Tag Archives: Japan

For comfort women who want an apology, time is running out

Statues of former comfort women who have passed away at the House of Sharing. /CGTN Photo

 

Yi Ok-seon lies on her bed in a small room at House of Healing in South Korea.

At 92 she is surrounded by photographs of meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other dignitaries, and a few of her as a young girl.

But there is a gap in this photographic history. There is no trace of her time spent as a sex slave for the Japanese army during World War II.

Yi Ok-seon says she was dragged from her workplace at the age of 15, by two men, one South Korean and one Japanese. She was sent to China where she was forced, through violence, to work in a Japanese military brothel.

Yi was a fierce opponent of the compensation sent by Japan as part of a deal struck with South Korea in 2015 and, like many former so-called “comfort women,” applauded South Korea’s decision to disband the Japan-funded foundation set up to financially assist former wartime sex slaves.

“Japan brought the money to (South) Korea to reach an agreement. That money was given to us to shut our mouths up. That’s wrong. I felt good when they got rid of the foundation,” says Yi, perched on the edge of her bed with a fierce glint still in her eye as she speaks of the events that stole her youth.

Scrapping the compensation aspect of the deal was not the only part of the agreement to break down.

One of Japan’s key complaints was the comfort women statue outside its embassy in Seoul.

Under the compensation deal the comfort women statue was supposed to have been removed. Instead, it remained and about 50 more were placed across South Korea, a move that so angered Japan that last year it temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Seoul.

“As the agreement between (South) Korea and Japan has not been scrapped, we started protesting by insisting on the abolition of the agreement. We will help the grandmothers by protesting here until the agreement is scrapped,” says Kim Sun-kyung, a student who is one of the many volunteers who spend time in a makeshift translucent tent next to the statue to ensure it is not removed.

As part of the deal Japan did offer a statement of “apology and remorse” as well as compensation, to be distributed through the now defunct foundation.

But the director of the House of Sharing, Ahn Shin-kwon, says former comfort women were not consulted in the lead-up to the agreement, which they believe avoided explicit responsibility and was meant to silence the issue as much as settle it.

“Despite the war crimes, human rights abuses and women used as tools of war the agreement did not include education for the current generation and future generations, rather they tried to hide the victims’ problems forever,” says Kwon.

Ahn says the issue can be settled if a more human approach is taken that fully acknowledges historical wrongs and seeks genuine reconciliation.

Across the hall from Yi Ok-seon, another former comfort women Kim Soon-ok sleeps with the help of a respirator.

Time is running out for these women who continue to ask for one core thing, an apology from Japan that is linked to a full acknowledgment of what the women were subjected to.

 

By Jack Barton, CGTN

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“Her Story”, Chinese transcript

0:00:06:16-0:00:13:18
本片以日军的受害者—-慰安妇的真人实事制作完成。
0:00:37:1—0:00:43:01
从小遇到好的父母,没受过什么苦,嗯,没受过什么苦。
0:00:44:00—0:00:48:13
我父亲反对日本鬼子做的事儿
0:00:54:18—0:00:58:16
从巡警驻地 ,派出所那儿来人了。
0:00:59:09—0:01:03:09
说怎么不上缴铜器。

