Sunday, September 22, 2013

Former comfort woman tells uncomforting story DW

Former comfort woman tells uncomforting story
Lee Ok-Seon spent three years in a Japanese military brothel in China against her will during WW II. Nearly 70 years after the surrender of Japan, she visited Germany to make her story known.

Lee Ok-Seong, (Photo: Tsukasa Yajima)
Yi Ok-sun 李玉善(イ・オクソン、이옥선)
慰安婦(いあんふ、위안부[1]、Comfort Women)

Bravely, she talks about that tragic day when she was abducted off the street in the southeastern city of Busan by a group of men. It was late afternoon - sometime between 5 and 6 pm, and Lee Ok-Seon was 14 years old when she was thrown into a car and trafficked to a brothel, a so-called "comfort station," in China for the Japanese military where she was raped every day until the end of the war. At that moment, she had no idea that she would never see her family again nor step foot in her home country for nearly six decades. She had no idea what torture awaited her.
The 86-year-old woman does not give specific details as to what she experienced there. She summarizes it in one sentence: "It was not a place for human beings. It was a slaughter house." After she says that, her voice sounds harder. Those three years shaped the rest of her life. "When the war was over, others were set free, but not me."
Another name for sex slaves
Lee Ok-Seong sits on a bed (Photo: Tsukasa Yajima) Lee kept her dark secret to herself for nearly 60 years
Lee Ok-Seon's is not an isolated case, although it is not known exactly how many other women shared the same fate. "According to estimates, there must have been around 200,000 such women. But this has never been confirmed," explains Bernd Stöver, a historian at Potsdam University. He finds it unnerving that the women are referred to as "comfort women," a "euphemism for what they really were: sex slaves."
It was not only women from the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945, who were forced into prostitution; there were also women from China, Malaysia and the Philippines, to name a few. The brothels, which were set up throughout the entire area under Japanese occupation, were meant to keep up morale among Japanese soldiers and avoid the rape of local women. For the mostly underage women forced to work there, on the other hand, it was a daily sacrifice. Many of them did not survive the torment; an estimated two thirds of them died before the end of the war.
Overwhelming shame
"We were often beaten, threatened and attacked with knives," Lee Ok-Seon remembers. "We were 11, 12, 13 or 14 years old and we didn't believe anyone would save us from that hell." During her time there, she explains, she was completely isolated from the outside world and trusted no one. It was a state of constant despair. "Many girls committed suicide. They drowned or hung themselves." At one point she also thought this was her only alternative. But she couldn't do it. "It is easy to say, 'I'd rather be dead.' It is so much more difficult to actually do it. That is a big step."
Lee Ok-Seong standing outside near a tree(Photo: Tsukasa Yajima) In Cologne, Lee Ok-Seong talked about the 'overwhelming shame' of her past
Lee Ok-Seon decided to live and ended up surviving the war. After the Japanese capitulation in late summer of 1945, the owner of the brothel disappeared. The women were suddenly free again, but also confused and disoriented. "I didn't know where I should go. I had no money. I was homeless and had to sleep on the streets."
She didn't know how to get back to Korea or if she really wanted to go back - the shame she felt was overwhelming. "I decided I would rather spend the rest of my days in China. How could I have gone home? It was written on my face that I was a comfort woman. I could have never looked my mother in the eyes again."
New life in China
Lee Ok-Seon met a man of Korean descent, married him and took care of his children. "I felt it was my duty to take care of these children, whose mother had died. I wasn't able to have any children of my own." As a result of sexually transmitted diseases, such as Syphilis, contracted in the brothel, she became so sick that she nearly died. To increase her chances of survival, doctors removed her uterus. She lived in the city of Yanji, kept to herself and tried to get back on her feet - all on her own. She spent decades like this. Her husband treated her well, she laughs, "otherwise I wouldn't have put up with him for so long."
Lee Ok-Seong, in the front row in the middle, stands with other former sex slaves and their supporters and protests in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul (Photo: Tsukasa Yajima) Since 2000, Lee, front row, middle, has met with other victims and her supporters outside the Japanese embassy every week
Many comfort women lived a similar life after the brothels, keeping to themselves and keeping quiet about the horrors they experienced - mostly out of fear of being labeled an outcast. According to Stöver, talking about forced prostitution is an absolute taboo. "There was no support in society for these women." It took decades after the end of the war to get people talking about comfort women in Asia.
It wasn't until the year 1991 that the first former "comfort woman" went public with her story. She encouraged and inspired 250 other women to finally talk about their experiences as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during the war and demand recognition and an apology from the Japanese government. Since then, the women and their supporters meet every Wednesday outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They hold placards and shout slogans. But they have yet to receive what they demand.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto speaks at a policy debate to establish the new national party 'Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Association)' in Osaka, September 2012. (Photo: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/GettyImages) Toru Hashimoto's statement about the necessity of 'comfort stations' caused outrage
Japan has trouble dealing with its dark past, according to historian Stöver. The government in 1993 did commission and publish a study officially recognizing the existence of "comfort women" and the role of Japanese soldiers. "After that, the government did apologize on multiple occasions. But it never really drew any consequences."
Stöver explained the apologies were isolated occurrences; there was never a full admission of guilt nor was there any official financial compensation program. Aside from payments made to a few hundred people by a fund set up by the government, the women have received no money. And it is not likely they will in the future: "In 2007, the Japanese Supreme Court decided they have no claim to damages."
A bitter pill for the victims. And even today, on occasion, Japanese politicians simply deny the existence of the comfort women. Or they play it down. During his time in office in early 2007, incumbent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for example, said there was "no proof that the women were forced" to work in the brothels. He later apologized for the statement.
Earlier this year, Toru Hashimoto, governor of Osaka, told journalists that in times of war, sex slavery was "necessary" to keep the discipline among the troops. Lee Ok-Seon thinks the statement is crass and outrageous: "I cannot grasp how anyone can say such a thing. Whoever refuses to accept what the Japanese did back then is not a human being."
Back home but alone
Lee Ok-Seon now lives in South Korea. In 2000, after the death of her husband, she felt the urge to go back to her country of origin and make her story public. She has since lived near Seoul in the so-called "House of Sharing," which provides assisted living for former sex slaves. It was there that she received psychological care for the first time. And she finally received a new passport.
Researching her past, she learned that her parents had died but that her youngest brother was still alive. He helped her in the beginning but after a while, the relationship deteriorated. It was exactly what Lee Ok-Seon had feared: too embarrassed to be the brother of a former "comfort woman," he wanted nothing to do with her.

