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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Korea's NSFW, Part VIII: Don't tell Thomas Ahn Jung-geun that we just talked about COMFORT WOMEN (First Part/전편)

The Okhoru Pavilion inside Gyeongbok Palace is under siege by the Japanese once again after the assassination of Empress Myeongseong of Yeoheung Min Clan. Several months before the assassination of Ito Hirobumi by Thomas Ahn Jung-geun in Harbin, China, Ibuki Hinata leaped the time from the present-day 2014 to the verge of Korean Empire Annexation timeline and became Ito's sexual pleasure victim. Ibuki has expressed loyalty to the Korean Nation and became Thomas Ahn's protege. That time, Thomas Ahn felt very angry on Ito's savaged attitude against Ibuki.

In this eighth installment of Korea's Not Safe for Work, we will talk about one of scars of World War II which is known as Comfort Women. This post will divide into two parts: Introduction of Comfort Women and The Former Comfort Women's Survival in 21st Century.

Comfort women were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II. The name "comfort women" is a translation of a Japanese term ianfu (慰安婦) or a Korean term wianbu (Hangul: 위안부).

Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 to as high as 200,000, or even as many as 360,000 to 410,000 but the exact numbers are still being researched and debated. Many of the women were from occupied countries, including Korea, China, and the Philippines, although women from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan (then a Japanese dependency), Indonesia (then the Dutch East Indies), East Timor (then Portuguese Timor), and other Japanese-occupied territories were used for military "comfort stations". Stations were located in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, then Malaya (known as Malaysia from 1963 onwards), Thailand, Burma, New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, and French Indochina. A smaller number of women of European origin from the Netherlands and Australia were also involved.

According to testimony, young women from countries in Imperial Japanese custody were abducted from their homes. In many cases, women were also lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants. Once recruited, the women were incarcerated in comfort stations in foreign lands.

Today's Japanese government's official view about "comfort women" (Kono Statement) is as follows: "……Comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitment. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere."

Military correspondence of the Japanese Imperial Army shows that the aim of facilitating comfort stations was the prevention of rape crimes committed by Japanese army personnel and thus preventing the rise of hostility among people in occupied areas.

Given the well-organized and open nature of prostitution in Japan, it was seen as logical that there should be organized prostitution to serve the Japanese Armed Forces. The Japanese Army established the comfort stations to prevent venereal diseases and rape by Japanese soldiers, to provide comfort to soldiers and head off espionage. The comfort stations were not actual solutions to the first two problems, however. According to Japanese historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, they aggravated the problems. Yoshimi has asserted, "The Japanese Imperial Army feared most that the simmering discontentment of the soldiers could explode into a riot and revolt. That is why it provided women."

The first comfort station was established in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1932. Earlier comfort women were Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for such service. However, as Japan continued military expansion, the military found itself short of Japanese volunteers, and turned to the local population to coerce women into serving in these stations. Many women responded to calls for work as factory workers or nurses, and did not know that they were being pressed into sexual slavery.

In the early stages of the war, Japanese authorities recruited prostitutes through conventional means. In urban areas, conventional advertising through middlemen was used alongside kidnapping. Middlemen advertised in newspapers circulating in Japan and the Japanese colonies of Korea, Taiwan, Manchukuo, and China. These sources soon dried up, especially from Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs resisted further issuance of travel visas for Japanese prostitutes, feeling it tarnished the image of the Japanese Empire. The military turned to acquiring comfort women outside mainland Japan, especially from Korea and occupied China. Many women were tricked or defrauded into joining the military brothels. The Japanese forced Hui Muslim girls in China to serve as sex slaves by setting up the "Huimin Girl's school" and enrolling Hui girls into the school for this purpose.

The situation became worse as the war progressed. Under the strain of the war effort, the military became unable to provide enough supplies to Japanese units; in response, the units made up the difference by demanding or looting supplies from the locals. Along the front lines, especially in the countryside where middlemen were rare, the military often directly demanded that local leaders procure women for the brothels. When the locals, especially Chinese, were considered hostile, Japanese soldiers carried out the "Three Alls Policy", which included indiscriminately kidnapping and raping local civilians.

