March 5, 2007, 2:56 PM
The Politics of Apology for Japan’s ‘Comfort Women’
By TOM ZELLER JR.
Lee Yong Soo, 78, was one of three women who testified before the United States Congress last month that she was forced into sex slavery by Japanese soldiers during WWII. (Photo: EPA)
Debate continues to brew in Japan this week, following the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unequivocal denial at the end of last week that the country had forced foreign women — mostly Chinese and Koreans — into sexual slavery during World War II.
The assertion flies in the face of a 1993 mea culpa, in which the government famously acknowledged the Japanese military’s role in setting up the brothels. That declaration, the Times’ Nori Onishi reported last week, also offered an apology to the “comfort women,” although many of the women have never accepted that apology, because the declaration was issued by a cabinet secretary, and not officially adopted by Parliament.
Whatever their complaints, Mr. Abe seemed to suggest last week that the 1993 cabinet secretary’s apologia was unnecessary. “There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it,” Mr. Abe told reporters last week. “So, in respect to this declaration, you have to keep in mind that things have changed greatly.”
Today, Mr. Abe modified his statements somewhat — perhaps because he sees a resolution being considered in the United States Congress, which would urge Japan to issue an even more aggressive apology, something he vows he would never do.
From BBC News today:
Many historians say Japan compelled up to 200,000 women, mostly Chinese and Korean, to become sex slaves.
But some Japanese scholars deny that force was used to round up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses.
Last Thursday Mr. Abe sided with these critics, saying there was “no evidence to prove there was coercion”.
South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon retaliated, saying Mr. Abe’s remarks were “not helpful” and the truth must be faced.
On Monday, Mr. Abe again commented on the issue, saying while there was no evidence of coercion in the strict sense, there may be some evidence of independent brokers procuring women by force.
But “it was not as though military police broke into peoples’ homes and took them away like kidnappers,” he said.
Mr. Abe was reacting in part to testimony given before Congress by surviving “comfort women,” in which they described being raped and tortured by Japanese soldiers.
“There was no testimony that was based on any proof,” he said, according to BBC News.
Perhaps not, but it was chilling stuff. From the submitted testimony of Koon Ja Kim:
Many women believed they were being recruited by the army for other types of labor, only to learn they were to be used as sex slaves to calm the nerves of Japanese troops. (Photo: ComfortWomen.org)
I remember the day that changed my life forever. I was wearing a black skirt, a green shirt, and black shoes. It was March of 1942, and I was 16 years old. I had been sent out of the house by police officer Choi and told that I needed to go and make some money. I found a Korean man wearing a military uniform and he told me that he would send me on an errand and I would be paid for this errand. I followed him and he told me to board a train –- a freight car. I did not know where I was going but I saw seven other young girls and another man in a military uniform on this freight train. There were other soldiers in different cars on the train, but I didn’t see them until we came to a stop and I got off the train. A Japanese soldier with a ranking badge was waiting for us by a truck. The soldiers got on the truck and the other girls and I were put on the back of the truck.
Eventually the truck stopped in front of a house that looked like an old inn. I was later told that the name of the town was Hunchun, China. The next evening, a Japanese officer came to the house. He spoke Japanese, which I did not understand. I did not know what he was saying or what he wanted until he raped me. When I refused and fought back, he punched me in the face and the blow split my eardrum. That was the first of many days and nights that I was raped. On a daily basis, I was raped by Japanese soldiers, and it was common to be raped by 20 different soldiers a day, and on some days, it was as high as 40. If we fought or resisted the rapes, we would be punished, beaten or stabbed by the soldiers.
There were soldier overseers to make sure that we complied and, if we resisted, they would punish us. My body is forever marked and scarred with those beatings and in some cases stabbings with a knife. Many soldiers refused to wear condoms. We would be beaten for insisting that they wear condoms. It was common for girls to become pregnant and to contract sexually transmitted diseases. But if a girl became pregnant, she was forced to have an abortion. I was one of those girls. Eventually, we were moved to the front lines of the war to a town called Kokashi (Japanese name for a town in China). I did not believe it could get worse, but it was. The soldiers on the front lines believed they were going to die and so they acted out their fears and stress on us by being more violent than one can imagine.
The House resolution is nothing new, and versions have been tried before. But each time, according to Ken Silverstein, writing in Harpers last fall, “Japan has always been able to block [the] attempts” … partly because it runs a lavishly-funded Beltway lobbying operation.”
The change in leadership on the Hill may change the fortunes of the resolution this time around, thought it’s far from clear that it would much matter to Mr. Abe. From The BBC:
“I have to say that even if the resolution passes,” Mr. Abe said, “that doesn’t mean we will apologize.”
Yi Yong-Su, Lee Yong-soo 李容洙（イ・ヨンス、이용수,1928年12月 - ）
Lee Yong-soo, 78, a South Korean who was interviewed during a recent trip to Tokyo, said she was 14 when Japanese soldiers took her from her home in 1944 to work as a sex slave in Taiwan.
Lee Yong-soo（78歳韓国）は東京でのインタビューで、 彼女は1944年、14才のとき日本の兵隊に家から連れ出され、台湾で性奴隷として働かされた、 と述べました。
U.S. House of Representatives: Statement of Lee Yong-soo
In the autumn of 1944, when I was 16 years old, my friend, Kim Punsun, and I were collecting shellfish at the riverside when we noticed an elderly man and a Japanese man looking down at us form the hillside......
A few days later, Punsun knocked on my window early in the morning, and whispered to me to follow her quietly. I tip-toed out of the house after her.