The Nation over Gender and Class: Media Framing of Comfort Women in South Korea and Japan

JAY SONG Senior Lecturer in Korean Studies, University of Melbourne
JUN OHASHI Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Melbourne

EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF KOREAN STUDIES
VOLUME 20, NO. 1 (2020), pp. 159–184.

Abstract
In December 2015, South Korea and Japan reached an agreement on resolving the “comfort women” issue that sparked media interests. This article analyses how the South Korean and Japanese media covered comfort women in 2013–2018. The study collects over 20,000 newspaper articles and analyses distinctive media framings in liberal, conservative and leftist newspapers in South Korea and Japan. During this period, the South Korean media have gone beyond the extant nationalist and feminist narratives and incorporated a class dimension. The authors find that there have been dynamic interplays among nation, gender and class that make the debates more complex and transnational, yet the dominant narratives are still from liberal or leftist nationalists in Korea and conservative statists in Japan.

Keywords: comfort women, sexual slavery, media framing, gender, nation, class

Link to the publication: https://www.ejks.org.uk/the-nation-over-gender-and-class-media-framing-of-comfort-women-in-south-korea-and-japan-page-159-184/

A plea to participate in the Comfort Women of Empire litigation support

On October 27, 2017, the Seoul High Court ruled in favor of the prosecution which had alleged Professor Park Yuha in her recent work Comfort Women of Empire had impugned the honor of the former comfort women, and as a consequence found her liable for the sum of one million won. The decision represented an absolute shock for all people both within and outside of Korea who believed the country to be one which respected and upheld academic freedom of expression. The first trial, conducted at the Eastern District Court in Seoul, over the course of a year weighed up the academic and historical evidence and found Professor Park innocent of the charges brought by the prosecution and representatives of a group of former comfort women. We cannot escape the sense of profound disquiet at the seeming ease with which the second trial overturned the verdict of the lower court and returned a verdict of guilt.

All the evidence presented by the prosecution at the second trial as evidence of defamation in the book Comfort Women of Empire, had in the first court case been examined by the Eastern District Court which acquitted Professor Park of the charges of defaming the former comfort women. Simultaneously, given the historical issues surrounding the comfort women are a matter of deep and passionate public concern, the opinion of the court gave broad assurance of the willingness to uphold and protect freedom of academic expression. This judgement, which symbolized both the rationality and publicness of the Korean judicial authorities, was however completely overturned at the time of the second trial.

Turning to the verdict itself, the basis of the conviction can be summarized into two parts. First, that the author presented “false fact,” and secondly that there was “deliberation” behind the motive to defame the former comfort women. The Seoul High Court accepted the view of the prosecution that the author’s perception of the comfort women was “false” on the ground that it diverged from the “correct” view held in certain circles of domestic Korean and international society. Moreover, as to the criterion of “willfulness” introduced in the court verdict this was based on the determination Professor Park Yuha wrote her work with the awareness it would have the “effect” of lowering the social evaluation of the comfort women.

Inescapably, this decision represents a disquieting stance towards academic research. In relation to the historical issues surrounding the comfort women, the decision of the court introduced a criterion of “correctness” and “falsity” that is sure to hinder active scholarly research into an issue at the heart of Japanese and Korean contemporary disputation. Moreover, treating Professor Park’s work as defamatory, regardless of whether the book itself is defamatory per se, but as a consequence of the “effect” which would occur when one reads the text with a specific political or ideological purpose, is exaggerated. We have little recourse but to question whether in fact the verdict of the second trial will have a chilling effect on academic activities into issues which touch on sensitive societal and national questions.

Still regardless of the so-called pros or cons of the work Comfort Women of Empire, we strongly believe that the judgement of the Seoul High Court in the second trial represents a profound threat to the freedoms of the Korean academic and cultural worlds. Through its rendering of a guilty verdict, the judiciary set forth a criterion by which Korean scholarly and cultural worlds must hew only to the historical perception sanctioned as “right” by mainstream groups in Korean society.

As long as scholarly work that differs from the interests and position of mainstream social groups are subject to punishment, the text of the Korean constitution guaranteeing academic freedom is little more than rhetoric. Before the verdict of the second trial, many felt ideological control had disappeared with the demise of the military dictatorship, yet now one cannot escape the sense that ideological control has again been resurrected as a means to enforce a uniform and unvarying interpretation of history.

As a result of the decision of the High Court, the road before Professor Park is indeed steep. By the same token, the road before Koreans struggling to express views different from those “deemed to be correct” is unquestionably also steep. When criminal charges were first filed against Professor Park, many in society, as well as academic circles in Korea, Japan, and the West, aware of the seriousness of the situation, called for the judiciary to render a considered judgement. The decision of the first trial confirmed that such efforts were not in vain.

The erroneousness of the conviction handed down at the time of the second trial illustrates indisputably the continued existence and working of state power and societal interests intolerant of “different” opinions which they instead seek to suppress. The occasion of this verdict is the time to express the will of citizen groups to oppose this state of affairs.
Therefore, we are beginning with a drive for donations to support Professor Park Yuha’s case. Although we hold differing views of the problems of history and politics, our fundamental aim in launching of this drive is the defense of the principle of academic freedom, and with it the right to express unpopular opinions even on sensitive national and social issues in Korean society. We sincerely wish for scholars and cultural figures from across the world to participate in our endeavor to ensure that in the future, no one will face conviction and criminal charges for the simple fact of “holding and speaking differing views.”

December 7, 2017
Comfort Women of Empire Litigation Support Group

Participant
강신표 Shin-pyo Kang (Inje University, Professor Emeritus)
강운구 Kang Woongu (Photographer)
고영범 Young B. Oh (Playwright)
고종석 Koh Jongsok (Author)
김경옥 kim kyungok (Critic)
김성희 Seonghee KIM (Kaywon University of Art & Design)
김영규 Kim YoungQ (Inha University, Professor Emeritus)
김영용 KIm YoungYong (CEO of The Korea Economic Daily, Retired)
김용균 Yong Kyun Kim (Ehwa Womans University)
김용운 Yong-Woon Kim (Hanyang University)
김우창 Kim Uchang (Korea University)
김원우 Kim Wonwoo (Author)
김택수 Taik Soo Kim (CEO of Publisher The Orijin)
김철 Kim Chul (Yonsei University, Professor Emeritus)
남기정 Nam Kijeong (Seoul National University)
라종일 Ra Jongyil (Former South Korea Ambassador)
박경수 Park Kyungsoo (Kangneung-Wonju national University)
박삼헌 Park Samheon (Konkuk University)
배수아 Bae Suah (Author)
서현석 Seo Hyun-Suk (Yonsei University)
신형기 Shin Hyung Ki (Yonsei University)
안병직 Byong Jick Ahn (Seoul National University, Professor Emeritus)
유 준 Yoo Jun (Yonsei University)
윤성호 Yoon Songho (Dongseo University)
윤해동 Hae-Dong Yun (Hanyang University)
이강민 Kangmin Yi (Hanyang University)
경순 Kyung Soon (Film director)
이경훈 Lee Kyounghoon (Yonsei University)
이대근 Dae-Keun LEE (Sungkyunkwan University, Professor Emeritus)
이순재 Lee, Soon-Jae (Sejong University)
이영훈 Lee Younghun (Seoul National University, Retired/Naksungdae Institute of Economic research)
이제하 Je Ha Lee (Author)
정종주 JEONG Jong-joo (CEO of Publisher Of puripari)
조관자 Jo Gwanja (Seoul National University)
조석주 Seok-ju Cho (Sungkyunkwan University)
조용래 Cho Yongrea (The Kukmin Daily Executive Editor)
최규승 Choi Kyu Seung (Poet)
최범 Choi Bum (Critic)
황영식 Hwang Youngsik (Chief editorial writer)
황종연 Jongyon Hwang (Donguk University)
황호찬 Ho Chan Hwang (Sejong University)
김학성 HAK SUNG KIM (Dabud Law Office)
김향훈 Kim HyangHoon (Law Firm Centro)
이성문 LEE SEONG MUN (Law Firm Myongdo)
이동직 Dong Jik Lee (law Firm Sinwon)
이민석 Minseok Lee (Minseok Lee law Office)
최명규 Choi Myung Kyu (Choi Myung Kyu Law Office)
허중혁 Hur ZungHyuk (Hur ZungHyuk Law Office)
홍세욱 Hong Sae Uk (Law Firm H’s)
한정호 Han Jung-Ho (Chungbuk University)
50 Participants