The United States Office of War Information report of interviews with 20 comfort women in Burma found that the girls were induced by the offer of plenty of money, an opportunity to pay off 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.

On April 17, 2007 Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Hirofumi Hayashi announced the discovery, in the archives of the Tokyo Trials, of seven official documents suggesting that Imperial military forces, such as the Tokkeitai (Naval military police), forced women whose fathers attacked the Kenpeitai (Army military police), to work in front line brothels in China, Indochina and Indonesia. These documents were initially made public at the war crimes trial. In one of these, a lieutenant is quoted as confessing to having organized a brothel and having used it himself. Another source refers to Tokkeitai members having arrested women on the streets, and after enforced medical examinations, putting them in brothels.

On 12 May 2007 journalist Taichiro Kajimura announced the discovery of 30 Dutch government documents submitted to the Tokyo tribunal as evidence of a forced mass prostitution incident in 1944 in Magelang.

The South Korean government designated Bae Jeong-ja (배정자/裵貞子) a.k.a Tayama Sadako (田山貞子 - where Sadako is Japanized name for Jeong-ja), foster daughter of Ito Hirobumi who hailed from Gimhae, Southern Gyeongsang Province as a pro-Japanese collaborator (chinilpa) in September 2007 for recruiting comfort women.

In 2014 China produced almost 90 documents from the archives of the Kwantung Army on the issue. According to China, the documents provide ironclad proof that the Japanese military forced Asian women to work in frontline brothels before and during the Second World War.

Lack of official documentation has made estimates of the total number of comfort women difficult, as vast amounts of material pertaining to matters related to war crimes and the war responsibility of the nation's highest leaders were destroyed on the orders of the Japanese government at the end of the war. Historians have arrived at various estimates by looking at surviving documentation which indicate the ratio of the number of soldiers in a particular area to the number of women, as well as looking at replacement rates of the women. Historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, who conducted the first academic study on the topic which brought the issue out into the open, estimated the number to be between 50,000 and 200,000.

Based on these estimates, most international media sources quote about 200,000 young women were recruited or kidnapped by soldiers to serve in Japanese military brothels. The BBC quotes "200,000 to 300,000" and the International Commission of Jurists quotes "estimates of historians of 100,000 to 200,000 women."

According to State University of New York at Buffalo professor Yoshiko Nozaki and other sources, the majority of the women were from Korea and China. Chuo University professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi states there were about 2,000 centers where as many as 200,000 Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Taiwanese, Burmese, Indonesian, Dutch and Australian women were interned. Ikuhiko Hata, a professor of Nihon University, estimated the number of women working in the licensed pleasure quarter was fewer than 20,000 and that they were 40% Japanese, 20% Koreans, 10% Chinese, with others making up the remaining 30%. According to Hata, the total number of government-regulated prostitutes in Japan was only 170,000 during World War II. Others came from the Philippines, Taiwan, Dutch East Indies, and other Japanese-occupied countries and regions. Some Dutch women, captured in Dutch colonies in Asia, were also forced into sexual slavery.

In further analysis of the Imperial Army medical records for venereal disease treatment from 1940, Yoshimi concluded that if the percentages of women treated reflected the general makeup of the total comfort women population, Korean women comprised 51.8 percent, Chinese 36 percent and Japanese 12.2 percent.

A Dutch government study described how the Japanese military itself recruited women by force in the Dutch East Indies. It concluded that among the 200 to 300 European women working in the Japanese military brothels, “some sixty five were most certainly forced into prostitution.” Others, faced with starvation in the refugee camps, agreed to offers of food and payment for work, the nature of which was not completely revealed to them.

To date, only one Japanese woman has published her testimony. This was done in 1971, when a former comfort woman forced to work for Showa soldiers in Taiwan, published her memoirs under the pseudonym of Suzuko Shirota.

Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually transmitted diseases. Beatings and physical torture were said to be common.

