were forced to serve as comfort women (Kim’s article, the newspapers, television networks, etc.) has stated that schoolgirls were mobilized to work in munitions factories, not to serve as comfort women. Anti-Japanese sentiment has continued to worsen. Here is an excerpt from one of the editorials; this one appeared in Dong-a Ilbo in early 1992.
Twelve-year-old “volunteer corps” members
The crimes committed by the Japanese empire were so repugnant and barbarian that it is difficult to believe they were perpetrated by human beings. It is true that they were committed during the conduct of a war waged by a militaristic government, but still, we find it nearly impossible to believe that the Japanese would go to such cruel, inhuman lengths to commit these brutal crimes.
We have been struggling to comprehend, even vaguely, the pain and suffering the members of those “volunteer corps” endured when they were brutally abducted and forced to provide sex services to the Japanese military. However, we find it impossible to control the anger that consumes us once again at the news that even 12-year-old elementary school students were mobilized and used as sexual commodities in war zones.
It is shocking to learn that before liberation,18 six students in Sixth Grade Class No. 2 (an all-girl class) of the Hozan National School in Seoul (then a public elementary school affiliated with Keijo Province) were abducted and forced to join a girls’ volunteer corps. Five of them were only 12 years old at the time. It is common knowledge that 15-year-old girls were mobilized for those volunteer corps, but we have learned that even 12-year-old girls were abducted.
A Japanese teacher named Ikeda (female, now 68 years old), then employed by said school, sent the students off to a volunteer corps, which she called a “volunteer labor corps.” Ikeda persuaded the girls to go by telling them and their parents that, as subjects of the Japanese empire, they were obligated to join volunteer labor corps.
However, that was a bald-faced lie. We now know from testimony provided by various individuals that after the girls were mobilized under the volunteer labor corps pretext, they were
instead assigned to brothels. Ikeda says she felt so guilty that she never married, and could never look at the sky in the direction of Korea. This is proof that she knew what the volunteer labor corps really were.
We don’t know how many young girls were taken from their parents and forced to join volunteer corps. Even some young mothers were beaten and abducted, their infants torn from their breasts. We estimate that 80,000-200,000 people were mobilized to serve as comfort women.
We do not wish to dwell on the volunteer corps issue, which has caused us great disgrace. We should persuade Japan to seek forgiveness for these brutal acts by making amends in the spirit of humanitarianism.19
After my second reading of this tirade, I was practically groaning. Images of 12-year-old girls and new mothers being abducted and forced to become comfort women in war zones, where they “were used as sexual commodities” had become imprinted in the minds of a great many Koreans. Subsequently, they made their way, practically unaltered, into the educational arena and into dramas shown on television. The conventional wisdom in South Korea about the comfort women, especially among those who never experienced colonialism, is virtually identical to the scenarios described in this editorial.
Another bombshell: lawsuit instigated by Japanese
The more research I did, the clearer it became that there had been absolutely no abductions by military or government authorities. I set out to discover the motivation for the lawsuit, and ran into yet another instance of chicanery.
In Oita Prefecture there lives a woman named Aoyagi Atsuko. During my investigation, I went to her home to hear what she had to say. The wife of a physician, Aoyagi champions a Korean-Japanese anti-discrimination activist named Song Tu-hea. Aoyagi teamed up with Song to institute a lawsuit against the Japanese government demanding an apology and compensation. I later met with her puppet master Song, too, in Tokyo. From those interviews, I gleaned the following facts.
The first lawsuit of this sort involved Koreans residing in Sakhalin. It too was instigated by Song Tu-hea. Quite the eccentric, Song Tu-hea uses a bizarre logic, which prompts him to emit utterances like “the Koreans in Sakhalin and the Koreans in Japan, including me, all possess Japanese citizenship, even today.” Apparently, he didn’t want to use lawyers, but the court wouldn’t accept the documents he submitted. Enter Takagi Ken’ichi, the attorney.
In 1975, Takagi and his colleagues sidelined Song, and prepared the required documents. Then they instituted suit against the Japanese government, demanding an apology and compensation because “Japan bears responsibility for the inability of Koreans in Sakhalin to return to South Korea.”