Japan's regional isolation higher than ever
Japan's neighbors are getting wary of PM Shinzo Abe and his center-right government. At home, however, Abe is bucking the trend of his immediate predecessors and riding high in the opinion polls. (20.05.2013)
Asia irks Japan over 'comfort women' legacy
Japan believes it has apologized sufficiently for the excesses of its military in the first half of the last century, but its neighbors feel the government in Tokyo continues to gloss over the atrocities. (18.03.2013)
The rocky rapprochement between Japan and China
China has canceled festivities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Japan due to the two countries' increasingly vitriolic spat over disputed islands in the East China Sea. (28.09.2012)

Lee Ok-Seong, (Photo: Tsukasa Yajima)
Yi Ok-sun 李玉善(イ・オクソン、이옥선)
慰安婦(いあんふ、위안부[1]、Comfort Women)

Yanji 延吉 · 연길

[her background, upbringing of why she became to the comfort women]

she was born in October 1927 (Note), in the poor house of Pusan, South Korea.
at her age of 14, she was sold as adopted daughter of the bar, moreover sold to another bar.
in July 1942, she was abducted on the errand, forced hard work,assaulted and raped in the northeastern part of China,at the airfield of Yanji.
About one year later, she was put in the comfort station of the same city.
she could not return to Korea after released,
she backed South Korea after 58 year in June 2000.

(Note) in 1928 on the family register,






日本人と朝鮮人の男二人に拉致されトラックで駅まで行き、汽車で延吉(満州)まで連れて行かれる。そこの日本軍の飛行場で働かされ、強姦される。約一年後、延吉市内の慰安所に入れられる。(「証言 未来への記憶 アジア『慰安婦』証言集Ⅰ」より)