浅野豊美 Asano Toyomi (Waseda University)
天江喜七郎 Amae Kishichiro (Diplomat, Retired)
岩崎稔 Iawasaki Minoru (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)
池田香代子 Ikeda Kayoko (Translator)
上野千鶴子 Ueno Chizuko (Tokyo University, Professor Emeritus)
大江健三郎Oe Kenzaburo (Author)
小倉紀蔵 Ogura Kizo (Kyoto University)
尾山令仁 Oyama Reiji (Pastor, Theologian)
加納実紀代 Kano Mikiyo (Keiwagakuen University, retired)
清眞人 Kiyoshi Mahito (Kinki University, retired)
金枓哲 KIM Doo-Chul (Okyama University)
熊木勉 Kumaki Tsutomu (Tenri University)
古城佳子 Kojo Yoshiko(Tokyo University)
小森陽一 Komori Yoichi (Tokyo University)
佐藤時啓 Sato Tokihiro (Tokyo University of Arts, Photographer)
篠崎美生子 Shiozaki Mioko (Keisen Woman University)
竹内栄美子 Takeuchi Emiko (Meiji University)
東郷和彦 Togo Kazuhiko (Kyotosagyo University)
東郷克美 Togo Katsumi (Waseda Universuty)
成田龍一 Narita Ryuichi (Nihon Woman University)
中川成美 Nakagawa Shigemi (Riteumeika University)
中沢けい Nakazawa Kei (Hosei University/Author)
西成彦 Nishi Masahiko (Riteumeika University)
西田勝 Nishida Masaru (Literary Critic)
朴晋暎 Area Park (Photographer)
朴貞蘭 Park Jeongran (Oita Prefectural College of Arts and Culture)
深川由起子 Fukagawa Yukiko (Waseda University)
藤井貞和 Fujii Sadakazu (Tokyo University, Professor Emeritus)
和田春樹 Wada Haruki (Tokyo University, Professor Emeritus)
Gregory Clark (International University of Japan, Professor Emeritus)
四方田犬彦 Yomota Inuhiko (Film history, Comparative Literature)
千田有紀 Senda Yuki (Musasi University)
榎本隆司 Enomoto Takashi (Professor Emeritus, Waseda University)
33 Participants

Andrew Gordon (Harvard University)
Brett de Bary (Cornell University)
Bruce Cumings (Chicago University)
Chizuko Allen (Hawaii University)
Daqing Yang (George Washington University)
Jin-Kyung Lee (University of California San Diego)
John Treat (Yale University)
Mark Selden (Cornell University)
Michael K. Bourdaghs (University of Chicago)
Miyong Kim (University of Texas at Austin)
Noam Chomsky (MIT)
Sakai Naoki (Cornell University)
Sheldon Garon (Princeton University)
Tomi Suzuki (Columbia University)
Thomas Berger (Boston University)
William W. Grimes (Boston University)
Sejin Park (Adelaide University, retired, Australia)
Alexander Bukh (Wellington Victoria University, New Zealand)
Reiko Abe Auestad (Oslo University, Norway)
Amae Yoshihisa (Chang Jung Christian University, Taiwan)
20 Participants

103 Participants

If you have any questions, please send us an e-mail to
parkyuha.organization@gmail.com

 

The ‘comfort women’ issue after the fall of Park Geun-hye [East Asia Forum]

The ‘comfort women’ issue after the fall of Park Geun-hye [East Asia Forum] Link

Homepage manager’s comment on the text, “In Japan, there was unanimous support for this verdict. The Asahi Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun newspapers, which are usually divided on the ‘comfort women’ issue, both praised the verdict.”;

Different from Asahi Shimbun, which has acknowledged and appreciated Prof. Park’s publications, Sankei Shimbun has shown no interest on her works. This indicates how problematic this indictment was. This verdict braked Japanese disappointment toward Korea becoming despair.

Professor Bruce Cumings’ Endorsement (Jan 17, 2017)

Dear the Judges in Korean Court;

Your honor,
My name is Bruce Cumings. I am an American historian of East Asia, professor in University of Chicago. I am specialized in modern Korean history and contemporary international relations. Some of my books including “The Origins of the Korean War” are well known in Korea.

I recently noticed that Professor Park, Yu-ha, author of <Comfort Women of the Empire> was accused by the Eastern Prosecution Office in Seoul.
I hereby express my great consternation and concern over the indictment over Professor Park Yu-ha for “defamation”. The indictment is unjust and improper, and I hope and trust that the prosecutor should withdraw it without delay, or if it is too late, I strongly ask you sentence her ‘Not Guilty’.
I also would like to declare that I am endorsing the statements addressed mainly by Japanese scholars in 26th November 2015. I am with them and Professor Park Yu-ha.

Sincerely yours,

January 17, 2017
Bruce Cumings

A Statement against the Indictment of Professor Park Yu-ha

26th November, 2015

We hereby express our great consternation and concern over the indictment by the Eastern Prosecution Office in Seoul of Professor Park Yu-ha, author of Comfort Women of the Empire, for “defamation”. We believe that this book, published also in Japan in November last year, made a remarkable attempt to dismiss one-sided views of the “Comfort Women Issue”, and to search for possibilities of a genuine solution by comprehending the multi-faceted aspects of this complicated issue.
The indictment by the said Prosecution Office predicates that the Korean version of this book includes “false facts”, and lists numerous examples. But we think that this judgment does not understand the author’s intention properly, and is based on presumptions and misunderstandings. Above all, we feel that this book does not harm the honor of the former comfort women: on the contrary, this book is successful in delicately conveying the deep sorrow of these women to Korean and Japanese readers.
Any solution to the “Comfort Women Issue” must be found only through cooperation of the two nations of Japan and Korea that amounts to a mutual understanding regarding the responsibility of the Japanese Empire by reflecting upon the past histories. In this regard, Professor Park Yu-ha has significantly broadened the past arguments by focusing not only on the “disregard of women by imperialism” but also on the “discrimination against them under the colonial rule”.
It is true that the book’s assertion of fraternity of the “Comfort Women” with Japanese soldiers in battlefield and its indication of involvement of the local agents (including Korean ones) over the recruitment of women are debatable both in Korea and Japan. However, this book astutely points out the fundamental responsibility of Japanese Empire in creating these situations through its colonial rule, and it does not support certain arguments in Japan that negate the “Comfort Women Issue” altogether. This book also made an important contribution to the rise of general interest and debate in this issue.
We also entertain grave doubt over the prosecution’s reliance on “Kono Statement” as a source to prove Professor Park’s “errors”, because this book tries a rigorous and appreciative reading of Kono Statement and appeals for solutions based on this very statement.
The Japanese version of this book received a special prize of “Asia-Pacific Award” and “Waseda Journalism Principal Award in Memory of Taizan Ishibashi” this autumn, as it was highly evaluated as a milestone for deepening arguments over the “Comfort Women Issue”.
We have been concerned for some time with this book being the subject of a civil court case for defamation, but we are now further shocked by the indictment in which public authority in the form of the procurator’s office has moved to confine academic freedom and freedom of speech based on a particular view of history. What to certify as facts and how to interpret history are issues that should be left up to academic freedom. Apart from such a work that discriminates a particular individual or incites violence, matters related to speech should be countered through speech, and according to the basic principle of modern democracy, public authority should never encroach into that arena. We firmly believe that only invigorated academism would offer precious opportunities for the formation of healthy public opinion and nourish society at large.
South Korea is one of the rare countries where the people have attained and secured democratization after many years of the autocratic rule during which time academic scholarship and public speech as well as political movements were severely suppressed. We hold deep respect for such strength enhanced in the Korean society. However, it is our great concern that the “freedom of speech and press” and the “academic and artistic freedom” stipulated in the Korean Constitution are now in crisis. We are also worried that this indictment would block any attempt toward solving the “Comfort Women Issue” by unnecessarily provoking popular sentiment of the two nations, when Korea and Japan are on the brink of solving the “Comfort Women Issue” which is now well overdue. We strongly hope for a rise of healthy public opinion in the broad section of Korean society against this indictment. As Japan’s own democracy is in dire jeopardy at the moment, we sincerely wish that civil societies of Korea and Japan cooperate with each other to perpetuate atmosphere of mutual esteem for the respective democracy based on the principle of free speech.
We therefore earnestly call for a ruling by the court that would not embarrass the common sense and conscience of democracy, and for a revitalized debate regarding this issue within the discursive space of the two countries.
All the signatories as named separately

賛同人(성명인 일동)