That lawsuit was adjudged to be without merit. After its defeat, Japan was not involved in any way with the South Koreans’ tragic postwar fate. Sakhalin was occupied by Soviet troops, who sided with North Korea and, therefore, refused to allow Koreans to return to South Korea. The court ruled that the lawsuit was groundless. But the attitude that anything is fair game if it makes Japan look bad, and that it’s perfectly all right to twist the facts, if necessary, is the specialty of Japan-hating Japanese like Takagi and company.
But between the time the suit was instituted and into the 1980s, the Soviet Union began granting temporary exit visas so Koreans could travel to Japan. Reunions took place, and they included family members who had traveled from South Korea. The Japanese government funded these reunions, for humanitarian reasons. South Koreans in Sakhalin seemed to have reasons to be hopeful.20 After his Sakhalin court case was hijacked by Takagi, Song looked to South Korea as a source of plaintiffs.
The Song-Aoyagi group placed an advertisement in the February 19, 1989 issue of the now defunct left-wing magazine Asahi Journal that read, in part: “Japan must issue a formal apology to North and South Koreans.” The advertisement appeared 14 more times, every other week, until December.
On January 19, 1989, Aoyagi made a three-day trip to South Korea, armed with a Korean translation of the Asahi Journal ad. The purpose of her trip was to find plaintiffs for a lawsuit against the Japanese government demanding an apology and compensation. She left her literature with various media organizations, but was unable to locate any victims.
An acquaintance of mine who works at a branch office of a Japanese daily in South Korea told me that Aoyagi visited his office during her 1989 trip, and said she was looking for plaintiffs. Here we have a Japanese woman going around handing out flyers in South Korea, and urging people to sue the Japanese government. The more I learned about her activities, the more dubious I became.
Several weeks after she returned to Oita, Aoyagi received a telephone call from South Korea. It was Yang Sun-in, the mother-in-law of Asahi Shimbun reporter Uemura Takashi. Yang said she represented a group called Association for the Pacific War Victims, and wanted to be a plaintiff in Aoyagi’s lawsuit.
In March 1990, Aoyagi visited Korea a second time. Awaiting her arrival were approximately 1,000 members of the Association for the Pacific War Victims, who had gathered in the auditorium of the Hankuk Ilbo Building near the Japanese Embassy for a “Briefing on a Lawsuit Seeking a Formal Apology and Compensation from Japan.” Aoyagi told me that her speech to the Association for the Pacific War Victims had gone something like this:
I am just an ordinary housewife and the mother of three children. When I met Song Tu-hea and the members of his group, I realized that I could wait no longer for Japan to do the right thing. I decided to make preparations for a lawsuit. No decent human being could possibly forgive what Japan has done, including the annexation of Korea for 36 years. It makes me especially angry that Japan has shirked its postwar responsibilities.
We decided that the most effective method to use, of those available to us, would be a lawsuit. We are now preparing for the court proceedings. At the trial, we will ask for an official apology and compensation from Japan. I’d like to explain the court proceedings briefly. Court costs vary according to the amount of compensation demanded. Since it is expensive to transport witnesses to Japan, we’d like to start out with 10 plaintiffs. But to make it clear that there are many more plaintiffs standing behind these 10 people, I’d like to have as many powers of attorney as possible. We have raised four million yen in Japan to cover court costs. We plan to begin the court proceedings with 10 plaintiffs and a large number of powers of attorney.
Surely the Koreans in the audience reacted positively to this Japanese woman, who had journeyed to South Korea, condemned her own country’s government and exhorted all in attendance to join her in a lawsuit demanding an official apology and compensation, all expenses paid. Then Aoyagi suggested staging a demonstration in front of the Japanese Embassy, just a few steps away. The demonstration, the first of its kind, took place that day. Since then, there have been demonstrations demanding compensation every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy, but it was Aoyagi who organized the very first one.