Asia irks Japan over 'comfort women' legacy
Japan believes it has apologized sufficiently for the excesses of its military in the first half of the last century, but its neighbors feel the government in Tokyo continues to gloss over the atrocities.
Chinese to be buried alive by Japanese soldiers during Nanking Massacre. In 2008, another photo which presents the same scene was discovered in Japan verifies its authenticity[1]. 《日寇暴行实录》配图标题:南京寇军活埋我同胞之惨状
Datum 1937/38
Quelle First published in: A Faithful Record of Atrocity of Japanese Troops, 1938
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-U1002-502 / CC-BY-SA
Japan's neighbors feel that the right-of-center government is again planning to gloss over the atrocities wrought upon the rest of Asia in the 20th century. The issue of "comfort women", in particular, is likely to be the first place any revisions to history are likely to be seen, argue Tokyo's detractors.
South Korea and China are stepping up their demands that Japan face up to its sexual enslavement of thousands of women - euphemistically known as "comfort women" - across large parts of Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Representatives of the two governments told the United Nations' Human Rights Council that it was high time Japan apologized and provided compensation.
Choi Seok-young, the South Korena ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the council on Thursday (14.03.2013) that, "Japan must accept legal responsibility and take appropriate measures."
That opinion was echoed by the delegation of the Philippines, while China's Liu Zhenmin demanded that Tokyo provide redress.
Takashi Okada, Japan's deputy ambassador to the UN, was quick to reply that his nation had already done its best to make amends and urged other nations not to turn the comfort women into a political issue.
'Immeasurable pain'
Protesters hold signs during their 1,000th weekly rally to demand an official apology and compensation for wartime sex slaves from the Japanese government near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) Protesters in South Korea have repeatedly demanded compensation from Japan for wartime sex slaves
"The government of Japan feels grieved at the thought of those who suffered such immeasurable pain," he said, using terms similar to a statement issued in 1993 by Yohei Kono, then the chief cabinet secretary.
In that statement, which admitted that Japan had "at times" recruited women "against their will," Kono made "sincere apologies" for the "immeasurable pain and suffering" inflicted on comfort women. Tokyo maintained, however, that all issues of compensation had been settled by the 1965 Japan-South Korea treaty and the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty.
Historians have estimated that around 200,000 women - primarily from China, Korea and the Philippines - were forced to provide sexual services to troops of the Imperial Japanese forces, although there are many in Japan who believe the scale of the problem has been vastly exaggerated. Others argue that comfort women were little more than licensed prostitutes who were paid well for their services, while others were sold into the sex trade by impoverished parents. In either case, they claim, Japan cannot be held responsible.
Some have gone as far as to suggest that the Kono Statement be withdrawn, while there are indications that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to oversee a major reconsideration of Japan's self-perception of history if he fares well in elections for the Upper House of parliament in July.
There are also plans afoot to alter the Japanese constitution, giving the military more leeway in handling international disputes. Furthermore, revisions to an education system that some conservatives have criticized as "masochistic" are also being considered, as is a harder line in dealing with China and South Korea in everything from territorial issues to the different perceptions of history.
No evidence
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference next to the national flag, which is hung with a black ribbon as a symbol of mourning for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, at his official residence in Tokyo March 11, 2013. Japan honoured the victims of its worst disaster since World War Two on Monday: the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that killed almost 19,000 people and stranded 315,000 evacuees, including refugees who fled radiation from the devastated Fukushima atomic plant. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (JAPAN - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER ANNIVERSARY) Prime Minister Abe is said to be planning changes to the Japanese constitution
In his previous spell as prime minister in 2007, Abe triggered a storm or protest from Japan's neighbors when he claimed no concrete evidence had been found that proves women were forcibly recruited into sexual slavery in military brothels.
That opinion is shared by nationalist groups, including the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact. Hiromichi Moteki, secretary general of the group, says his aim is to translate books and historical documents and to provide that information to scholars and historians around the world so that they might re-evaluate the"evil empire" image of Japan of the early decades of the last century.
Moteki dismisses the latest Chinese and South Korean complaints to the UN as "ridiculous."
"These allegations are all fabricated," he insists. "They have no basis in fact at all and we have verified these facts."
Several historians have written papers on the accuracy of the comfort women's claims and how they came to be in the sex industry, with Moteki's group unsurprisingly promoting documents that support its position.
Kohyu Nishimura, for example, concluded in a paper issued earlier this year that "anti-Japanese agitators" are bending historical facts to psychologically "weaken and degrade" the Japanese people. And at the heart of this operation are "China and Korea and their anti-Japanese fellow travelers, which doggedly repeat the same malicious claims against Japan."
Lashing out at Japan
Former South Korean comfort women Lee Oak-sun who was forced to serve for the Japanese Imperial Army as a sexual slave during World War II talks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Nanumui Jip, The House of Sharing, in Gwangju, south of Seoul, Tuesday, March 6, 2007. Calls for Japan's apology for so-called comfort women flared anew last week after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no proof that the women were coerced into prostitution.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) One of the last Korean 'comfort women' is still demanding an apology
The US and its media used the issue to "lash out at Japan for its economic dominance in the '80s," he said, adding that it was also used as "a warning shot to Japan against becoming too 'uppity' in the conduct of policy with its neighbors."
But Moteki's protestations are arguably tarnished by the society's claims that Japan was not to blame for any of the terrible things that happened across Asia in the early decades of the last century.
He claims that China triggered the Sino-Japanese War in August 1937. He maintains that there was no massacre of 300,000 civilians in Nanking four months later and that the United States provoked Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, while the annexation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910 was inevitable because the kingdom was unable to maintain its independence. Moteki also argues that Japanese control brought great benefits to the Korean people in the form of schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
Whatever the truth behind the claims and counter-claims, Prime Minister Abe must be aware that any attempt to rewrite history poses a significant threat of triggering a new outbreak of fury among Japan's already fractious neighbors.

