Tag Archives: sexual slavery

Japan’s attempt to dispute wartime history raises questions about academic freedom: U.S. scholar

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) — Japan’s attempt to dispute the long-established historical fact about the country’s sexual enslavement of Asian women during World War II raises “serious concerns” about academic freedom in the country, an American scholar said Thursday.

Alexis Dudden, a professor at the University of Connecticut, also said in an email interview with Yonhap News Agency that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attempting to “openly supplant long proven histories with preferred national memories.”

Dudden led a group of American history scholars to issue a joint statement expressing strong protest against Japan’s pressuring of U.S. publisher McGraw-Hill to alter the description of the sexual slavery issue in one of its textbooks.

It is highly unusual for U.S. history scholars to collectively issue a statement on a specific historical issue. Nineteen scholars belonging to the American Historical Association co-signed the joint statement titled, “Standing with Historians of Japan.”

“The statement matters now because the history involved — the so-called ‘comfort women’ — has long been accepted as fact not only in Japan but also around the world. Targeting this particular history now for political reasons … raises serious concerns about the state of academic freedom in Japan today,” the professor said.

“As for Prime Minister Abe, it is important … to understand that memory and history are different things. In this instance we have a politician who would openly supplant long proven histories with preferred national memories,” she said.

The statement is “an act of professional solidarity with historians in Japan and elsewhere — South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia — who research and write about these issues, Dudden said.

“Our aim is to show respect and solidarity for the efforts of historians everywhere who have long worked on the so-called comfort women issue and have published their work according to professional standards of evidence and multiple cross-referencing. This is how we produce the work we do, and why we hold to it as accurate and proven,” she said.

In the joint statement, the scholars expressed “dismay” at Japan’s pressuring of the textbook publisher, accusing the Abe administration of “vocally questioning the established history of the comfort women and seeking to eliminate references to them in school textbooks” as part of its effort to promote patriotic education.

They also stressed that “no government should have the right to censor history.”

“We practice and produce history to learn from the past. We therefore oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes,” the statement said.

Dudden stressed that “academic freedom is at stake” when certain political views summon history.

“This is how memory takes over what it calls history by picking and choosing from the past at will instead of learning from it,” she said.

“Our small group agrees that it is the responsibility of historians who are able to practice in societies as open as the United States to recognize moments when colleagues elsewhere are themselves targeted and have their work targeted,” she added.

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, which was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. But Japan has long attempted to whitewash the atrocity.

The sexual slavery issue has been the biggest thorn in frayed relations between Japan and South Korea, with Seoul demanding Japan take steps to address the grievances of elderly Korean victims of the atrocity and Japan refusing to do so.


Foreign Ministry should keep alive spirit of Asian Women’s Fund By Asahi Newspaper editorial.

Japan's minister, Fumio Kishida
Japan’s minister, Fumio Kishida

The Asian Women’s Fund, set up in the year of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, represented Japan’s national effort to compensate former “comfort women” for their sufferings during the war. These women were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers at “comfort stations” established with the involvement of Japanese military forces.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry has suddenly deleted from its website a document calling for contributions to the fund.

The document contained a passage saying, “many women, including teenage girls, were compelled to serve as ‘comfort women’ for the military.”

The ministry took the step apparently because this passage was criticized at a Lower House Budget Committee session for indicating that the women were taken by force.

The fund was created in line with the 1993 Kono statement, issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

The Japanese government’s official position on this matter has been that the comfort women issue has long been legally settled. Under such a situation, the fund’s activities provided practical support for Japan’s efforts for reconciliation with former comfort women.

The main features of this project were the Japanese prime minister’s “letter of apology” to former comfort women, payments of compensation to victims from the fund and government-financed aid for their health-care costs.

Although the fund was dissolved seven years ago, the Foreign Ministry kept the document, which called for contributions to the fund, on its website apparently because it viewed all these efforts as meaningful.

In explaining his ministry’s move to remove the document, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said it was just a reorganization of the website, which included documents drafted by the government and those that were not.

But the fact is that the government has endorsed the content of the fund’s related documents. More importantly, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself has clearly ruled out a revision of the Kono statement, which laid the foundation for the fund.

Why, then, did the ministry have to delete the document? The deletion could be seen by the international community as another sign of the Abe administration’s backward movement on historical recognition.

This is a serious concern now because a close Abe aide has suggested that the Kono statement should be made irrelevant by a new statement next year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

What other countries think about Japan is not all that matters, of course. This is an issue that raises some serious questions about how Japanese face up to the nation’s past.

After the fund was dissolved, a group of people, including former executives of the fund, opened a website titled “Digital Museum: The Comfort Women Issue and the Asian Women’s Fund (http://awf.or.jp).” Facts and records about the fund have also been compiled into a book.

The fund attracted about 600 million yen ($5.6 million) in donations. The digital museum shows the messages of some donors. One said, “I was late in paying the money (into the account) because I had been hospitalized.” Another said, “I can only give a small sum.” The site also offers some moving tales, such as a story about a former comfort woman who broke into tears as she read the “letter of apology.”

The document calling for donations to the fund served as the starting point for exchanges of the heart.

The Foreign Ministry should put the document back on its website if it says that its views on the issue remain unchanged.

Time running out for aging Korean comfort women

A single picture captures the regret, shame and rage that Kim Gun-ja has harbored through most of her 89 years. Dressed in a long white wedding gown, she carries a bouquet of red flowers and stares at the camera, her deep wrinkles obscured by makeup and a diaphanous veil.

A local company arranged wedding-style photo shoots as gifts for Kim and other elderly women at the House of Sharing, a museum and nursing home for South Koreans forced into brothels by Japan during World War II. Kim and many of the other women never married, giving the pictures a measure of bitterness.