Inspired by Aoyagi’s exhortations, the Association for the Pacific War Victims began to act in earnest. In May 1990, the group held a two-week-long sit-in in front of the Japanese Embassy. In June and July, they marched from the Japanese Consulate in Pusan to the Japanese Embassy in Seoul carrying photographs of victims hanging from their necks. Then, on October 29, 22 South Koreans appeared in Tokyo District Court to file their lawsuit against the Japanese government, the bulk of their paperwork having been done by Aoyagi and her accomplices.
The plaintiffs in this case were the survivors of Koreans who had been drafted into the Japanese Army or mobilized as workers, and were killed on the battlefield or elsewhere. No former comfort women were involved in this action.
But since Song Tu-hea and Aoyagi hadn’t used an attorney then, either. As a result, they did not succeed in bringing the lawsuit to trial.
In August 1991, when the first former comfort woman came forward, the Association for the Pacific War Victims bid Aoyagi farewell, and together with attorney Takagi and a group including journalist Usuki Keiko, began preparing for a new lawsuit. This was the case described earlier (Kim Hak-sun was the lead plaintiff).
By rights, any controversy over compensation should have been resolved when the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea was concluded in 1965. There were no demonstrations in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul until the first was fomented by the Association for the Pacific War Victims and Aoyagi.
But when someone came from Japan and told them they could sue, when someone told them they might be able to get more money, and that all their expenses would be paid in Japan, that’s when the movement gained real momentum.
Compensation of individual victims at discretion of ROK government
How did the Association for the Pacific War Victims come to be established? In accordance with the 1965 treaty, Japan paid $300 million in cash and tendered $200 million in loans to Korea (the property claim agreement). Since Japan had only $18 billion in foreign currency reserves in 1965, an expenditure of $500 million would have been a hardship. That amount was paid in installments over 10 years between 1966 and 1975. At the time, South Korea had $130 million in foreign currency reserves, far less than the nation’s trade deficit ($290 million). Therefore, $500 million was very significant to the Korean economy.
The Park Chung-hee administration earmarked the funds received from Japan as follows: (1) All citizens must benefit equally, (2) the funds must be applied so as to increase national income, (3) decisions to distribute funds must be made in accordance with Korean leadership initiative, be they applied to infrastructure, raw materials or machinery, and (4) the funds must be invested in major enterprises that can be passed on to our children and grandchildren.21
Based on the view that investment in production would result in increased national income, plans were made to use the funds for national construction projects: dams, steel plants and roads were built.
According to Korean government estimates, the funds from Japan represented a contribution of 19.3% on average, between 1966 and 1975, to South Korean economic growth. In the postwar world, developing countries received a tremendous amount of financial aid from advanced nations. But few nations used those funds as effectively as the Park Chung-hee government.
The matter of compensating individuals was put off until later. Between May 1971 and March 1972, private claims against Japan were filed. The Association for the Pacific War Victims was formed during this period. In 1974, the Law Concerning Private Compensation Claims Against Japan was enacted. Beginning in 1975, 300,000 won was paid to each of 9,546 direct descendants of “persons who lost their lives as a result of having been conscripted as military personnel, civilian workers for the military or laborers prior to August 15, 1945.”22
The Association for the Pacific War Victims came into being in 1972; its raison d’?tre was to petition the Korean government for more money, since 300,000 won was insufficient. The organization should have asked the South Korean government for more money, since Japan had already transferred the funds, and there was no reason for further Japanese involvement.
Furthermore, the Korean government compensated only those who were mobilized to serve as soldiers, military workers or laborers and died while performing those services, as described earlier. Individuals who were wounded or injured received nothing.
It can certainly empathize with the petitioners. But if the Japanese government were to pay the same amount of compensation to Korean survivors as to Japanese survivors, as Japanese Japan-haters would have it, what would happen?
The South Korean government spent some of the funds received from Japan on programs intended to support independence activists and their survivors. But South Korea is now an independent nation; it must attempt to achieve a balance between compensation to survivors of those who were forced to help with Japan’s war effort when Korea was a Japanese colony, and survivors of popular heroes who died fighting for independence. Also to be factored in is compensation to survivors of Korean military personnel killed in action protecting their nation against invaders from North Korea, after independence.