Die Hölle einer koreanischen "Trostfrau" im Krieg Japans gegen China

Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahme von Lee Ok-Seon in einer U-Bahn (Foto: Tsukasa Yajima)
Drei Jahre ging Lee Ok-Seon in einem japanischen Militärbordell durch die Hölle. Sie wurde vergewaltigt, gedemütigt, geschlagen. Bis heute ist sie davon gezeichnet. Körperlich und seelisch.

Ohne zu stocken erzählt sie von dem Tag, an dem es passierte: Auf offener Straße, in Busan, ganz im Südosten der koreanischen Halbinsel, schlugen die Männer zu. Es war später Nachmittag, irgendwann zwischen 17 und 18 Uhr, erinnert sich Lee Ok-Seon. Sie packten das Mädchen unter den Armen, zerrten es in ein Fahrzeug. Dann brachten sie es in eine sogenannte "Troststation" im Nordwesten Chinas. Lee Ok-Seon war 14 Jahre alt. Sie ahnte nicht, dass sie ihr Heimatland fast sechs Jahrzehnte nicht wiedersehen würde. Dass ihre Eltern irgendwann die Hoffnung auf ein Wiedersehen begraben und sie für tot erklären lassen würden. Und sie wusste auch nicht, welche Qualen ihr bevorstanden.

Drei Jahre - bis zum Ende des Zweiten Weltkrieges - verbrachte Lee Ok-Seon in diesem Militärbordell in der Provinz Jilin Chinas , wurde täglich zum Geschlechtsverkehr mit japanischen Soldaten gezwungen. Über die Details dieser Tortur spricht die heute 86-Jährige nicht, sie fasst die Erfahrung in einem Satz zusammen. "Das war kein Ort für Menschen, das war ein Schlachthof." Ihre Stimme klingt härter, als sie das sagt. Die drei Jahre dort haben ihr ganzes Leben geprägt. "Der Krieg ist längst zu Ende, die anderen sind befreit worden, aber ich nicht."

Anderer Ausdruck für Sexsklavinnen

Lee Ok-Seon auf ihrem Bett mit einem Buch auf dem Schoß
(Foto: Tsukasa Yajima)

Sechzig Jahre schwieg Lee Ok-Seon über das, was ihr widerfahren war

Lee Ok-Seons Schicksal ist bei weitem kein Einzelfall. Allerdings: Wie vielen Frauen es ähnlich erging wie ihr, ist nicht bekannt. "Schätzungen zufolge sind es um die 200.000 gewesen, aber bestätigt ist diese Zahl nicht", erklärt Bernd Stöver, Historiker an der Universität Potsdam gegenüber der Deutschen Welle. Der Begriff "Trostfrauen" an sich - oder auf Englisch "comfort women" - erzeugt aus Sicht des Historikers ein schiefes Bild. "Im Grunde genommen ist er falsch. Es waren Zwangsprostituierte. Trostfrauen werden sie nur verharmlosend genannt."

Nicht nur Mädchen und Frauen aus dem seit 1905 von Japan besetzten Korea wurden als Zwangsprostituierte in die Bordelle verschleppt, die im gesamten damaligen Herrschaftsgebiet Japans eingerichtet wurden. Die Opfer stammten auch aus anderen Ländern: neben China beispielsweise aus Malaysia oder den Philippinen. Offiziell dienten die "Troststationen" dazu, den Kampfgeist der japanischen Armee zu steigern - und Frauen in den besetzten Gebieten vor Vergewaltigungen durch japanische Soldaten zu schützen. Für die meist minderjährigen Frauen in den "Troststationen" allerdings bedeuteten sie ein tägliches Martyrium. Viele von ihnen überlebten die Qualen nicht, Schätzungen zufolge starben mehr als zwei Drittel vor Kriegsende.

Schweigen aus Scham und Schande

"Wir wurden oft geschlagen, bedroht, mit Messern verletzt", erinnert sich Lee Ok-Seon. "Wir waren elf, zwölf, dreizehn oder vierzehn Jahre alt und haben nicht daran geglaubt, dass uns jemand da herausholen würde." Sie sei während der Zeit im Bordell komplett von der Außenwelt abgeschnitten gewesen, habe niemandem vertraut. Die Verzweiflung sei allgegenwärtig gewesen. "Viele Mädchen haben versucht, sich das Leben zu nehmen. Sie haben sich ertränkt oder erhängt." Auch sie selbst war an einem Punkt, an dem sie keinen anderen Ausweg mehr sah, auch sie wollte zum Strick greifen. Doch dann überlegte sie es sich doch noch anders. "Es ist einfach zu sagen: Ich möchte am liebsten tot sein. Es ist ungleich schwieriger, es dann tatsächlich zu tun. Das ist ein großer Schritt."