(計68名五十音順)
浅野豊美(Asano Toyomi, 아사노 토요미)、
蘭信三(Araragi Shinzo, 아라라기 신조)、
石川好(Ishikawa Yoshimi, 이시카와 요시미)、
入江昭(Irie Akira, 이리에 아키라)、
岩崎稔(Iwasaki Minoru, 이와사키 미노루)、
上野千鶴子(Ueno Chizuko, 우에노 치즈코)、
大江健三郎(Oe Kenzaburo, 오에 겐자부로)、
大河原昭夫(Okawara Akio, 오카와라 아키오)、
大沼保昭(Onuma Yasuaki, 오누마 야스아키)、
小倉紀蔵(Ogura Kizo, 오구라 키조)、
小此木政夫(Okonogi Masao, 오코노기 마사오)、
加藤千香子(Kato Chikako, 가토 치카코)、
加納実紀代(Kano Mikiyo, 가노 미키요)、
川村湊(Kawamura Minato, 가와무라 미나토)、
木宮正史(Kimiya Tadashi, 기미야 타다시)、
グレゴリー・クラーク(Gregory Clark, 그레고리 클러크)、
ウィリアム・グライムス(William Grimes, 윌리엄 그라임스)、
栗栖薫子(Kurusu Kaoru, 쿠루수 카오루)、
河野洋平(Kono Yohei, 고노 요헤이)、
アンドルー・ゴードン(Andrew Gordon, 앤드류 고든)、
古城佳子(Kojo Yoshiko, 코죠 요시코)、
小針進(Kohari Susumu, 고하리 스스무)、
小森陽一(Komori Yoichi, 고모리 요이치)、
酒井直樹(Sakai Naoki, 사카이 나오키)、
島田雅彦(Shimada Masahiko, 시마다 마사히코)、
千田有紀(Senda Yuki, 센다 유키)、
添谷芳秀(Soeya Yoshihide, 소에야 요시히데)、
高橋源一郎(Takahashi Genichiro, 다카하시 겐이치로)、
竹内栄美子(Takeuchi Emiko, 다케우치 에미코)、
田中明彦(Tanaka Akihiko, 다나카 아키히코)、
茅野裕城子(Chino Yukiko, 치노 유키코)、
津島佑子(Tsushima Yuko, 쓰시마 유코)、
東郷和彦(Togo Kazuhiko, 도고 가즈히코)、
中川成美(Nakagawa Shigemi, 나카가와 시게미)、
中沢けい(Nakazawa Kei, 나카자와 케이)、
中島岳志(Nakajima Takeshi, 나카지마 다케시)、
成田龍一(Narita Ryuichi, 나리타 류이치)、
西成彦(Nishi Masahiko, 니시 마사히코)、
西川祐子(Nishikawa Yuko, 니시카와 유코)、
トマス・バーガー(Thomas Berger, 토마스 버거)、
波多野澄雄(Hatano Sumio, 하타노 수미오)、
馬場公彦(Baba Kimihiko, 바바 기미히코)、
平井久志(Hirai Hisashi, 히라이 히사시)、
藤井貞和(Fujii Sadakazu, 후지이 사다카즈)、
藤原帰一(Fujiwara Kiichi, 후지와라 키이치)、
星野智幸(Hoshino Tomoyuki, 호시노 도모유키)、
村山富市(Murayama Tomiichi, 무라야마 도미이치)、
マイク・モチズキ(Mike Mochizuki, 마이크 모치즈키)、
本橋哲也(Motohashi Tetsuya, 모토하시 데츠야)、
安尾芳典(Yasuo Yoshinori, 야스오 요시노리)、
山田孝男(Yamada Takao, 야마다 다카오)、
四方田犬彦(Yomota Inuhiko, 요모타 이누히코)、
李相哲(Lee Sangchul, 리상철, Li Sotetsu, 리 소테츠)、
若宮啓文(Wakamiya Yoshibumi, 와카미야 요시부미)

新たな賛同人が加わりました
山室信一 (Yamamuro Shinichi, 야마무로 신이치)、
ダニエル・スナイダー(Daniel Sneider,다니엘 스나이더)、
アンドリュー・ホルバート(Andrew Horvat, 앤드류 호밧)、
ポール・ミッドフォード(Paul Midford, 폴 미드포드)、
ジュリオ・プリエセ(Giulio Pugliese, 줄리오 플리에세)、
尾山令仁(Oyama Reiji, 오야마 레이지)
小林孝吉(Kobayashi Takayoshi,고바야시 다카요시)
鳥羽耕史(Toba Koji,도바 고지 )
川人清(Kawahito Kiyoshi, 가와히토 기요시)
アレクサンダー・ブッフ (Alexander Bukh,알렉산더 부흐)
安倍オースタッド玲子 (Abe Auestad Reiko,아베 오스타드 레이코)
楊大慶(Daqing Yang, 양다칭)
ピーター・ドゥス(Peter Duus, 피터 두스)
菅波英美(Suganami Hidemi, 수가나미 히데미)

Noam Chomsky

and Bruce Cumings

朴裕河氏の起訴に対する抗議声明
박유하 교수 기소에 대한 항의성명

Professor Noam Chomsky’s Endorsement (Jan 16, 2017)

Dear the Judges in Korean Court;

My name is Noam Chomsky.

I recently noticed that Professor Park, Yu-ha, author of <The Comfort Women of the Empire> was accused by the Eastern Prosecution Office in Seoul.
I hereby express my great consternation and concern over the indictment over Professor Park Yu-ha for “defamation”. The indictment is unjust and improper, and I hope and trust that the prosecutor should withdraw it without delay, or if it is too late, I strongly ask you sentence her ‘Not Guilty’.
I also would like to declare that I am endorsing the statements addressed mainly by Japanese scholars in 26th November 2015. I am with them and Professor Park Yu-ha.

Jan 16, 2017
Noam Chomsky

A Statement against the Indictment of Professor Park Yu-ha

26th November, 2015

We hereby express our great consternation and concern over the indictment by the Eastern Prosecution Office in Seoul of Professor Park Yu-ha, author of Comfort Women of the Empire, for “defamation”. We believe that this book, published also in Japan in November last year, made a remarkable attempt to dismiss one-sided views of the “Comfort Women Issue”, and to search for possibilities of a genuine solution by comprehending the multi-faceted aspects of this complicated issue.
The indictment by the said Prosecution Office predicates that the Korean version of this book includes “false facts”, and lists numerous examples. But we think that this judgment does not understand the author’s intention properly, and is based on presumptions and misunderstandings. Above all, we feel that this book does not harm the honor of the former comfort women: on the contrary, this book is successful in delicately conveying the deep sorrow of these women to Korean and Japanese readers.
Any solution to the “Comfort Women Issue” must be found only through cooperation of the two nations of Japan and Korea that amounts to a mutual understanding regarding the responsibility of the Japanese Empire by reflecting upon the past histories. In this regard, Professor Park Yu-ha has significantly broadened the past arguments by focusing not only on the “disregard of women by imperialism” but also on the “discrimination against them under the colonial rule”.
It is true that the book’s assertion of fraternity of the “Comfort Women” with Japanese soldiers in battlefield and its indication of involvement of the local agents (including Korean ones) over the recruitment of women are debatable both in Korea and Japan. However, this book astutely points out the fundamental responsibility of Japanese Empire in creating these situations through its colonial rule, and it does not support certain arguments in Japan that negate the “Comfort Women Issue” altogether. This book also made an important contribution to the rise of general interest and debate in this issue.
We also entertain grave doubt over the prosecution’s reliance on “Kono Statement” as a source to prove Professor Park’s “errors”, because this book tries a rigorous and appreciative reading of Kono Statement and appeals for solutions based on this very statement.
The Japanese version of this book received a special prize of “Asia-Pacific Award” and “Waseda Journalism Principal Award in Memory of Taizan Ishibashi” this autumn, as it was highly evaluated as a milestone for deepening arguments over the “Comfort Women Issue”.
We have been concerned for some time with this book being the subject of a civil court case for defamation, but we are now further shocked by the indictment in which public authority in the form of the procurator’s office has moved to confine academic freedom and freedom of speech based on a particular view of history. What to certify as facts and how to interpret history are issues that should be left up to academic freedom. Apart from such a work that discriminates a particular individual or incites violence, matters related to speech should be countered through speech, and according to the basic principle of modern democracy, public authority should never encroach into that arena. We firmly believe that only invigorated academism would offer precious opportunities for the formation of healthy public opinion and nourish society at large.
South Korea is one of the rare countries where the people have attained and secured democratization after many years of the autocratic rule during which time academic scholarship and public speech as well as political movements were severely suppressed. We hold deep respect for such strength enhanced in the Korean society. However, it is our great concern that the “freedom of speech and press” and the “academic and artistic freedom” stipulated in the Korean Constitution are now in crisis. We are also worried that this indictment would block any attempt toward solving the “Comfort Women Issue” by unnecessarily provoking popular sentiment of the two nations, when Korea and Japan are on the brink of solving the “Comfort Women Issue” which is now well overdue. We strongly hope for a rise of healthy public opinion in the broad section of Korean society against this indictment. As Japan’s own democracy is in dire jeopardy at the moment, we sincerely wish that civil societies of Korea and Japan cooperate with each other to perpetuate atmosphere of mutual esteem for the respective democracy based on the principle of free speech.
We therefore earnestly call for a ruling by the court that would not embarrass the common sense and conscience of democracy, and for a revitalized debate regarding this issue within the discursive space of the two countries.
All the signatories as named separately

賛同人(성명인 일동)