The basis of comparison should be not the level of military pensions in Japan, but the balance with other survivors in South Korea. Again, it is up to the South Korean government to decide to whom and how much of the funds received from Japan should go to Koreans who were mobilized for the Japanese war effort.
None of the Korean survivors had been contemplating an attempt to extract more money from Japan. After all, Japan had paid an amount equivalent to one-third of its foreign currency reserves. And since Park Chung-hee put the money to good use, it contributed greatly to South Korean economic growth.
But more than 20 years after diplomatic relations were normalized (14 years after the South Korean government began paying compensation to individuals), a Japanese appears on the scene, out of the blue. She hands out flyers, and goes around telling people, “We’ve raised \4 million, so let’s go to court and extract damages from the Japanese government on an individual basis.” Then she holds a briefing, followed by an anti-Japanese demonstration.
Why is the Japanese government paralyzed?
Now I’d like to return to the research I conducted for my article in the February 1992 issue of Bungei Shunju. After visiting South Korea and Oita, I tackled the Northeast Asia Division of the Japanese Foreign Ministry. The civil servants there repeatedly refused to talk to me, but with the deadline looming, I asked again for a briefing, and someone finally agreed to see me. The first thing I needed to know was why Prime Minister Miyazawa apologized in South Korea.
“Did Mr. Miyazawa acknowledge that there had been coercion or ‘slave hunts’ on the part of military or government authorities when he apologized? Or did he say, ‘At the time, there was a district of Japan called Yoshiwara, where many Japanese women worked. They had been sold into prostitution because their families were so poor.’ Did he say that was sorry for the suffering they had experienced when he apologized? Which was it? If the latter, then why doesn’t the Japanese government apologize to the Japanese women who worked in Yoshiwara?”
The bureaucrat’s shocking reply was, “I’ll have to check on that, but it’s a fact that people were taken away and had horrible experiences.”
I asked, “What is your opinion of Yoshida Seiji’s testimony about having hunted for comfort women under military orders?”
“I can’t comment with certainty, but it’s hard to believe that someone who’s already confessed to a crime would lie about that.”
So the Foreign Ministry didn’t possess any proof that the comfort women had been abducted by military or government authorities, either.
The more I investigated, the more convinced I became that no one had proved that there was systematic coercion. But it seemed as though all of Japan had accepted that premise. I felt totally isolated.
Several days later, holed up in a hotel, I worked night and day finishing up the article. All that time, there was a nagging thought in the back of my mind: Why am I, a private citizen, using a private publishing company’s money and a considerable supply of my energy to go to South Korea, interview everyone I possibly can, and gather evidence to clear Japan’s name? The Japanese government should be doing this!
Was there actually coercion by the authorities? If there was, then it would have been in violation of international law. Japan would be obligated to apologize.
When Japan annexed Korea, a sincere effort was made to unite the two countries. Koreans were exhorted to become loyal subjects of Japan’s Emperor ? to become Japanese. Even in the context of the value system of the time, abducting Korean women to provide sex services to the Japanese military would have been betraying the Koreans. It would have been a state crime ? an unforgivable state crime. And certainly, some sort of compensation would have been warranted.
My opinion on this subject has not changed at all. But I was shocked that the Japanese government had apologized without benefit of an investigation.
Four proposals in 1992 article
There is not one civil servant who will protect Japan’s honor. The Defense Agency (now Defense Ministry) and Self-Defense Forces can protect Japan’s sovereignty in the event of an armed attack. But there is no government office, there are no civil servants, to defend Japan’s honor in the face of a scurrilous, indirect attack, i.e., an attack on Japan’s honor, by conducting an investigation and countering the attack effectively.
Such matters should be within the purview of the Foreign Ministry. As described previously, that entity is planning to launch a fact-finding investigation. But what is the ministry’s reason for waiting until now, after lies about the comfort women have spread all over the world, and Japan is being condemned from all quarters. I am even more outraged that it forced a prime minister to apologize.
