ROK Drop

May 4th, 2009 at 6:57 am

LA Times Features Korean World War II Comfort Women

It seems like every few month some major paper features an article on Korea’s World War II comfort women:

Reporting from Toechon, South Korea — Kang Il-chul rides in the back of a van packed with gossiping old women. The 82-year-old girlishly covers her mouth to whisper a secret.

“We argue a lot about the food,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “To tell you the truth, some of these old ladies are grouchy.”

There are eight of them, sharing a hillside home on the outskirts of Seoul, sparring over everything from territory to room temperature.Some wear makeup and stylish hats; others are happy in robes and slippers. A few are bitter, their golden years tarnished by painful memories; others have sweet dispositions and enjoy visiting beauty salons or performing an occasional dance in the living room.

But they all share one thing: Decades ago, they were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers occupying the country before and during World War II. They were repeatedly raped and beaten over months and years.

Now time is running out for the halmoni, or Korean grandmothers. About 150,000 to 200,000 Korean women served as Japanese sex slaves, most living out their lives in humiliated silence.  [LA Times]
Read the rest for more details and statistics on the number of comfort women and what they are doing now.  However here is something I found of interest, the leader of the surviving comfort women Kang il-chul says this was how she was abducted:
In her place has emerged the indefatigable Kang. As a teenager, she recalls, she was lured from her home by Japanese soldiers who offered her caramel candy.
I remember reading articles before featuring Kang and did not remember reading that the soldiers used caramel candy to abduct her.  So with a little web searching this is what I found:
Kang recalls the day she was taken. “The soldiers had a list with my name on it. They put me in a truck. My nephew came out to look at them. He was just a baby. The soldiers kicked him and he died.”  [Japan Times]
This Japan Times article was the only one I could find that mentions her nephew being killed which would seem like something she would consistently tell reporters.
Here is what the House of Sharing website says about Kang’s abduction:
kang-il-chulKang Il-chul was born in 1928, in Sangju, in Gyeongsang Province, southeastern Korea. In 1943, when she was sixteen, a military police officer came to her house and abducted her, saying that she was being conscripted for the National Guard.  [The House of Sharing]
So here is yet another version of the story of how she was abducted and this time with a different age of abduction.  Kang’s stories only get more inconsistent the more you search:
This house was set up in 1992 with money from Buddhist societies and Korean charities. There are some wonderful statues in the garden. Some depict young women but I like this statue of an old woman called “Woman of earth” (below). In the yellow cardigan is Kang Il Chul, age 75. After the war she married a Korean man in China. She, like most of the others, was literally kidnapped by the Japanese. She was in bed aged 15, heard a tap on the window, and saw her friend with a soldier who had a knife in her back. “Come out or we’ll kill your friend” was the threat, and she was put on a truck which was blacked out and then another truck and then another.  [WNYC]
So now we go from her nephew being stomped and killed to her friend having a knife to her back.  These inconsistent stories from the comfort women is nothing new as blogger Ampontan has pointed out before.
Something else I found interesting is that Kang didn’t come to South Korea until 2000:
Kang was most emotional when talking about her homeland, which she said she did not see again until 2000.

“Maybe it was because my country was small that I had to suffer,” she said. “When I came back to Korea, I did not tell anyone what I did in China.” [The Harvard Crimson]

So nine years ago Kang shows up out of no where from China and is not suddenly the face of the comfort women issue.  Why did she come back in 2000?  Has anyone checked out her background in China?
I suspect there is a lot of BS being said on both sides of this issue.
I continue to think this guy offers a pretty good take on this issue:
1944 Comfort Woman Recruitment Ad

1944 Comfort Woman Recruitment Ad

The controversial military commentator Ji Man-won has come under fire again after saying that claims by some women to have been drafted into sexual slavery as “comfort women” by the Japanese Army were fraudulent.

Ji said on his website on Wednesday and Thursday that only 33 women had been confirmed former “comfort women,” or Chongshindae, by Shim Mi-ja, a comfort woman whose painful past was acknowledged by the Japanese Supreme Court. Ji said none of the 33 took part in a protest former comfort women stage every Wednesday in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. He said Japan concluded that one ostensible comfort woman who appeared frequently on TV was a fraud and refused to pay her compensation. Ji claimed no more than 20 percent of all comfort women were forcefully conscripted by Japan, while the rest were ordinary prostitutes trying to escape from poverty.  [Chosun Ilbo]

The media such as the above LA Times article never mentions how many of these women were sold as comfort women by Korean brokers as well as many times by the girl’s family looking to make money.  It is well known that the Japanese put advertisements out for Korean women to work as prostitutes.  So if Ji’s theory is correct that 20% were forcibly conscripted and the rest were common prostitutes that would still mean anywhere from 20,000 - 40,000 women were scripted if you believe the total number of 150,000 - 200,000 were comfort women in the first place. That is still a huge number.


Anyway I still believe Japan should apologize for war time sexual slavery again, but this time in a large public speech to draw maximum media attention. During this speech then announce that Japan to atone for its past sins would become a champion of women’s rights beginning with the plight of modern day sexual slavery of North Korean women in China that both the South Korean and Chinese governments choose to ignore. Then Japan should announce that they would start accepting North Korean defectors into Japan and become an outspoken advocate of North Korean human rights.

This would in turn bring attention to the modern day Korean comfort women and turn the tables on the Chinese and Koreans who continue to demand apologies and compensation from Japan for sexual slavery that happened over 60 years ago while they do nothing about the sexual slavery going on right now.   However, I think national pride is going to win out on each side and ten years from now we will still be discussing the comfort women issue even if Japan has made ten more apologies in that timeframe.

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  • guitard
    7:12 am on May 4th, 2009 1

    ?However, I think national pride is going to win out on each side and ten years from now we will still be discussing the comfort women issue even if Japan has made ten more apologies in that timeframe.

    In another ten years, the vast majority of those who are still alive today will have passed away. The issue will literally lose its voice when the last one dies.


  • GI Korea
    7:23 am on May 4th, 2009 2

    It doesn’t matter if they are alive or not this issue will not go away as long as it has political legs. That is why I make the recommendation I do for the Japanese because by then becoming a champion of NK human rights, not only are the helping the modern day comfort women, but the political demagogues in SK and China would no longer receive political benefit from Japan bashing over this issue. They would just have to stick to Dokdo bashing instead.


  • nb
    8:36 am on May 4th, 2009 3

    I think that the vast majority of these women knew what the were getting into (prostitution), but didnt know it would be so bad. How many prostitutes are there in Korea today? Enough that more is spent on having sex with them than on defense of the nation.


  • Tom
    10:37 am on May 4th, 2009 4

    In another 10 years they will die off and everyone will label them as willing hookers and whores who made lots of money and who fooled and seduced innocent Japanese soldiers. Since we’re half way there in rewriting history, the project will complete in 10 years.


  • matt foresta
    11:57 pm on May 4th, 2009 5

    man that ampotan blog sucks he’s a revisionist I wouldn’t post that here gi korea two low for your blogs standards.



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