(計68名五十音順)
浅野豊美(Asano Toyomi, 아사노 토요미)、
蘭信三(Araragi Shinzo, 아라라기 신조)、
石川好(Ishikawa Yoshimi, 이시카와 요시미)、
入江昭(Irie Akira, 이리에 아키라)、
岩崎稔(Iwasaki Minoru, 이와사키 미노루)、
上野千鶴子(Ueno Chizuko, 우에노 치즈코)、
大江健三郎(Oe Kenzaburo, 오에 겐자부로)、
大河原昭夫(Okawara Akio, 오카와라 아키오)、
大沼保昭(Onuma Yasuaki, 오누마 야스아키)、
小倉紀蔵(Ogura Kizo, 오구라 키조)、
小此木政夫(Okonogi Masao, 오코노기 마사오)、
加藤千香子(Kato Chikako, 가토 치카코)、
加納実紀代(Kano Mikiyo, 가노 미키요)、
川村湊(Kawamura Minato, 가와무라 미나토)、
木宮正史(Kimiya Tadashi, 기미야 타다시)、
グレゴリー・クラーク(Gregory Clark, 그레고리 클러크)、
ウィリアム・グライムス(William Grimes, 윌리엄 그라임스)、
栗栖薫子(Kurusu Kaoru, 쿠루수 카오루)、
河野洋平(Kono Yohei, 고노 요헤이)、
アンドルー・ゴードン(Andrew Gordon, 앤드류 고든)、
古城佳子(Kojo Yoshiko, 코죠 요시코)、
小針進(Kohari Susumu, 고하리 스스무)、
小森陽一(Komori Yoichi, 고모리 요이치)、
酒井直樹(Sakai Naoki, 사카이 나오키)、
島田雅彦(Shimada Masahiko, 시마다 마사히코)、
千田有紀(Senda Yuki, 센다 유키)、
添谷芳秀(Soeya Yoshihide, 소에야 요시히데)、
高橋源一郎(Takahashi Genichiro, 다카하시 겐이치로)、
竹内栄美子(Takeuchi Emiko, 다케우치 에미코)、
田中明彦(Tanaka Akihiko, 다나카 아키히코)、
茅野裕城子(Chino Yukiko, 치노 유키코)、
津島佑子(Tsushima Yuko, 쓰시마 유코)、
東郷和彦(Togo Kazuhiko, 도고 가즈히코)、
中川成美(Nakagawa Shigemi, 나카가와 시게미)、
中沢けい(Nakazawa Kei, 나카자와 케이)、
中島岳志(Nakajima Takeshi, 나카지마 다케시)、
成田龍一(Narita Ryuichi, 나리타 류이치)、
西成彦(Nishi Masahiko, 니시 마사히코)、
西川祐子(Nishikawa Yuko, 니시카와 유코)、
トマス・バーガー(Thomas Berger, 토마스 버거)、
波多野澄雄(Hatano Sumio, 하타노 수미오)、
馬場公彦(Baba Kimihiko, 바바 기미히코)、
平井久志(Hirai Hisashi, 히라이 히사시)、
藤井貞和(Fujii Sadakazu, 후지이 사다카즈)、
藤原帰一(Fujiwara Kiichi, 후지와라 키이치)、
星野智幸(Hoshino Tomoyuki, 호시노 도모유키)、
村山富市(Murayama Tomiichi, 무라야마 도미이치)、
マイク・モチズキ(Mike Mochizuki, 마이크 모치즈키)、
本橋哲也(Motohashi Tetsuya, 모토하시 데츠야)、
安尾芳典(Yasuo Yoshinori, 야스오 요시노리)、
山田孝男(Yamada Takao, 야마다 다카오)、
四方田犬彦(Yomota Inuhiko, 요모타 이누히코)、
李相哲(Lee Sangchul, 리상철, Li Sotetsu, 리 소테츠)、
若宮啓文(Wakamiya Yoshibumi, 와카미야 요시부미)

新たな賛同人が加わりました
山室信一 (Yamamuro Shinichi, 야마무로 신이치)、
ダニエル・スナイダー(Daniel Sneider,다니엘 스나이더)、
アンドリュー・ホルバート(Andrew Horvat, 앤드류 호밧)、
ポール・ミッドフォード(Paul Midford, 폴 미드포드)、
ジュリオ・プリエセ(Giulio Pugliese, 줄리오 플리에세)、
尾山令仁(Oyama Reiji, 오야마 레이지)
小林孝吉(Kobayashi Takayoshi,고바야시 다카요시)
鳥羽耕史(Toba Koji,도바 고지 )
川人清(Kawahito Kiyoshi, 가와히토 기요시)
アレクサンダー・ブッフ (Alexander Bukh,알렉산더 부흐)
安倍オースタッド玲子 (Abe Auestad Reiko,아베 오스타드 레이코)
楊大慶(Daqing Yang, 양다칭)
ピーター・ドゥス(Peter Duus, 피터 두스)
菅波英美(Suganami Hidemi, 수가나미 히데미)

and Noam Chomsky

朴裕河氏の起訴に対する抗議声明
박유하 교수 기소에 대한 항의성명

Park Yuha and Takeshi Nakajima talk on ‘Comfort Women’ issue

Park Yuha (Professor of Sejong University; Author of The Empire’s Comfort Women) x Takeshi Nakajima (Editorial Board Member)

The Empire’s Comfort Women, authored by Professor Park Yuha of Sejong University, South Korea, has been at the epicenter of a long-running controversy among scholars in Japan and South Korea. Nine former Korean comfort women filed a libel suit against Professor Park. Last November, Professor Park was indicted without detention.  Fifty-four scholars based in Japan and the United States issued a public protest against this legal action by the South Korean authorities. In the meantime, some scholars reacted against this public protest. Professor Takeshi Nakajima, a member of this journal’s editorial board, was among the fifty-four who voiced their objection to Professor Park’s indictment. He interviewed Professor Park last February during her visit to Japan. What is at the core of the public debate over The Empire’s Comfort Women?

Nakajima: I first became familiar with Professor Park’s work when your 2006 book, ­Towards Reconciliation, came out. I then heard that your subsequent book, The Empire’s Comfort Women, was sparking an acrimonious debate in South Korea. I made a point of reading the book’s Japanese translation as soon as it became available.

I see this book and its analytical framework to be driven by a series of questions formulated by Subaltern Studies. This scholarly framework emerged mainly in India in the 1980s. It interrogates the subjectivities of the oppressed individuals and groups. The Empire’s Comfort Women foregrounds the multifaceted subjectivities of Korean comfort women and lays bare the violence inherent in the “Empire” that condemned these women to these horrendous historical circumstances. Some have charged that the book is an apologia for Japanese imperialism, but nothing can be further from the truth. The book, as I see it, is a piercing indictment of Japanese imperialism.

Park: That’s exactly the way I problematized things. Some critics took issue with the title of the book itself.  What I meant by The Empire’s Comfort Women is that these were the women forcibly mobilized for the empire. Secondarily, the title also refers to the ways in which these women were forced to cooperate with the empire. I’ve been often asked: “which is your more central point?” I think that such a question – or a way of positing such a binary upon which the question is premised – resulted from the fact that the person who asks it remains captivated by a conventional conceptual framework: he or she can not abide the ambivalence and impermanence of comfort women’s positionalities and subjectivities.

Patriotism as a Fallout of Over-adaptation

Nakajima: One of the most important problems you raised in the book is the question as to how to define the positionality of Korean colonial subjects who acted as brokers of the comfort women system. They were complicit in the forcible transport of these women. At the same time, though, they had their own livelihood to worry about. They found it necessary to do what their Japanese colonial masters dictated. On the other hand, some of the comfort women began to hold a sense of pride as handmaidens of the Japanese Imperial Army, condemned as they were to the most hopeless of life circumstances. What you are arguing here is the polar opposite of those Japanese right-wing pundits who argue that these Korean comfort women somehow benefited from their lot. Your critics got this totally wrong: they are falsely accusing you of agreeing with those Japanese right-wingers. Far from it.

I studied anthropology and went into history later. In that process I became aware of the existence of myriad individuals whose stories fell through the cracks between the ideological extremes. This awareness informed my book、Nakamurayano Bosu (Subhas Chandra Bose and the Nakamura Company). Bose sought to use Japanese military might as a way to liberate Asia and India at the same time he was extremely critical of Japanese imperialism.  As such, he can not be defined in the conventional rightist-leftist binary.

The same thing can be said about the so-called Korean collaborationists of Japanese imperialism. For example, Lee Kwang-su did not pander to Japan.  He was a very harsh critic of Japan. In the 1930s, his position began to shift. What changed? Well, the Japanese state articulated the theory of universal subjecthood under Japanese imperial rule. Lee’s rhetorical strategy was to turn this theory on its head to argue that if all subjects were equal under Japanese imperial rule, then Korean should be treated equally as Japanese. His was a shrewd rhetorical acrobat using the Japanese imperial theory for his own end. I believe it’s important to unpack Lee’s complex subjectivity by taking stock of his ideological strategy.

Park: A book entitled The Diary of A Manager of the Japanese Comfort Station was published in South Korean in 2013. This book portrays a Korean manager of a comfort station who internalized the mindset of a Japanese imperial subject. On page 321 of the book, the man’s diary entry for New Year’s Day, 1944, reads: “the majestic power of the emperor should emanate to all directions” and “I prayed for the unending valor of the Japanese Imperial Army.” This man was born in 1905.  As such, he lived through Korea’s colonial period. To me, it’s not surprising for Koreans in this generation to harbor what may ironically be called “patriotism” under the Japanese imperial regime. These people were mobilized under the system of total war mobilization that began in the late 1930s. My intent was to emphasize the complexities of their subjectivities. I also pointed out in my book what was wrong with the thinking and argument of Japanese right-wing pundits.