Lee Ok-Seon an einen Baum gelehnt (Foto: Tsukasa Yajima)

"Es war eine so beschämende Erfahrung", sagt Lee Ok-Seon

Lee Ok-Seon schreckte zurück vor diesem Schritt - und überlebte den Krieg. Nach der japanischen Kapitulation im Spätsommer 1945 war der Besitzer des Bordells über Nacht verschwunden, die Mädchen waren plötzlich frei. Und vollkommen orientierungslos. "Ich wusste nicht, wo ich hingehen soll. Ich hatte kein Geld. Ich war obdachlos, habe auf der Straße geschlafen", erzählt sie. Den Weg nach Korea kannte sie nicht, wollte ihn auch gar nicht gehen. Zu groß sei die Scham gewesen. "Ich wollte lieber in China bleiben und hier sterben. Wie hätte ich nach Hause gehen können? Auf meinem Gesicht stand geschrieben, dass ich eine 'Trostfrau' bin. Ich hätte meiner Mutter nicht mehr ins Gesicht sehen können."

Ersatzleben in China

Lee Ok-Seon lernte einen koreanisch-stämmigen Mann in Jilin kennen, heiratete ihn, kümmerte sich um seine Kinder. "Ich habe es als meine Aufgabe angesehen, diese Kinder, deren Mutter gestorben war, großzuziehen." Sie knetet sich die Hände und fügt dann hinzu: "Ich selbst konnte ja keine bekommen." Lee Ok-Seon hat keine Gebärmutter mehr. In Folge von Geschlechtskrankheiten wie beispielsweise Syphilis, die sie sich im Bordell immer wieder zuzog, wurde sie nach ihrer Freilassung so krank, dass sie fast gestorben wäre. Um ihre Überlebenschancen zu erhöhen, wurde die Gebärmutter entfernt.

Im chinesischen Yanji lebte sie dann ein zurückgezogenes Leben und versuchte - wie sie es ausdrückt - aus eigener Kraft wieder auf die Beine zu kommen. So vergingen Jahrzehnte. Ihr Mann habe sie immer gut behandelt, sagt Lee Ok-Seon und lacht zum ersten Mal. "Sonst hätte ich es ja nicht so lange mit ihm ausgehalten."

Lee Ok-Seon gemeinsam mit anderen Opfern bei einer Demonstration: Die Frauen halten ein Transparent und haben die Arme erhoben (Foto: Tsukasa Yajima)

Seit 2000 nimmt auch Lee Ok-Seon (vordere Reihe Mitte) an den Demonstrationen ehemaliger "Trostfrauen" vor der japanischen Botschaft in Seoul teil
Ähnlich wie Lee Ok-Seong ging es auch den anderen Frauen, die die Qualen der "Troststationen" überlebt hatten. Sie versuchten, irgendwie wieder Fuß zu fassen, trauten sich aber nicht, über das, was ihnen passiert war, zu sprechen. Aus Angst, ausgegrenzt zu werden und Schande über die Familie zu bringen. Zwangsprostitution sei ein absolutes Tabu gewesen, erklärt Bernd Stöver. "Gesellschaftlichen Rückhalt gab es nicht. Damit an die Öffentlichkeit zu gehen hätte bedeutet, dass man danach außerhalb der Gesellschaft steht." Sowohl in Korea als auch in Japan existierte das Thema nach dem Ende des Krieges daher praktisch nicht. Es sollte Jahrzehnte dauern, bis sich daran etwas änderte.

Unaufgearbeitete Vergangenheit und Nationalismus

Erst 1991 ging die erste ehemalige "Trostfrau" mit ihrer Geschichte an die Öffentlichkeit. Ihr Schritt ermutigte mehr als 250 weitere Frauen, es ebenso zu machen, endlich zu reden und eine Entschuldigung sowie Entschädigung von Seiten der japanischen Regierung zu fordern. Seitdem treffen sich jeden Mittwoch Betroffene, Angehörige und Unterstützer vor der japanischen Botschaft in Seoul. Sie halten Transparente hoch, skandieren Parolen. Doch bislang haben sie nicht bekommen, was sie sich wünschen.

Denn Japan tue sich schwer mit diesem dunklen Kapitel der eigenen - unaufgearbeiteten - Kriegsvergangenheit, erklärt der Potsdamer Historiker Bernd Stöver. Zwar wurde in Japan 1993 eine von der Regierung beauftragte Studie veröffentlicht, die sowohl die Existenz der "Trostfrauen" als auch die Rolle des japanischen Militärs offiziell anerkannte. "In der Folge hat sie die japanische Regierung auch mehrfach entschuldigt. Aber sie hat nie wirklich Konsequenzen daraus gezogen", so Stöver.
Es habe sich dabei immer nur um einzelne Entschuldigungen gehandelt, nicht um ein umfassendes Schuldeingeständnis - inklusive offizieller Entschädigungszahlungen. Abgesehen von einigen Hundert Einzelentschädigungen aus Mitteln eines von der Regierung eingesetzten privaten Fonds haben die Frauen bis heute kein Geld erhalten. Und das werden sie voraussichtlich auch nicht mehr. "2007 hat das Oberste Gericht entschieden, dass sie keinen Anspruch auf Entschädigungen haben."