My essay, entitled “Behind the Comfort Women Controversy,” appeared in the March 10, 1992 issue of Bungei Shunju. I am glad that I was able to make a difference at a time when the conventional wisdom in Japan was that comfort women were abducted or otherwise coerced, and the discussion had turned to how the victims should be compensated.
My essay jump-started a huge debate over whether the comfort women were coerced. Before I trace the path of that debate, there’s another point I would like to make: we must not do anything that would result in the abrogation of the treaty signed with Korea in 1965 or destroy the foundation of Japan-South Korea relations, built with great effort on the part of both nations over the years since then.
Although the two nations had already settled their past differences, a debate began, not only in the South Korean mass media, but in Korean government circles, over whether the Japanese government should compensate former comfort women. Nor has it subsided, either. In a speech delivered in March 2005, President Roh Moo-hyun said that “we should delve into the past, and if we discover that apologies are needed, they should be made from the heart, and compensation should be paid, if justified.” More recently, the situation has deteriorated so much that the U.S. Congress debated a resolution demanding that the Japanese government issue a formal apology to the former comfort women.
In my essay, I offered four proposals to be adopted for the sake of friendship between Japan and South Korea.
1. The issue of compensation was resolved when the treaty between Japan and Korea and its ancillary agreements were concluded in 1965. Care should be taken to avoid abrogating these pacts, as they form the foundation of Japan-South Korea relations.
2. Both Japan and Korea should make an effort to explain to their citizens the terms of the 1965 treaty, how much compensation was paid to Korea, and how it was decided to whom compensation would be paid. Then they should publicize information about how the funds were used. The media of both nations should publicize this information.
3. The Japanese government should discontinue its habit of apologizing every time Japan is criticized. Instead, it should review the colonial era from Japan’s perspective.
4. The South Korean government should establish programs that will provide humanitarian aid to former comfort women. Japan should cooperate with South Korean efforts, on humanitarian grounds.
As for my second proposal, in August 1992, by way of making a personal contribution, I devoted 28 pages of my first book, The Mountain of Misconceptions Separating Japan and Korea, which dealt with the comfort women controversy, to a Japanese translation of the salient portions of the White Paper on the Japan ROK Property Claim Agreement issued by the Korean government in 1975.
My essay did provoke a reaction in some circles. Older people who lived through the colonial era said that there was no abduction of women by the authorities; they were sold into prostitution due to poverty. Their statements, however, were not carried by the mass media. As a result, an increasing number of discerning Japanese have suddenly developed a dislike for South Korea.
Also, the editorial division of Gendai Korea received numerous telephone calls and letters from Japanese saying they felt like assaulting Koreans, or that they wanted Korean Japanese to be expelled from Japan, or that they wanted to sever diplomatic relations with South Korea. Some of the older people were furious: “How can anyone equate volunteer corps with the comfort women?”
Here is one person’s comment: “At that time, the standard of living was low in Japan, too. I’m not going to claim that everything was wonderful during the colonial area. There was discrimination against the Koreans. Some of them suffered terribly. But there was absolutely no connection between the volunteer labor corps and the comfort women. Nor was their any coercion of the comfort women.”
Some periodicals carried statements from women commentators Sone Ayako and Kamisaka Fuyuko, both conversant with social issues, to the effect that no proof of coercion has been presented. Prostitutes were licensed then, and it wasn’t unusual for Korean or Japanese girls from poor families to be sold into prostitution.
But their opinions appeared only in a very few weeklies or monthlies, and never on television or in the newspapers. It had become taboo to print or say anything that might be construed as a criticism of the former comfort woman who had come forward.
But to shatter the taboo, a few people, myself included, continued the debate. At that point, our biggest hurdle was Yoshida Seiji’s confession.
Yoshida had claimed he engaged in the abduction of women ? “slave hunts,” he called them. But the more research I did, the more Yoshida’s tale seemed anomalous when compared with other testimonies. Even the Foreign Ministry bureaucrat seemed to believe him: “Why would a an admitted perpetrator lie?” It seemed very likely that Yoshida was at least partly responsible for the prime minister’s having to apologize, even though no one had checked his story.