Not supporting the Right Wing

Nakajima: Japanese right-wingers take your argument about the semi-familial sense of bonding some Korean comfort women shared with Japanese soldiers to mean that these Korean women benefited from their circumstances. Nothing is more brutal than the despair these women must have lived in.

Your book also talks about how Japanese soldiers, torn apart from their own families back home, began  to identify with Korean comfort women as their virtual family. These men lived next to death. They were not allowed to cry. Korean comfort women were the only ones they were free to expose their vulnerabilities to. The Korean women, on their part, tried to embrace these soldiers’ despair and hardship. Some of these soldiers were drafted against their will – just as the Korean comfort women were recruited against theirs. And yet, what these Japanese imperial soldiers did vis-à-vis the Korean comfort women remained within the structure of imperial violence against its victims.

Park:  I believe it is important to remind ourselves that complex and multiple emotions coexisted within an individual Korean comfort woman, and this multiplicity comes from the multiplicity of the experiences she had in terms of time and space. Even within the same location and timeframe, Korean comfort women’s experiences were diverse because their ages and Japanese language proficiencies were diverse.

What I wanted to portray in this book was “people who do not fit comfortably into the vessel of a national story.” Whether heartfelt or superficial, we identify with a national story. In reality, however, there are a whole range of experiences and emotions that can’t be neatly contained within such a national story. Facing that fact, those situated in the center of a national story try to hide it or penalize it.  Needless to say, the question of gender surfaces in that process too.

Nakajima: I think it is an ultimate travesty to interpret your argument as an apologia for the Japanese right-wingers or giving a pass for Japanese imperialism. Many Japanese young men died in kamikaze missions. Their story is centrally controlled by the Japanese right wing. They say these young men sacrificed their lives for the nation and the emperor. However, there were many former kamikaze pilots whose experience didn’t comport with this orthodoxy. Some deserted because they did not want to die. There were many different subjectivities. Bracketing these diverse subjectivities into a single story is tantamount to erasing the diversity and complexity of their experiences. The Left should not make the same mistake of violent erasure.

Park: Only a few people were actively engaged in the problem of comfort women, but the Korean mass media became deeply invested in the question and polarized national opinion about this question. On the surface of it, it may appear that the fault line runs along national boundaries (Japan vs. South Korea), but I think it is actually divided between the Left and the Right. We all tend to form our opinions according to our ideological positions.  As a result, people who seek to think free from such ideological shackles have tended to have only limited room to maneuver. That’s why I wanted to listen to the voices of these unsung people and stake out an alternative space for such historical voices.

What I meant by “Empire” goes beyond nation or ethnicity. It subsumes within itself the problems of subjugation, exclusion and discrimination perpetrated around the categories of gender and class. In other words, the problem of comfort women has been generally defined as a problem regarding Japan as a nation, and in that sense, it was understood as a political problem. In this way of thinking, one misses the problems of economy, the factor that compelled people to move in the first place. Many people migrated within and outside the empire as they internalized the economic aspirations of the state. The conventional framework failed to heed these people.

Who actually reaped economic benefits from exploiting other people? I also wanted to be self-reflective by acknowledging the fact that some Koreans were also complicit in that exploitation. Of course, many of the managers of the comfort stations were Japanese and I did write about them in my book also.

Writing in spite of binary

Nakajima:  Activists supporting the former Korean comfort women are hard put to reconcile their idea of what the victims should be like with your portrayal of the Korean comfort women, some of whom even bonded with Japanese soldiers. On the other hand, your portrayal does not comport with the image of prostitutes, one bandied about by the Japanese Right wingers either. I think that your book tried to get to the core of the structure of violence inherent in the Empire by exposing these multiple fissures emanating from the false binary.

Park: Initially, many of my critics in South Korea were male scholars. Their position was that one should never, ever, foreground things that might end up exonerating Japan. But I wanted to ask and ask again what they were exonerating, suppressing and obscuring.  There is no gainsaying that the Korean people were ruled and victimized by the Japanese and the Japanese state. But just acknowledging that fact erases from view structures of violence not reducible to nation and ethnicity.

Nakajima: I think that’s exactly the question of representation that Subaltern Studies problematized at the tail end of the 1980s and in the 1990s. What many Subaltern scholars, such as Gayatri Spivak, have criticized is the power and violence of attempts to create and represent “the right” Subaltern subjectivity as orthodoxy.

Park: You are right. I was often criticized for “not being an expert” or “not being an activist.” Some held that since I was not the victim myself I had no business proposing reconciliation. This idea of anointing only one “stakeholder” – the idea that dies hard – has ended up excluding parties that do not fit the anointed model. At the same time, this kind of argument has tended to obscure the fact that people who deign to speak for the victims are similarly stakeholders. The violence I see in the situation lies in the fact that these multiple elisions have not been heeded.

Nakajima: I, too, was criticized as a “non-expert” after I signed on to the public protest against your indictment without detention. I consider myself a historian, broadly speaking – one who studies the history of ideas and the history of the Showa period. If we should argue that, in order to be an “expert” in the Korean comfort women question, one must be able to read Korean sources or be scholars specializing in comfort women, then many of us are even barred from participating in the discussion about comfort women. Once you begin suppressing discussion among “non-experts,” it becomes impossible to explore a question from multiple angles.

Subjectivity elided

Nakajima: Your book also highlights former Korean comfort women who felt alienated from the House of Sharing set up by supporters. I think they felt that way because once the orthodoxy about Korean comfort women becomes entrenched, their emotions that don’t quite fit into that mold will be inevitably displaced.

Of course it is important to value the work of those women who criticized from inside the House of Sharing what Japan did to them. It’s not a question of whose position is more valid.  We must acknowledge the diversity of opinions and positions among former comfort women.  At the same time, we must capture the entirety of the historical experiences of former comfort women who have all too often been tossed around in the politics and polemics of the entire problem. Unless we can do that, we can’t even begin to make a first step towards the problem’s resolution.

Park: This former comfort woman was not comfortable with the general direction of the relief movement and the understanding about comfort women. Partly because she was bereft of family, she often gave me a call to chat. She shared with me her predicament, such as, if she fails to criticize Japan, she gets accused of being a Japanophile or a “hypocritic” comfort woman. She also wondered if she took the initiative by forgiving Japan, Japan might respond in kind, whatever that may be. I talked about this woman’s views at a symposium held in South Korea in April 2014 (before I was indicted). At this forum I also talked about former comfort women who expressed a wish to receive Japanese atonement money without going through the Korean supporters’ group. A month and a half later, I was sued.

Nakajima: At the core of the problem is these discords and ambivalence of views. But when it comes to the problem of comfort women, these factors go out the window, unfortunately. You shined a light on this reality and called for an honest public discussion. I believe that what you have problematized is an important question informed by Subaltern Studies.

February 5, 2016  at Osaka

Translated by Sayuri Shimizu

Japanese Original Link 対談片面

Comfort women issue: A message to students in Western society

Comfort women issue: A message to students in Western society

Yuha Park

—-

Among Japan, Korea, China, and other countries in Asia, there exists a big divergence in their understanding of the unfortunate history of the past. Therefore, there exists a deep rooted animosity among them as a consequence.

Between the people of (South) Korea and Japan especially, there exist a big difference in the perception of and the opinion on how to resolve the issue of the “comfort women” that existed during the time of the Asia Pacific War. Underlying the differences of the opinion are the exclusionist nationalism and the conflict between the left and the right.

The issue of the “comfort women” in the 1930s is commonly regarded as a problem created by the Japan of the 1930’s, but such an approach is overly simple because there are many other related issues that cannot be ignored. If the responsibility for an issue is over-simplified, it prevents us from seeing the responsibility of other actors. The consequence of this is that we cannot prevent the violence toward women that continues in other forms. The problem of comfort women should be seen as the problem of the women who were moved in accordance with the desire of the state to expand its power, and mobilised to serve men who were segregated.

What made the migration of women in such a large scale possible was the expansion of imperialism in the modern period when the big powers began to take advantage of the development of transportation. And the women who were mobilised as comfort women were the ones who, due to poverty, could not be protected by the community they belonged to.

Furthermore, there were numerous middle agents who worked to fill the demand created by the desire of the state and men. In other words, there existed private businesses that were benefitting economically by making use of the political and economic desire of the state as well as the sexual desire for domination among men. In addition to the men who visited the comfort stations (as customers), these business men used human body for economic interest. They betrayed Emanuel Kant’s principle that human beings should be treated as ends and not as means.

I could see that the tragic happenings that occurred nearly seventy years ago repeating again to the poor women in Korea today as well as many women in the less affluent countries. Nevertheless, the majority of Korean people continues to hold the view this problem as that of Japanese, thus foreign, men raping our, Korean, women.