Für die Opfer ein Schlag ins Gesicht. Bis heute kommt es immer wieder vor, dass vor allem nationalistische Politiker in Japan die Existenz der "Troststationen" schlicht leugnen. Oder verharmlosen, was dort passierte. So sagte beispielsweise der derzeit wieder amtierende Premierminister Shinzo Abe während seiner ersten Amtzeit im Frühjahr 2007, es gebe "keinen Beweis dafür, dass Zwang auf die Frauen ausgeübt" worden sei. Später entschuldigte sich Abe für seine heftig kritisierte Aussage.

Toru Hashimoto von der Seite aufgenommen an einem Mikrofon sitzend (Foto: Toru Yamanaka/AFP/GettyImages)

Toru Hashimoto sorgte mit seiner Rechtfertigung der "Troststationen" für Empörung

Erst im Frühjahr 2013 sorgte ein weiterer japanischer Politiker im Zusammenhang mit dem Thema für Schlagzeilen: Der Bürgermeister von Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, bezeichnete gegenüber Journalisten Sexsklaverei in Kriegszeiten als "notwendig", um die Disziplin innerhalb der Truppe zu wahren. Eine ungeheuerliche Aussage, findet Lee Ok-Seon. "Ich kann nicht begreifen, wie man so etwas behaupten kann. Wer nicht sehen will, was damals passiert ist, was die Japaner getan haben, der ist für mich kein Mensch."

Keine Familie mehr in Korea

Historisches Passfoto von Lee Ok-Seon (Foto: Privat)

Lee Ok-Seon will sich bis zu ihrem Lebensende für die Interessen der "Trostfrauen" einsetzen
Lee Ok-Seon lebt mittlerweile wieder in Südkorea. Im Jahr 2000 - nach dem Tod ihres chinesischen Mannes - verspürte sie schließlich doch noch den Drang, zurückzukehren und ihre Geschichte öffentlich zu machen. Seitdem lebt sie in der Nähe von Seoul im sogenannten "House of Sharing", einem betreuten Wohnprojekt für ehemalige Zwangsprostituierte. Dort wurde sie erstmals auch psychologisch betreut, bekam Hilfe im Alltag. Und endlich wieder einen neuen Pass.

Bei den Nachforschungen zu ihrer Person erfuhr sie, dass ihre Eltern mittlerweile verstorben waren. Ihr jüngster Bruder aber lebte noch. Er half bei der Rekonstruktion ihrer Daten. Doch dann verlief der Kontakt im Sand. Denn genau das, wovor Lee Ok-Seon sich immer gefürchtet hatte, trat ein: Der Bruder wollte nichts mit ihr zu tun haben. Zu sehr schämte er sich, dass seine Schwester eine ehemalige "Trostfrau" ist.

(Quelle: DE.DE. Autor Esther Felden )

❑ 한국인 `위안부의 지옥

(Die Hölle einer koreanischen "Trostfrau" / 독일 Deutsche Welle, 9.3)

이옥선 할머니는 3년 동안 일본군 위안소에서 지옥의 나날을 보냈다. 강간당하고, 굴욕당하고, 매질을 당했다. 이 지옥의 경험은 아직까지도 그녀의 몸과 마음에 나타나 있다.

바로 그 날에 대해 그녀는 막힘없이 이야기를 풀어냈다. 부산의 대로변에 남자들이 나타났다. 늦은 오후 5시 혹은 6시 사이였다. 그들은 닥치는 대로 소녀들을 잡아 차에 태웠다. 그 소녀들은 모두 중국에 있는 소위 “위안소”로 끌려갔다. 당시 그녀는 14살이었다. 그 때만해도 그녀는 당시 자신이 앞으로 60년이 넘도록 고향 땅을 밟지 못하게 될 것이며, 부모님 또한 그녀를 다시 보게 될 희망을 포기하게 될 것이라고는 상상 조차 하지 못했다. 그리고 그녀에게 앞으로 어떤 고통이 시작될지 전혀 알지 못했다.

2차 대전이 끝날 때까지 3년 동안 그녀는 중국 길림성의 위안소에 있었다. 매일 일본 군인들에게 매춘을 제공하도록 강요당했다. 이미 86세의 노인이 된 그녀는 그 당시 그 고문에 대해 자세하게 설명하지는 않는다. 단 한 문장으로 정리한다. “거기는 사람 사는 곳이 아니었어요. 도살장이었지.” 이 말을 할 때 그녀의 목소리는 더 강하게 울린다. 그곳에서 보낸 3년의 시간이 그녀의 일생 모두를 결정해 버렸다. “전쟁이 끝나고 다들 자유의 몸이 되었는데 나는 아니었어요.”