Ten Dutch women were taken by force from prison camps in Java by officers of the Japanese Imperial Army to become forced sex slaves in February 1944. They were systematically beaten and raped day and night. As a victim of the incident, in 1990, Jan Ruff-O'Herne testified to a U.S. House of Representatives committee:
"Many stories have been told about the horrors, brutalities, suffering and starvation of Dutch women in Japanese prison camps. But one story was never told, the most shameful story of the worst human rights abuse committed by the Japanese during World War II: The story of the “Comfort Women”, the jugun ianfu, and how these women were forcibly seized against their will, to provide sexual services for the Japanese Imperial Army. In the “comfort station” I was systematically beaten and raped day and night. Even the Japanese doctor raped me each time he visited the brothel to examine us for venereal disease."
In their first morning at the brothel, photographs of Ruff-O'Herne and the others were taken and placed on the veranda which was used as a reception area for the Japanese personnel who would choose from these photographs. Over the following four months the girls were raped and beaten day and night, with those who became pregnant forced to have abortions. After four harrowing months, the girls were moved to a camp at Bogor, in West Java, where they were reunited with their families. This camp was exclusively for women who had been put into military brothels, and the Japanese warned the inmates that if anyone told what had happened to them, they and their family members would be killed. Several months later the O'Hernes were transferred to a camp at Batavia, which was liberated on 15 August 1945.

The Japanese officers involved received some punishment by Japanese authorities at the end of the war. After the end of the war, 11 Japanese officers were found guilty with one soldier being sentenced to death by the Batavia War Criminal Court. The court decision found that the charge violated was the Army's order to hire only voluntary women. Victims from East Timor testified they were forced into slavery even when they were not old enough to have started menstruating. The court testimonies state that these prepubescent girls were repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers while those who refused to comply were executed.

Hank Nelson, emeritus professor at the Australian National University's Asia Pacific Research Division, has written about the brothels run by the Japanese military in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea during WWII. He quotes from the diary of Gordon Thomas, a POW in Rabaul. Thomas writes that the women working at the brothels “most likely served 25 to 35 men a day” and that they were “victims of the yellow slave trade.”

Nelson also quotes from Kentaro Igusa, a Japanese naval surgeon who was stationed in Rabaul. Igusa wrote in his memoirs that the women continued to work through infection and severe discomfort, though they “cried and begged for help.”

During World War II, the Shōwa regime implemented in Korea a prostitution system similar to the one established in other parts of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Korean agents, Korean Kempeitai (military police) and military auxiliaries were involved in the procurement and organization of comfort women, and made use of their services. Park Chong-song found that "Koreans under Japanese rule became fully acculturated as main actors in the licensed prostitution system that was transplanted in their country by the colonial state".

Even after World War II, the legacies of the comfort women system remained deeply entrenched in Korean society. During the Korean War, the South Korean military institutionalized a "special comfort unit" similar to the one used by the Japanese military during World War II. Until recently, very little was known about this apart from testimonies of retired generals and soldiers who had fought in the war. In February 2002, Korean sociologist Kim Kwi-ok (김귀옥) wrote the first scholarly work on Korea's comfort women through the use of official records.

The post-colonial South Korean "comfort" system was organized around three operations. First, there were "special comfort units" called Teuksu Wiandae (특수위안대), which operated from seven different stations. Second, there were mobile units of comfort women that visited barracks. Third, there were prostitutes who worked in private brothels that were hired by the military. Although it is still not clear how recruitment of these comfort women were organized in the South, South Korean agents were known to have kidnapped some of the women from North Korea.

According to anthropologist Sarah Soh Chunghee (소정희) of San Francisco State University, the South Korean military's use of comfort women has produced "virtually no societal response," despite the country's women's movement's support for Korean comfort women within the Japanese military. Both Kim and Soh argue that this system is a legacy of Japanese colonialism, as many of South Korea's military leadership were trained within the Japanese military. Both the Japanese and South Korean militaries referred to these comfort women as "military supplies" in official documents and personal memoirs. The South Korean military also used to same arguments as the Japanese military to justify the use of comfort women, viewing them as a "necessary social evil" that would raise soldiers' morale and prevent rape.

Present-day Japanese Embassy in 22 Yulgok Avenue 2nd Street/Yulgok-ro 2-gil, Junghak-dong 18-11 beonji, Seoul Jongno-gu with the statue of Comfort Women - located opposite to the embassy. The second part of 'Don't tell Thomas Ahn Jung-geun that we just talked about comfort women' will be continued on the particular time.