However, this problem is more fundamentally that of the women who were sacrificed by the patriarchy as well as that of class exploitation of the lower class. Thus, the problem of Korean comfort women is that of mobilization of poor women in the colonized area. In order to resolve and prevent the problem of comfort women, we need to see the full picture of this kind of structure.

In this sense, the problem of the comfort women is not only that of Japan, but also that of all ex-imperialist states, such as Britain, France, Netherlands, which had exploited local women by making colonies in order to expand the state power. The USA that even today has constructed military bases in many locations around the world, and maintains a setup in which local women serve American soldiers is also implicated in this problem. In other words, the comfort women problem is not simply about what happened due to the war, but an issue of the expansion of state power which includes the presence of military bases before the war.

The comfort women for the Japanese military were originally Japanese women. It was the colonisation that led to the recruitment of the Korean women. Therefore, the relationship between the comfort women and the soldiers in the system of the Empire where the role of the comfort women was to “comfort” the soldiers of the same country, strictly speaking, was not the same as that of the victims of rape in the context of wartime violence in the “conquered” area.

I saw the reason why the issue of the comfort women had not been resolved over 20 years as being due to the lack of clear understanding of this structure. And it was for this reason that I wrote the book, “the Comfort Women of the Empire: the Colonial Domination and the Battle for Memory”. This book was favourably received in both Korea and Japan when it first came out. However, some Koreans and Japanese reacted negatively. (Ironically) those who reacted most negatively were the activists and researcher of the comfort women issue who have worked long toward the resolution of the problem.
To them, my presentation of the problem seemed as dilution of the responsibility of Japan. Under this situation, one of the movement groups to support the comfort women conveyed their distorted interpretation of my book to the still remaining comfort women. They suggested incorrectly that my book defamed the comfort women and sued me for it, demanding a very large amount of compensation.

However, the issue of the comfort women is one in which sexual discrimination is mixed with class discrimination as well as ethnic one. Among these, the focus so far was only on the state responsibility. What I attempted to bring out (in my book) was the responsibility of those actors hidden behind the proper name “Japan”, i.e., the responsibility of the middle agents and the reminder of the responsibility of men who under the patriarchal system pushed the women out as sacrificial lamb and also treated them as means to release male (sexual) desire.

However, this way of seeing the comfort women issue is still not sufficiently understood in Korea. And as a result my book being incorrectly known as criticising the comfort women, I am being criticised nationwide after I was legally accused. Not only Korean nationalism, but also the Cold War framework that solidified after the collapse of the Empire also played a role in shaping the researchers and activists of the comfort women issue.

The reason why this issue was regarded for long as Japan’s problem was that the period for which Japan was engaged in war was long and the area covered was wide, and most of all, Japan had systematised the system of the comfort stations.

Because when the comfort women issue first surfaced, it was known only as being an issue of the “innocent girls forcefully taken”, the main steam researchers and activists just insisted on the forceful nature of the comfort women. However, the obsession with forcefulness or young girl excludes those women who “voluntarily” went to sacrifice themselves in the context of parental persuasion, or the those who were already involved in prostitution before they became comfort women. The effect of this position, by discriminating and excluding those who had the experience of prostitution is to join those who have argued that comfort women were simply prostitutes, thus there is no comfort women problem. However, the responsibility for the terrible experience can be pursued without emphasising the forcefulness of recruitment.

In spite of this, the fact they find my academic approach foreign is the reason also for my hardship. They have reacted negatively to the point that the main agent that did not protect the Korean women was the community that was Korea, also to the fact that someone raised an objection to the (their) mainstream approach to research and activism.

These negative reactions have led to strong personal criticism toward me. Their “academic” criticism moved on to “criminalisation” of my writing activity. At a time when my academic view was regarded as a “crime”, even the academics joined the accusation.

Nevertheless, rather than denigrating the comfort women, my book was written on their side. My book tried to stand on the side of the comfort women by guarding against the instrumentalization of women which continues even today. With the resolve that their honour must be kept, it tried to recreate the voice of the comfort women who had been ignored. However, neither the prosecutor nor the court in Korea was willing to listen to my counter argument.

In 2015, there was a court order to remove certain part of the book. To follow the court order, in the new edition of the book, the designated section removed. But there was an objection to the republication of the book even in the censured form. There was also a ruling of a civil case to pay compensation (to a number of the comfort women) to which I made an appeal. The criminal court case has also been in progress already fifth time.

The power block consisting of the activists and researchers who inherit the Korean nationalist movement blocked the sides of class-based and gender-based discriminations to be seen. For this reason, the extremists from both Korea and Japan stand in confrontation, and even other people from both countries stand in disharmony due to the exposure to partial information from two opposite sides.

Not only does this kind of attitude that buries the fact that the comfort women issue is in reality also very much that of social class and gender sustains the conflict in East Asia. The conflict is also acute enough realistically to lead to a crisis.
Therefore, there is a need for more people to be interested in this issue. I hope to see expression of interest especially from people who are interested in gender and colonialism issues. That is because only this kind of approach will lead the comfort women issue as well as other issue of conflict to harmony and reconciliation – and make the friendship and peace in East Asia possible.

—–

I would like to thank Professor Chakrabati for allowing me this opportunity to offer my message. I hope our conversation continues in another opportunity.
Thank you.

 

  • Original transcript was written and sent to Professor Chakrabati in April 7th, 2016.
  • English translation by Sejin Park, September 24th, 2016

Statement against the Indictment of Professor Yuha Park

Source: http://www.ptkks.net/en/

We hereby express our great consternation and concern over the indictment by the Eastern Prosecution Office in Seoul of Professor Park Yu-ha, author of Comfort Women of the Empire, for “defamation”. We believe that this book, published also in Japan in November last year, made a remarkable attempt to dismiss one-sided views of the “Comfort Women Issue”, and to search for possibilities of a genuine solution by comprehending the multi-faceted aspects of this complicated issue.

The indictment by the said Prosecution Office predicates that the Korean version of this book includes “false facts”, and lists numerous examples. But we think that this judgment does not understand the author’s intention properly, and is based on presumptions and misunderstandings. Above all, we feel that this book does not harm the honor of the former comfort women: on the contrary, this book is successful in delicately conveying the deep sorrow of these women to Korean and Japanese readers.

Any solution to the “Comfort Women Issue” must be found only through cooperation of the two nations of Japan and Korea that amounts to a mutual understanding regarding the responsibility of the Japanese Empire by reflecting upon the past histories. In this regard, Professor Park Yu-ha has significantly broadened the past arguments by focusing not only on the “disregard of women by imperialism” but also on the “discrimination against them under the colonial rule”.

It is true that the book’s assertion of fraternity of the “Comfort Women” with Japanese soldiers in battlefield and its indication of involvement of the local agents (including Korean ones) over the recruitment of women are debatable both in Korea and Japan. However, this book astutely points out the fundamental responsibility of Japanese Empire in creating these situations through its colonial rule, and it does not support certain arguments in Japan that negate the “Comfort Women Issue” altogether. This book also made an important contribution to the rise of general interest and debate in this issue.

We also entertain grave doubt over the prosecution’s reliance on “Kono Statement” as a source to prove Professor Park’s “errors”, because this book tries a rigorous and appreciative reading of Kono Statement and appeals for solutions based on this very statement.

The Japanese version of this book received a special prize of “Asia-Pacific Award” and “Waseda Journalism Principal Award in Memory of Taizan Ishibashi” this autumn, as it was highly evaluated as a milestone for deepening arguments over the “Comfort Women Issue”.

We have been concerned for some time with this book being the subject of a civil court case for defamation, but we are now further shocked by the indictment in which public authority in the form of the procurator’s office has moved to confine academic freedom and freedom of speech based on a particular view of history. What to certify as facts and how to interpret history are issues that should be left up to academic freedom. Apart from such a work that discriminates a particular individual or incites violence, matters related to speech should be countered through speech, and according to the basic principle of modern democracy, public authority should never encroach into that arena. We firmly believe that only invigorated academism would offer precious opportunities for the formation of healthy public opinion and nourish society at large.

South Korea is one of the rare countries where the people have attained and secured democratization after many years of the autocratic rule during which time academic scholarship and public speech as well as political movements were severely suppressed. We hold deep respect for such strength enhanced in the Korean society. However, it is our great concern that the “freedom of speech and press” and the “academic and artistic freedom” stipulated in the Korean Constitution are now in crisis. We are also worried that this indictment would block any attempt toward solving the “Comfort Women Issue” by unnecessarily provoking popular sentiment of the two nations, when Korea and Japan are on the brink of solving the “Comfort Women Issue” which is now well overdue. We strongly hope for a rise of healthy public opinion in the broad section of Korean society against this indictment. As Japan’s own democracy is in dire jeopardy at the moment, we sincerely wish that civil societies of Korea and Japan cooperate with each other to perpetuate atmosphere of mutual esteem for the respective democracy based on the principle of free speech.

We therefore earnestly call for a ruling by the court that would not embarrass the common sense and conscience of democracy, and for a revitalized debate regarding this issue within the discursive space of the two countries.