그녀는 이후 60년 동안 그곳에서 있었던 일에 대해 침묵했다. 하지만 그녀의 운명은 그녀 혼자만 겪은 것이 아니었다. 얼마나 많은 소녀들이 그녀와 같은 일을 겪어야 했는지 아직 정확히 알려지지 않았다. 포츠담 대학교 역사학자 베른트 슈퉤퍼 씨는 “약 20만 명 정도라고 추정하고 있어요. 하지만 정확히 확인된 숫자는 아니에요.”라고 말한다. “위안부”라는 단어 자체가 역사학자 입장에서는 잘못된 말이다. “기본적으로 그 단어는 잘못된 것입니다. 그들은 강제로 매춘을 해야 했어요. 위안부라는 표현은 이를 과소평가하는데서 비롯된 말입니다.”

일본 식민지였던 한국의 소녀들만 이처럼 강제매춘부로 끌려간 것은 아니다. 일본이 점령했던 모든 국가들에서 소녀들이 이처럼 끌려갔다. 예를 들어 중국, 말레이시아, 필리핀의 소녀들도 끌려갔다. 공식적으로 “위안부”들의 임무는 일본군의 전투정신을 향상시키고 점령지역에서 일본 군인들의 성폭행을 방지하기 위해 봉사하는 것이라고 했다. 하지만 실제 그녀들이 감내해야 했던 것은 고통이었다. 그리고 그들 대부분 어린 소녀들이었다. 그들 다수가 그 고통을 견디지 못했다. 그들 중 약 3분의 2가 종전 전에 사망한 것으로 추정하고 있다.

수치로 인한 침묵

이옥선 할머니는 말한다. “우리는 자주 매 맞고, 위협당하고, 칼부림 당했어요. “우리 나이가 다들 11살, 12살, 13살, 14살 정도였는데 누군가 우리를 구출해 줄 것이라곤 생각도 못했죠.” 위안소에 있는 동안 그들은 외부세계로부터 완전히 차단당했다. 어느 누구도 믿지 못하게 되었다. 모든 것을 의심했다. “물에 빠지거나 목을 매 자살을 시도하는 소녀들도 많이 있었어요.” 이옥선 할머니 또한 스스로 더 이상 다른 길이 없다고 좌절하며 자살하고 싶던 시기가 있었다. 하지만 그녀는 마음을 고쳐먹었다. “난 정말이지 죽고 싶다고 생각했는데 실제로 이를 행동으로 옮기는 게 너무 어렵더라고요. 너무 큰일이거든요.”

이옥선 할머니는 당시 그 일이 “너무 부끄러운 일이었어요.”라고 말한다. 그녀는 자살하지 않았고 전쟁 끝까지 살아남았다. 1945년 늦여름 일본이 항복하면서 어느 날 밤 위안소 관리자들이 모두 사라져버렸다. 느닷없이 자유의 몸이 된 것이다. 그러나 그녀들은 어디로 가야할지 갈피를 잡지 못했다. “도대체 어디로 가야할지 종잡을 수 없었어요. 돈도 없고 집도 없어 길거리에서 자야 했어요.” 고국으로 돌아가려면 어디로 가야하는지도 몰랐지만 절대 돌아가고 싶지 않았다. 너무 부끄러웠기 때문이다. “그냥 중국에서 살다가 죽고 싶었어요. 이런 상태로 어떻게 고향에 갈 수 있겠어요? 얼굴에 ”위안부“라고 써져 있는 것 같은데. 엄마 얼굴을 제대로 볼 수 없을 것 같았어요.”

중국에서의 삶

이옥선 할머니는 아이들이 딸린 한국계 남자를 만나 결혼했다. “엄마 없는 그 아이들을 기르는 것이 나의 의무다고 생각했어요.” “저는 애를 낳을 수 없었거든요.” 이옥선 할머니는 자궁이 없다. 위안소에서 자주 걸렸던 성병들 때문에 위안소를 떠난 후에 죽음의 문턱을 거의 넘길 정도로 아팠다. 목숨을 구하기 위해 자궁을 적출했다.

중국의 연길에서 그녀는 쥐죽은 듯 움츠린 삶을 살며 - 그녀의 표현 그대로 - 다시 두 발로 설 힘을 찾으려 안간힘을 썼다. 그렇게 수십 년이 또 흘렀다. 그녀의 남편은 그녀에게 잘해줬다. 이 말을 하며 이옥선 할머니가 처음으로 웃었다. “안 그랬으면 그 양반이랑 그렇게 오래 못살았지.”