“That could have been my life: Meet a man, get married, have children, have grandchildren,” Kim said in her small, tidy room at the nursing home south of Seoul. “But it never happened. It could never be.”

Japanese soldiers stole her youth, she says, and now, “The Japanese are waiting for us to die.”

There are only 55 women left who registered with the South Korean government as former sex slaves from the war – down from a peak of more than 230. Their average age is 88.

As their numbers dwindle and a rising Japanese nationalism provokes anger from war victims in South Korea and China, the 10 women who live at the House of Sharing know they’re running out of time to pressure Tokyo to make amends.

“Once the victims are gone,” Kim said, “who will step in and fight for us?”

At first glance, the women might seem an obstacle to soothing the decades-old war tensions between Seoul and Tokyo.

“I want the Japanese (emperor) to come here, kneel before us, state everything that they did wrong to each one of us and apologize,” said Yi Ok-seon, 88, showing what she said were sword wounds from Japanese soldiers on her arms and feet.

But the women may also be the last chance for America’s two most important Asian allies to settle a dispute that has boiled over in recent years, as more of the so-called “comfort women” die and Tokyo and Seoul trade increasingly bitter comments about their bloody history.

“It will be much harder to solve, or more realistically mitigate, the issue after these women pass away,” Robert Dujarric, an Asia specialist at Temple University’s Tokyo campus, said in an email. “Now, there are people – the former sex slaves – to apologize to. Afterward, there will be no one left to receive the apology.”

Some historians say that as many as 200,000 Asian women, mostly Korean but also Chinese and others, were forced into Japan’s military brothel system during the war.

Japan has apologized many times over the years, including a landmark 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that acknowledges Japan’s responsibility over military brothels and says wartime documents, statements and other records were enough to assume many women were deceived or forced into them. Some past premiers have also written letters of apology to the women.

But many South Koreans see the repeated apologies and past efforts at private compensation as insufficient. One big reason is because they’ve been consistently undermined by the incendiary comments of many Japanese politicians, officials and right-wing activists.

In this Feb. 3. 2014 photo, Kim Jong-boon, 85, left, former comfort woman who was forced to serve for the Japanese troops as a sexual slave during World War II, is attended by servant Kim Young-soon at the House of Sharing, a nursing home and museum for 10 former sex slaves, in Toechon, South Korea. There are only 55 women left who registered with the South Korean government as former sex slaves from the war _ down from a peak of more than 230. Their average age is 88. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

 The new head of Japanese public broadcaster NHK, for example, recently downplayed the issue by saying the use of women as military prostitutes was common worldwide during the war. Despite testimony from many of the women, Japanese nationalists have said there’s no clear evidence proving the military or government systematically used coercion to recruit them.

Many average Japanese are sympathetic to the women, but some also see a steady politicization of the issue by South Korean lawmakers and activists stoking anti-Japanese anger.

“In Japan, the ‘comfort women’ issue is now seen as a larger part of a Korean moral-philosophical assault on Japan” that includes a territorial dispute over islets in the sea between the countries and other issues that both sides have increasingly taken to international audiences, said Robert Kelly, a political scientist at Pusan National University in South Korea.

The political leaders are also at loggerheads. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has previously questioned past apologies and expressed hope for revision, although he later promised to stick with them, following criticism. He also recently visited a shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted criminals. South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a late dictator widely seen as pro-Japanese, has vowed a tough line until Abe does more to acknowledge his country’s wartime past.

Anger in Seoul is met by frustration in Tokyo.

“The Japanese seem to be of the view that whatever they do will not be enough to satisfy the Koreans, so why bother?” said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Hawaii.

At the House of Sharing, the women spend their days watching TV, exercising, meditating and talking with volunteers, including regular Japanese visitors and the occasional U.S. politician and media crew. Many are sick, but several are active, making plans to give public testimony in Japan and the United States, and to take part in protests. A weekly demonstration in their honor has been held in Seoul for more than 20 years.

Some of the women suffer from mental disorders and sexually transmitted diseases from the war, according to Ahn Shin-kwon, manager of the home.

There’s also shame and bitterness.

“My life has been ruined. Even though I managed to survive and return home, I feel like my fellow Koreans will point their fingers at me if they discover my past, even though what happened to me was against my will,” said an 87-year-old who would only give her surname, Kim, because of embarrassment. “I don’t even want to go outside.”

At a museum near the women’s living quarters, a large map of Asia is marked with dozens of “comfort stations,” from northern China to Indonesia in the south, identified through official documents and testimony from former sex slaves and soldiers.

Nearby is a cramped rough-wood-paneled room intended to re-create the women’s working conditions. It’s lit by one dim electric bulb. A wooden bed with a thin mattress is the only furniture. Small wooden placards carved with the Japanese female names given to the sex slaves hang on hooks on an outside wall.

“I am not looking for a reward. A reward is given to the needy,” said Yi Ok-seon, who was kidnapped at 15. “I am asking for compensation for the Japanese who beat and stabbed me, for those who made me bleed. We came back as cripples.”

By AP, CBS News


New comfort women statue will be built in NY state

A monument remembering the suffering of thousands of women drafted into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II has been built in the U.S. state of New York.
Resolutions from both the New York State Senate and the New York House are engraved on the statue,… helping to remember the victims who suffered.
Officials say an opening ceremony will be held on Friday.
Last Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama has signed into a federal spending bill that includes a provision on Japan's wartime sexual enslavement.
The bill cites a 2007 resolution, asking for the Japanese government to address the issue of the so-called "comfort women," mainly from Korea and China, who were forced into sexual servitude for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

By Arirang TV News