The following is the list of signers (67 in total) for this statement:

浅野豊美(Asano Toyomi, 아사노 토요미)、

蘭信三(Araragi Shinzo, 아라라기 신조)、

石川好(Ishikawa Yoshimi, 이시카와 요시미)、

入江昭(Irie Akira, 이리에 아키라)、

岩崎稔(Iwasaki Minoru, 이와사키 미노루)、

上野千鶴子(Ueno Chizuko, 우에노 치즈코)、

大江健三郎(Oe Kenzaburo, 오에 겐자부로)、

大河原昭夫(Okawara Akio, 오카와라 아키오)、

大沼保昭(Onuma Yasuaki, 오누마 야스아키)、

小倉紀蔵(Ogura Kizo, 오구라 키조)、

小此木政夫(Okonogi Masao, 오코노기 마사오)、

加藤千香子(Kato Chikako, 가토 치카코)、

加納実紀代(Kano Mikiyo, 가노 미키요)、

川村湊(Kawamura Minato, 가와무라 미나토)、

木宮正史(Kimiya Tadashi, 기미야 타다시)、

グレゴリー・クラーク(Gregory Clark, 그레고리 클러크)、

ウィリアム・グライムス(William Grimes, 윌리엄 그라임스)、

栗栖薫子(Kurusu Kaoru, 쿠루수 카오루)、

河野洋平(Kono Yohei, 고노 요헤이)、

アンドルー・ゴードン(Andrew Gordon, 앤드류 고든)、

古城佳子(Kojo Yoshiko, 코죠 요시코)、

小針進(Kohari Susumu, 고하리 스스무)、

小森陽一(Komori Yoichi, 고모리 요이치)、

酒井直樹(Sakai Naoki, 사카이 나오키)、

島田雅彦(Shimada Masahiko, 시마다 마사히코)、

千田有紀(Senda Yuki, 센다 유키)、

添谷芳秀(Soeya Yoshihide, 소에야 요시히데)、

高橋源一郎(Takahashi Genichiro, 다카하시 겐이치로)、

竹内栄美子(Takeuchi Emiko, 다케우치 에미코)、

田中明彦(Tanaka Akihiko, 다나카 아키히코)、

茅野裕城子(Chino Yukiko, 치노 유키코)、

津島佑子(Tsushima Yuko, 쓰시마 유코)、

東郷和彦(Togo Kazuhiko, 도고 가즈히코)、

中川成美(Nakagawa Shigemi, 나카가와 시게미)、

中沢けい(Nakazawa Kei, 나카자와 케이)、

中島岳志(Nakajima Takeshi, 나카지마 다케시)、

成田龍一(Narita Ryuichi, 나리타 류이치)、

西成彦(Nishi Masahiko, 니시 마사히코)、

西川祐子(Nishikawa Yuko, 니시카와 유코)、

トマス・バーガー(Thomas Berger, 토마스 버거)、

波多野澄雄(Hatano Sumio, 하타노 수미오)、

馬場公彦(Baba Kimihiko, 바바 기미히코)、

平井久志(Hirai Hisashi, 히라이 히사시)、

藤井貞和(Fujii Sadakazu, 후지이 사다카즈)、

藤原帰一(Fujiwara Kiichi, 후지와라 키이치)、

星野智幸(Hoshino Tomoyuki, 호시노 도모유키)、

村山富市(Murayama Tomiichi, 무라야마 도미이치)、

マイク・モチズキ(Mike Mochizuki, 마이크 모치즈키)、

本橋哲也(Motohashi Tetsuya, 모토하시 데츠야)、

安尾芳典(Yasuo Yoshinori, 야스오 요시노리)、

山田孝男(Yamada Takao, 야마다 다카오)、

四方田犬彦(Yomota Inuhiko, 요모타 이누히코)、

李相哲(Lee Sangchul, 리상철, Li Sotetsu, 리 소테츠)、

若宮啓文(Wakamiya Yoshibumi, 와카미야 요시부미)

Additional signers

山室信一 (Yamamuro Shinichi, 야마무로 신이치)、

ダニエル・スナイダー(Daniel Sneider,다니엘 스나이더)、

アンドリュー・ホルバート(Andrew Horvat, 앤드류 호밧)、

ポール・ミッドフォード(Paul Midford, 폴 미드포드)、

ジュリオ・プリエセ(Giulio Pugliese, 줄리오 플리에세)、

尾山令仁(Oyama Reiji, 오야마 레이지)

小林孝吉(Kobayashi Takayoshi,고바야시 다카요시)

鳥羽耕史(Toba Koji,도바 고지 )

川人清(Kawahito Kiyoshi, 가와히토 기요시)

アレクサンダー・ブッフ (Alexander Bukh,알렉산더 부흐)

安倍オースタッド玲子 (Abe Auestad Reiko,아베 오스타드 레이코)

楊大慶(Daqing Yang, 양다칭)

ピーター・ドゥス(Peter Duus, 피터 두스)

Genichiro Takahashi, ‘Comfort women’ denied ownership of their memories

Source: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/column/AJ201412240070

Genichiro Takahashi

Park Yu-ha, a professor at Seoul’s Sejong University, was sued for “defaming” former comfort women when her book, “Comfort women of the empire,” was published in South Korea last year. A Japanese translation was finally released in November.

I was moved–or jolted, to be more accurate–by its sheer impact. I believe that her work will become an unwavering axis–something of a fixed star–in the firmament of all future writings on the subject of wartime comfort women, whether one agrees or disagrees with her.

I also felt her book must be about the loneliest star I have ever come across, if I may continue the astronomical analogy. And as I wondered what had compelled Park to embark on such a lonely mission, I was stunned into silence, unable to fathom the depth of her feelings.

Years of bitter controversy over Korean comfort women have created a deep and seemingly irreparable rift between Japan and South Korea.

On the one hand, there are people who refuse to see any difference between those women and prostitutes. On the other hand, there are people who insist that the women were forcibly taken away for “sexual slavery.”

The two camps have argued acrimoniously over the question of state responsibility.

In her book, Park notes: “The comfort women have recounted their experiences dispassionately for all these years. But the people who listened to them have chosen to hear only what they wanted to hear. On this score, there is basically no difference between the women’s supporters and those who insist there was never such a thing as the ‘comfort women issue.’

“While the comfort women discussed diverse situations, both sides picked out only the parts of their ‘memories’ that matched their own images of the Empire of Japan.”

What Park proceeded to do was to listen closely, with a totally open mind, to what each former comfort woman had to say. And what she heard were stories none of us has ever heard.

* * *

While maintaining that the “responsibility” and “guilt” of sending Korean comfort women to the battlefront lay with the Empire of Japan, Park also severely condemns Korean dealers who actually recruited the women, as well as the Korean “patriarchal system that subjugates the women’s lives”–similar to Japan’s–that condoned the arrangements.

“The Empire of Japan is not the only party that must apologize to the women,” she wrote. “There are also people in South Korea (and North Korea) who must apologize.”

But this fact has remained overlooked. Why?

Sometimes, colonial subjects pledged their love, allegiance and cooperation to the suzerain state more fervently than the people of Japan even if their loyalty did not spring from the depth of their hearts. And that was the sort of “memory” nobody wanted to keep.

For Korean comfort women who were sent to the battlefront as substitutes for their Japanese counterparts, Japanese soldiers were, at times, most reprehensible beings who violated their minds and bodies. At other times, the women could also see them as comrades who were being dehumanized by the war as much as they themselves were.

The true voice of those women who had to live with such conflicted emotions was inconvenient for both Japan and South Korea. Neither nation wanted, nor needed, their true voice to be incorporated into its official “memory.”

Park wrote: “More than anything, ‘sexual slavery’ is an expression that obscures and suppresses all personal experiences and memories other than those of sexual abuse.

“There is no question that the comfort women were victims as a group. But to focus solely on that aspect and ignore their memories other than those as ‘victims’ is tantamount to denying their whole personality.

“This is the same thing as depriving them of ‘ownership’ of their own memories. In a sense, people will keep the women enslaved if they choose what memories they should retain.”

Comfort women, who used to be denied ownership of their bodies and minds, are now denied ownership of their own “memories.” The sorrows of their lives have turned Park’s book into the color of utmost loneliness.

In his book “Nikkan Rekishi Ninshiki Mondai towa Nanika” (Explaining the Japan-South Korea dispute over perceptions of history), political scientist Kan Kimura offers what I consider one sincere response from the Japanese side to the point raised by Park.

Kimura, who took part in a joint history research project of Japanese and South Korean scholars, became exhausted from the dispute over perceptions of history that no researcher on the Korean Peninsula could avoid.

He left Japan for the United States, where he wrote this book “for purposes of my own rehab training,” as he put it.

* * *

Kimura ponders: Why does a bitter and seemingly fruitless dispute continue over perceptions of history? Why does a matter that was a nonissue in the past suddenly emerge as an important issue? And why does such an issue still torment us?

His answer: Because the “past” is never quite finished, and it becomes a contemporary issue for us in the present age when we face it.

But if the “past” is our present issue, how should we face it?