1 Nishioka Tsutomu, Nikkan gokai no shin’en (The mountain of misconceptions separating Japan and South Korea (Tokyo: Aki Shobo, 1992).
2 Yoshida Seiji, Watakushi no senso hanzai: Chosenjin kyosei renko (My war crimes: abduction of Koreans) (Tokyo: San’ichi Shobo, 1983).
3 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi bin/query/z?c108:H.+Con.+Res.+226:; http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=hr110 121
4 Yoshida, op. cit., pp. 107-110.
5 Ibid., pp. 100-102.
6 Asahi Shimbun, 11 August 1991.
8 Momose Takashi et al., Jiten: Showa senzenki no Nippon (Dictionary: Japan in the Showa era prior to World War II) (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1990).
9 Ito Abito, ed., Chosen wo shiru jiten (Cyclopedia of Korea) (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1986). This text appears unchanged in the fourth printing (revised and expanded edition) released on 05 July 2006.
10 Takeda Yukio, ed., Chosen shi (Korean history) (Tokyo: Yamakawa Shuppansha, 1985).
11 Asahi Shimbun, 23 January 1992 (evening edition).
13 Sankei Shimbun, 25 January 1992.
14 China Area Army Notice No. 745, 04 March 1938.
15 Petition submitted to Tokyo District Court by Kim Hak-sun et al. on December 6, 1991); for the complete testimony, see Hirabayashi Hisae, Kyosei renko to jugun ianfu (Abductions and comfort women) (Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Center, 1992).
16 Asahi Shimbun, 11 August 1991.
17 The Hankyoreh, 15 August 1991.
18 Here “liberation” means liberation from Japanese colonial rule.
19 Dong-a Ilbo, 15 January 1992.
20 For details, see Arai Sawako, Saharin no Kankokujin wa naze kaerenakatta no ka (Why South Koreans on Sakhalin couldn’t return home) (Tokyo: Soshisha, 1997).
21 White Paper on Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims, and Economic Cooperation between Japan and Republic of Korea, Economic Planning Board, Republic of Korea, 1976.
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September 15, 2007
Report of the U.S.Army at WW2 on “IANFU” comfort women.
Filed under: IANFU 'comfort women',Japan,Korea,U.S.A. ? Sei-no-Syounagon @ 11:16 pm
Report of the U.S.Army at WW2 on “IANFU” comfort women.
Report No. 49: Japanese POW Interrogation on Prostitution.
UNITED STATES OFFICE OF WAR INFORMATION
Psychological Warfare Team Attached to U.S. Army Forces
India-Burma Theater APO 689
Japanese Prisoner of War Interrogation
Report No. 49. Place interrogated: Ledo Stockade
Date Interrogated: Aug. 20 ? Sept. 10, 1944
Date of Report: October 1, 1944
By: T/3 Alex Yorichi
Prisoners: 20 Korean Comfort Girls
Date of Capture: August 10, 1944
Date of Arrival: August 15, 1994 at Stockade
This report is based on the information obtained from the interrogation of twenty Korean “comfort girls” and two Japanese civilians captured around the tenth of August, 1944 in the mopping up operations after the fall of Myitkyin a in Burma.
The report shows how the Japanese recruited these Korean “comfort girls”, the conditions under which they lived and worked, their relations with and reaction to the Japanese soldier, and their understanding of the military situation.
A “comfort girl” is nothing more than a prostitute or “professional camp follower” attached to the Japanese Army for the benefit of the soldiers. The word “comfort girl” is peculiar to the Japanese. Other reports show the “comfort girls” have been found wherever it was necessary for the Japanese Army to fight. This report however deals only with the Korean “comfort girls” recruited by the Japanese and attached to their Army in Burma. The Japanese are reported to have shipped some 703 of these girls to Burma in 1942.
Early in May of 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.