“위안소”에서 그 지옥을 견뎌낸 다른 여성들도 모두 이옥선 할머니와 같은 삶을 살아야 했다. 그들은 스스로의 힘으로 살기 위해 안간힘을 썼다. 하지만 그 때 무슨 일이 있었는지 스스로 말하게 될 거라곤 생각하지 않았다. 가족들에게 수치를 주게 될까봐 두려웠기 때문이다. 베른트 슈퉤버 씨의 말에 따르면 위안부 문제에 대해 이야기하는 것은 완전한 타부였다. “사회적 배려는 전혀 없었다. 이 문제를 공론화하는 것은 그 사회 밖으로 떠밀리는 것을 각오해야 하는 일이었다.” 한국뿐만 아니라 일본에서도 전쟁이 끝난 이후 이 문제에 대한 이야기는 전혀 이루어지지 않았다. 지금처럼 말할 수 있게 되기까지 수십 년이 흘러야 했다.

청산되지 않은 과거 그리고 민족주의

“위안부” 문제가 처음 공론화된 것은 1991년이었다. 250명의 여성들이 용기를 내어 이 과거에 대해 이야기하고 일본 정부의 사과와 배상을 요구하기 시작했다. 그 때부터 매주 수요일 이 여인들과 뜻을 같이 하는 시민들이 함께 모여 서울의 일본대사관 앞에서 피켓을 들고 구호를 외치고 있다. 그러나 일본정부는 아직까지 그녀들의 요구사항 중 단 한 가지도 들어주지 않았다.

베른트 슈퉤버 씨에 따르면 일본은 청산되지 않은 과거사 문제에 대해 거의 아무런 대응도 하지 않고 있다. 1993년 일본정부의 의뢰로 이루어진 한 연구결과 “위안부”가 존재했다는 사실, 그리고 거기에 일본군이 관여했음이 확인되었는데도 불구하고 말이다. “일본정부가 그 뒤 몇 번 사과하기는 했지만 실질적인 결과물을 만들어내지는 않았다.” 라고 슈퉤버 씨는 말한다.

개별사항에 대한 각각의 사과는 있었지만 포괄적인 잘못인정은 한 번도 하지 않았다. 보상도 마찬가지다. 일본정부에 의해 만들어진 민간 보상기금은 이들 여인들에게 한 푼도 보상한 적이 없다. 앞으로도 그럴 것으로 보인다. “2007년에 일본 대법원은 이 여인들이 보상청구권이 없다고 판결했다.”

희생자들의 가슴에 못을 박는 또 다른 일들도 벌어지고 있다. 일본의 민족주의적 정치가들이 “위안소”의 존재사실 자체를 부인하거나 거기서 별다른 일이 벌어지지 않았다고 주장하고 있다. 예를 들어 일본의 아베 총리는 2007년 첫 번째 재임 중 “여성들이 강요당했다는 증거가 없다.”고 주장했다. 물론 엄청난 비난에 몰리자 사과하기는 했다.

올해 초 또 다른 유명 정치인이 헤드라인을 장식했다. 토루 하시모토 오사카 시장은 기자들 앞에서 전쟁기간에 군인들의 군기를 잡기 위해 성적 노예는 “필요한 것”이라고 말한 것이다. 이 끔찍한 발언에 대해 이옥선 할머니는 말한다. “사람이라면 어떻게 그렇게 말할 수 있는지 이해할 수 없다. 일본이 그 때 무슨 짓을 저질렀는지, 도대체 무슨 일이 있었는지 알고 싶어 하지 않는 사람은 내 눈에는 더 이상 사람이 아니다.”

더 이상 한국에 가족은 없다.

이옥선 할머니는 지금 한국에서 살고 있다. 지난 2000년 남편이 죽은 후 고국으로 돌아가 그녀가 겪은 역사에 대해 말해야 한다고 느끼게 되었기 때문이다. 그 때부터 그녀는 서울 근교에 소재한 위안부 피해여성들을 위한 “나눔의 집”에서 살고 있다. 그 곳에서 그녀는 처음으로 심리 상담을 받았고 매일 치료를 받고 있다. 그리고 한국 국적도 얻었다.

한국에서 그녀는 부모님 모두 사망했으며 남동생이 생존해 있다는 사실을 알게 되었다. 그 남동생은 그녀의 주민등록정보를 새로 만드는데 도움을 주었다. 그런데 이후 연락이 끊겨 버렸다. 이옥선 할머니가 걱정하던 일이 벌어진 것이다. 남동생은 그녀와 더 이상 연결되기를 꺼린 것이다. 자신의 누나가 “위안부”였다는 사실이 부끄럽기 때문에.


  1. fuck aLL japanese mothers for giving birth to such rascal imperial japas

    1. hi,are you korean-american?
      why you write racist comments to japanese?

  2. every jap should be impaled with lancers in their assholes

  3. nippon with asshole akhito whould be nuked