0:01:04:04—0:01:07:17
你们这些日本鬼子,杀了我也休想把这些拿走。
0:01:07:22—0:01:10:15
我是不会妥协的。
0:01:10:22-0:01:14:09
带着我家的下人们
0:01:14:16-0:01:17:00
把铜器都埋在了地里
0:01:17:13—0:01;20:05
晚上挖了好几十行
0:01:20:11—0:01:24:03
挖好了以后,就埋在地里了。
0:01:24::08—0:01:26:23
不知道是谁告了密
0:01:27:04—0:01:30:13
我父亲就被抓走了.
0:01:38:12—0:01:40:08
有一次,我去看我父亲。
0:01:40:15—0:01:47:12
我的父亲很生气
0:01:47:19—0:01;50:11
他说,那儿不是我该去的地方
0:01:50:17—0:01;53:00
让我不要再去那儿
0:01:55:01-0:01:59:14
就算来了,他也不会见我。
0:01:59:21—0:02:02:14
嘱咐我,千万不能再去那儿。
0:02:02:20—0:02:04:19
我父亲训了我一顿
0:02:17:13—0:02:20:07
过了几天,村长来了。
0:02;20:20—0:02:27;07
小姐,在日本做碗的工厂
0:02:27;13—0:02:31:06
在那个工厂干上两年到两年半
0:02:31:10—0:02:34:18
受点儿苦出来就行了
0:02:34:22—0:02:39:03
就是说我去那家工厂工作,我父亲就能被放出来。
0:02:40:10—0:02:42;17
那个时候就信以为真了
0:02:45:18—0:03;01:18
他的父亲没有被释放,死在了监狱里。
0:03;18;05—0:03:21:13
我呢,去了雅加达。
0:03:21:18—0:03:24:08
有个地方叫斯马朗
0:03:24:14——-0:03:31:08
一共13 个人去了那儿
0:03;32:11—0:03:36:20
到了那儿才知道 , 那儿不是日本
0:03:32:11—0:03:36:20
是一个很远的国家。
0:03:57:22—0:04:02:08
开始的时候,有一天晚上来了一个军官。
0:04:02:13—0:04:04:20
喝得烂醉
0:04:05:01-04:08:09
吓得我直发抖,那个时候我才15 岁。
0:04:08:17—0:4:14:21
在去那儿的人中, 我的年龄最小。
0:04:15:23—0:04:19;09
就那样
0:04;19;19—0:24:22:07
受到了凌辱。
0:04:37:15-0:04:41:19
从那以后,我不想理会他们 ,反抗挣扎的时候
0:04“41:23—0:04:44:09
给我注射了鸦片
0:04:44:15—0:04:48:00
就那样我就鸦片中毒了。
0:04:55:11—0:05:02:12
连数都数不清,也不知道是星期几。
0;05:02;15—0:05:06:23
排着对,连衣服都不脱。
0:05:07:02—0:05:10:15
到哪儿去诉这些苦啊?
0:05:38:09—0:05:40:15
死了两个人
0:05:49:14—0:05:56:07
像埋死狗一样就给埋了
0:05;56:14—0;05;59:04
哪有什么葬礼啊
0:06:07:14-0:06:11:03
有一种金鸡纳霜疟疾药
0:06;11:12—0;06:16:03
我攒了40片
0:06:16;19—0:06:22;03
因为军医官是韩国人,我每次攒了2片,3片。
0:06:22:10—0:06;26;06
我把攒的那些药一下就吃进去了
0;06:27;05—0:06:31:15
想死还没死了
0:06:32;21—0:06:34:19
三天后醒了
0:06:36:13—0:06;39:19
听在场的人说
0:06:40:23—0:06;47:23
从嘴里,鼻子里,耳朵里出了很多血,浑身都是血。
0:07:02;14—0;07;08:04
一个星期去检查一次身体
0:07;08;20—0:07;12;07
部队里有一个野战医院
0:07;12:19—0:07:15:13
另外还有一个大医院
0:07:16:02—0:07;19:08
从那儿出去,可以看到印度尼西亚的土著民
0:07:20:01—0:07:23;21
看到他们真是开心极了
0;07:24;12—0:07;26;21
脸特别黑
0:07:28:07—0:07:29:15
即使那样也特别高兴
0:07:29:21—0;07:32:22
一直周围都是男人,看到那些人
0:07:33:11—0;07:38:12
眼泪就往外涌
0:07;47:08—0:07:50:02
我们没想到他们能投降
0:07:51:01—0:07:57:02
当时去了13个人,死了3个人。嗯,有3个人死了。
0:07:57:18—0:08:02:11
剩下的10 个人,那个防空洞
0:08:03:09—0:08:05:23
那个防空洞,一下子进不了那么多人。
0:08:06:19—0:08:09:14
就带了几个人进了那个防空洞
0:08:10::18—0:08:13:09
后来才知道,把带进去的人埋在那儿了。
0:08:14:03—0:08:19:12
10个人中不是4个就是3 个
0:08:20:03—0:08;23:00
先进防空洞的人全都死了
0:08:28:16—0:08:31:14
在部队里有韩国军人
0:08:33:12—0:08:37:03
有来取士兵们衣服的人
0:08:37:12—0:08:39;13
那个人是印度尼西亚人
0:08:40:20—0:08:46;05
韩国军人写了一封信交给了那个人
0;08:46:13—0:08:48:02
那封信是给联合军的
0:08:48;12—0:08:51;13
让那个人快点交给联合军
0:08:53:02—0:08:54:20
所以那些联合军就闯了进来
0:08:55:08—0:08:57:10
如果稍微晚一步,我们可能就死了。
0:08:57:14—0:08:59:02
就可能进了那个防空洞
0:09:13:18—0:09:15:13
我成了孤儿。
0:09:15:20—0:09;18:16
父亲去世了,母亲也去世了。
0:09:19:09—0:09:23:08
然后所有的下人也都离开了
0:09:24:00—0:09:30:10
回到了家以后,我就戒了鸦片。
0:09:31:06—0:09:34:23
戒鸦片大概花了4、5个月的时间。
0:09:36:04-0:09:39:16
我的家里就剩我一个人了
0:09:46:03—0;09:49:12
后来时间长了,
0:09:50;03—0:09:53:08
就想只要留着我这口气,
0:09:53:13—0:09:59:02
就算能抢走我的身体,也没法夺走我的灵魂。
0:09:59:16—0:10:03:03
靠着那样的想法,活到了现在 。

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)

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.

Author:Esther Felden / sb
Editor Gabriel Dominguez
DW.DE

CHINA, S.KOREA to cooperate in urging Japan to reflect on ‘comfort women’

China will work with South Korea in urging Japan to understand and reflect on history regarding the issue of “comfort women,” who were coerced into sex slavery by Japanese forces during World War II.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei made the comment on Thursday in response to a South Korean plan to apply to register records with UNESCO on Japan’s wartime sex slaves.

Forcing women into sexual slavery was a grave crime against humanity by the Japanese military during WWII, causing suffering in China, South Korea and some other Southeast Asian countries, Hong said.

China and South Korea have similar experiences and concerns on historical issues relating to Japan, Hong said.

“China is willing to work with other victim countries, including South Korea, to maintain historical justice,” Hong said, adding that Japan should work to gain the trust of its neighbors and the international community through concrete action.

South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family plans to examine and archive relevant materials scattered in the victim countries and apply next year, in order to get Japan’s use of wartime sex slaves registered at UNESCO’s Memory of the World program, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

The Memory of the World program was launched in 1992 to preserve heritage around the world.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a spending bill in which a document is attached, calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to encourage Japan to address the issue of “comfort women,” the contemporary euphemism for sex slaves.

The document referred to Resolution 121, which was adopted by the house in July 2007, calling for Japan to “formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner.”

South Korea on Thursday welcomed the house’s call for Japan to apologize to the coerced sex slaves, while a foreign ministry spokesman said that there was little time left for Japan to resolve the issue.

Historians estimate that 200,000 women were forced into sexual servitude by Japanese forces during WWII, most from countries invaded by Japan at the time.

By GLOBAL TIMES, CHINA