The majority of the girls were ignorant and uneducated, although a few had been connected with “oldest profession on earth” before. The contract they signed bound them to Army regulations and to war for the “house master ” for a period of from six months to a year depending on the family debt for which they were advanced …
Approximately 800 of these girls were recruited in this manner and they landed with their Japanese “house master” at Rangoon around August 20th, 1942. They came in groups of from eight to twenty-two. From here they were distributed to various parts of Burma, usually to fair sized towns near Japanese Army camps.
Eventually four of these units reached the Myitkyina. They were, Kyoei, Kinsui, Bakushinro, and Momoya. The Kyoei house was called the “Maruyama Club”, but was changed when the girls reached Myitkyina as Col.Maruyama, commander of the garrison at Myitkyina, objected to the similarity to his name.
The interrogations show the average Korean “comfort girl” to be about twenty-five years old, uneducated, childish, and selfish. She is not pretty either by Japanese of Caucasian standards. She is inclined to be egotistical and likes to talk about herself. Her attitude in front of strangers is quiet and demure, but she “knows the wiles of a woman.”
She claims to dislike her “profession” and would rather not talk either about it or her family. Because of the kind treatment she received as a prisoner from American soldiers at Myitkyina and Ledo, she feels that they are more emotional than Japanese soldiers. She is afraid of Chinese and Indian troops.
LIVING AND WORKING CONDITIONS;
In Myitkyina the girls were usually quartered in a large two story house (usually a school building) with a separate room for each girl. There each girl lived, slept, and transacted business. In Myitkina their food was prepared by and purchased from the “house master” as they received no regular ration from the Japanese Army. They lived in near-luxury in Burma in comparison to other places. This was especially true of their second year in Burma. 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 cloth, shoes, cigarettes, and cosmetics to supplement the many gifts given to them by soldiers who had received “comfort bags” from home.
While in Burma they amused themselves by participating in sports events with both officers and men, and attended picnics, entertainments, and social dinners. They had a phonograph and in the towns they were allowed to go shopping.
The conditions under which they transacted business were regulated by the Army, and in congested areas regulations were strictly enforced. The Army found it necessary in congested areas to install a system of prices, priorities, and schedules for the various units operating in a particular areas. According to interrogations the
average system was as follows:
1. Soldiers 10 AM to 5 PM 1.50 yen 20 to 30 minutes
2. NCOs 5 PM to 9 PM 3.00 yen 30 to 40 minutes
3. Officers 9 PM to 12 PM 5.00 yen 30 to 40 minutes
These were average prices in Central Burma. Officers were allowed to stay overnight for twenty yen. In Myitkyina Col. Maruyama slashed the prices to almost one-half of the average price.
The soldiers often complained about congestion in the houses. In many situations they were not served and had to leave as the army was very strict about overstaying. In order to overcome this problem the Army set aside certain days for certain units. Usually two men from the unit for the day were stationed at the house to identify soldiers. A roving MP was also on hand to keep order. Following is the schedule used by the “Kyoei” house for the various units of the 18th Division while at Naymyo.
Sunday 18th Div. Hdqs. Staff
Wednesday Day off and weekly physical exam.
Friday Mountain artillery
Officers were allowed to come seven nights a week. The girls complained that even with the schedule congestion was so great that they could not care for all guests, thus causing ill feeling among many of the soldiers.
Soldiers would come to the house, pay the price and get tickets of cardboard about two inches square with the prior on the left side and the name of the house on the other side. Each soldier’s identity or rank was then established after which he “took his turn in line”. The girls were allowed the prerogative of refusing a customer. This was often done if the person were too drunk.
PAY AND LIVING CONDITIONS;
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. She turned over seven hundred and fifty to the “master”. Many “masters” made life very difficult for the girls by charging them high prices for food and other articles.
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. They were well trained in looking after both themselves and customers in the matter of hygiene. 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. This same procedure was carried on within the ranks of the Army itself, but it is interesting to note that a soldier did not lose pay during the period he was confined.
REACTIONS TO JAPANESE SOLDIERS;
In their relations with the Japanese officers and men only two names of any consequence came out of interrogations. They were those of Col. Maruyama, commander of the garrison at Myitkyina and Maj.
Gen.Mizukami, who brought in reinforcements. The two were exact opposites. The former was hard, selfish and repulsive with no consideration for his men; the latter a good, kind man and a fine soldier, with the utmost consideration for those who worked under him. The Colonel was a constant habitue of the houses while the General was never known to have visited them. With the fall of Myitkyina, Col. Maruyama supposedly deserted while Gen.
Mizukami committed suicide because he could not evacuate the men.
The average Japanese soldier is embarrassed about being seen in a “comfort house” according to one of the girls who said, “when the place is packed he is apt to be ashamed if he has to wait in line for his turn”. However there were numerous instances of proposals of marriage and in certain cases marriages actually took place.
All the girls agreed that the worst officers and men who came to see them were those who were drunk and leaving for the front the following day. But all likewise agreed that even though very drunk the Japanese soldier never discussed military matters or secrets with them. Though the girls might start the conversation about some military matter the officer or enlisted man would not talk, but would in fact “scold us for discussing such un-lady like subjects. Even Col. Maruyama when drunk would never discuss such matters.”
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 doll, lipstick, and wooden clothes. The lipstick and cloths were feminine and 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 the initial attack on Myitleyna and the airstrip about two hundred Japanese died in battle, leaving about two hundred to defend the town. Ammunition was very low.
“Col. Maruyama dispersed his men. During the following days the enemy were shooting haphazardly everywhere.
It was a waste since they didn’t seem to aim at any particular thing. The Japanese soldiers on the other hand had orders to fire one shot at a time and only when they were sure of a hit.”
Before the enemy attacked on the west airstrip, soldiers stationed around Myitkyina were dispatched elsewhere, to storm the Allied attack in the North and West. About four hundred men were left behind, largely from the 114th Regiment. Evidently Col. Maruyama did not expect the town to be attacked. Later Maj. Gen. Mizukami of the 56th Division brought in reinforcements of more than two regiments but these were unable to hold the town.
It was the consensus among the girls that Allied bombings were intense and frightening and because of them they spent most of their last days in foxholes. One or two even carried on work there. The comfort houses were bombed and several of the girls were wounded and killed.
RETREAT AND CAPTURE;
The story of the retreat and final capture of the “comfort girls” is somewhat vague and confused in their own minds.
From various reports it appears that the following occurred: on the night of July 31st a party of sixty three people including the “comfort girls” of three houses (Bakushinro was merged with Kinsui), families, and helpers, started across the Irrawaddy River in small boats. They eventually landed somewhere near Waingmaw, They stayed there until August 4th, but never entered Waingmaw. From there they followed in the path of a group of soldiers until August 7th when there was a skirmish with the enemy and the party split up. The girls were ordered to follow the soldiers after three-hour interval. They did this only to find themselves on the bank of a river with no sign of the soldiers or any mea ns of crossing. They remained in a nearby house until August 10th when they were captured by Kaahin soldiers led by an English officer. They were taken to Myitleyina and then to the Ledo stockade where the interrogation which form the basis of this report took place.
None of the girls appeared to have heard the loudspeaker used at Myitkyina but very did overhear the soldiers mention a “radio broadcast.”
They asked that leaflets telling of the capture of the “comfort girls” should not be used for it would endanger the lives of other girls if the Army knew of their capture. They did think it would be a good idea to utilize the fact of their capture in any droppings planned for Korea.
In Japan, value of money is very different from this age in modern days.
I shows the annual salary of the Japanese army according to the class referring.
(As of July, 1943)
General 6600 yen
Lieutenant general 5800 yen
Major General 5000 yen
Colonel 4440-3720 yen
Commander 3720-2640 yen
Major 2640-2040 yen
Captain 1860-1470 yen
Liutenant 1130-1020 yen
Second lieutenant 850 yen
It is a salary as follows.
Sergeant major 75-32 yen
Sergeant 32-23 yen
Corporal 20 yen
Lance Corporal 13.5 yen
Superior soldier 10.5 yen
Senior soldier 9 yen
Junior soldier 9-6 yen