In “The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History,” historian Tessa Morris-Suzuki observes that since our present lives continue to be shaped by oppressive regimes built upon past acts of brutality, this is how our future will also be shaped unless we take action to change the situation.

And she warns that since the prejudice that supported past acts of aggression is still within us, this prejudice will remain firmly entrenched in the hearts of the present generation unless we act proactively to eliminate it.

World War II and Japan’s colonial rule ended a long time ago. But do they really belong only to the distant past?

The answer is no. If the prejudice and bigotry that led Japan to that war are still alive within us today, the “past” is still very much alive.

* * *

Genichiro Takahashi, born in 1951, is a professor of Japanese literature at Meiji Gakuin University.

Yuha Park, How We Should Consider the Comfort Women Issue Based on Discussions between Ikuhiko Hata and Yoshiaki Yoshimi

Yuha Park (Sejong University)

How should we consider the comfort women issue? I would like to discuss this issue, which has caused a great deal of confusion in recent years, first of all, based on the discussions of the two historians regarded as the foremost experts on the comfort women issue.

My discussion in this paper will be based on “Points of Contention in the Comfort Women Issue Considered with the Foremost Experts on the Matter, Mr. Ikuhiko Hata and Mr. Yoshiaki Yoshimi,” broadcast on radio in June 2013. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stated he would like to “defer the judgment to historians.” As seen in the fact that discussions among historians, even between the “foremost experts,” have hardly been able to find common ground, however, the comfort women issue is now in a state where what “historians” think alone can no longer lead us to an agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea, let alone consensus within Japan.

It has become difficult to reach consensus within Japan itself or between Japan and the Republic of Korea on the comfort women issue because it has developed into a political problem after being left unresolved for many years. As a result, many people from both countries have gained fairly detailed information on the issue. This situation has arisen not by discrepancies in information and points of view on comfort women themselves but rather by the fact that the current political positions of various individuals and emotions associated with them have found their way into this issue. Furthermore, there are a great number of people involved in this issue, either directly or indirectly, and most of these people have become indirect parties to the issue. Moreover, because of the length of their involvement, their respective arguments have even taken their own sets of values or political positions. This is the major reason why it is very difficult to achieve a departure from existing ideas or positions.

In considering the comfort women issue, the following matters seem to be most necessary:

Settlement as early as possible;

To that end, it is necessary to understand this issue in terms of the conditions surrounding the existence itself of comfort women first of all, as well as the conditions surrounding movements and conflicts over the past 20 years; and

It is necessary for learned individuals and ordinary citizens, whose involvement in this issue does not affect their livelihood or political positions, to engage with this issue and consider it together with the directly involved parties.

1. Who are Comfort Women?

In the modern era, there were many men who went abroad without their families as a result of developments in modes of transportation, and their own internalization of the desire of states to expand their sphere of influence. The movements of women also increased in order to support such men. In the case of Japan, those women were provided first for foreign servicemen coming to Japan, but from around the same time, they were sent overseas as well. They were called “Karayuki-san” and most of these women came from poor families, sold off by their parents or otherwise sacrificing themselves for their families.

These women also emigrated to Korea for Japanese soldiers stationed there and other Japanese men who relocated there in line with the national policy of encouraging emigration. Before long, the state-regulated prostitution system was introduced on the Korean Peninsula as well, and Korean women came to work there. There had already been women who “comforted” soldiers since the time of the Russo-Japanese War, and they had been called “Joshigun,” or the women’s army, in the sense that they played the role of supporting the military forces.

In other words, the term “comfort women” basically means women who moved to areas that became battlefields, occupied territories and/or colonies as a result of the state’s policy of expanding its political and economic influence. Comfort stations used by merchants and servicemen were in place from early on. Such terms as “comfort stations” and “comfort women” apparently took root in the 1930s, but their functions should be taken as having emerged alongside the imperialism of the modern era, including that of the West.

2. Comfort Women and Korean Comfort Women

In the case of Japan, as comfort women were provided for men who went to overseas locations far away from home for the sake of the state, they were naturally seen as Japanese women. After Japan colonized Korea, however, Korean women as well as Taiwanese women became incorporated into this mechanism. Already in the 1920s, Korean women went to China and Taiwan for the Japanese, and also Koreans who became Japanese, staying abroad. They should be regarded as the predecessor of what later became known as Korean comfort women.

3. Karayuki-san-turned-Joshigun

Among the Karayuki-san, there were some women, who despite being sold to work at prostitution facilities, were able to build their own bases and were in a position to lend money or places for backroom meetings to so-called “soshi,” or brave young men, who left home to work overseas for the state. They came to be called “Joshigun” because of this, and, while still being disdained, they were thus able to raise their status as well. At the same time, these women, for their part, took some pride in indirectly supporting men working for the state and easing their homesickness (needless to say, this also meant that these women were deceived by the imperialistic statements by the state on the fast track to war). Thus the term “comfort women” is underpinned by such mechanisms.

4. Various Types of Comfort Stations

Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that the Japanese military did not come up with the idea of the comfort women system out of the blue when it created comfort stations in the 1930s. Instead, it had simply systematized what had already existed at the time. One difference compared to other countries was that Japan used patriotism as a mechanism. Among prostitution facilities (which included some restaurants and cafes) that were managed from the perspective of good hygiene and such (managed domestically by police), the Japanese military designated those satisfying the necessary criteria as comfort stations to be exclusively used by the military, for use by occupation forces that advanced into Manchukuo and China for the Sino-Japanese War. However, with growing numbers of troops being stationed abroad and for greater convenience, the military decided to incorporate them into a system. The military eventually used “recruiters” to “recruit” comfort women, but recruitment methods were quite varied.

In other words, places now considered to have been comfort stations were not necessarily those newly created by the Japanese military. They included existing facilities established during and after the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and the Russo-Japanese War, and in some cases, the military provided places it acquired to house women who were already working individually. In addition, there were cases where the military treated recruiters as “gunzoku” (or quasi-gunzoku), which were civilian employees of the military, in order to provide them with the conveniences of movement and management.

However, the above is only applicable to comfort stations established by the military alone. Thus, corresponding to the various forms of comfort stations, there also were various types of recruiters. In some cases, recruiters themselves built shabby comfort stations at such locations as small islands to start temporary operations (a form of the dispatching of comfort women). Whatever the case, however, as movements on battlefields required the military’s permission, there is no doubt that the military was basically aware of many such movements and supervised them. However, in many cases, senior officers and others used ordinary restaurants as comfort stations, instead of comfort stations designated by the military.

Other than the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and anti-espionage, the reasons the military established (or designated) comfort stations apparently included the convenience of locating them closer to stationed troops and making them available at lower costs as the number of solders using comfort stations increased. These comfort stations charged what were referred to as public rates.

It is necessary to bear in mind that comfort stations took various forms depending on when and where they were, and did not exist in just a single form.

5. Different Kinds of Comfort Women

Therefore, in the true sense of the term, we cannot use the term “comfort stations” to refer to all facilities designed to satisfy the carnal appetite located in areas where Japan engaged in warfare. For example, prostitution facilities staffed mostly by local women should not be referred to as “comfort women” in the original sense of the term. In other words, women at those facilities merely served as the outlets of sexual desire and cannot be described as “Joshigun” in the sense of supporting servicemen of Japan and easing their homesickness. In a strict sense, women who were provided on battlefields and were forced to work in the form of semi-constant rape and victims of one-time rape on battlefields cannot be called “comfort women.”

Therefore, we should not refer to all the women who served the carnal appetite of Japanese soldiers during the Asia-Pacific war as “comfort women,” and we should limit “comfort women” in the true sense of the term only to Japanese women, and Korean, Taiwanese and Okinawan women who were made to become Japanese.

However, the situation was highly convoluted and confusing, since women at ordinary prostitution facilities were also engaged in sex work for Japanese soldiers in the same way as comfort women and accepted them with advertising signs such as “Patriotic Diner” (these facilities would surely also have been designated by the military).

Nevertheless there were evident differences in the relationship with servicemen between women who were raped once or continuously on battlefields and comfort women, including Japanese women.

As seen above, comfort women encountered different experiences depending on their nationalities, periods of work and locations (either on the front lines or behind battle lines).

Nevertheless, the manner in which the comfort women issue was handled considered all of these women as comfort women, and that was where the main confusion began.

Whichever category these women fell into, however, the foremost premise in discussing the comfort women issue is to recognize that women made to engage in sex work were always the socially weak, that most of them were susceptible to disease and that they found themselves in a miserable plight in which they faced a constant risk of death.

6. Forcible Recruitment

Therefore, circumstances under which these women came to engage in sex work for soldiers naturally were not identical. Some of these women were already there even before the all-out recruitment commenced.

The person who first raised the comfort women issue in the Republic of Korea mistook her personal experience as part of a “teishintai,” or women’s volunteer corps, for that of comfort women. Given that her own experience with “teishintai” entailed fixing her personal seal at her school, she thought the recruitment for the volunteer corps represented coercion. As shown by the fact that the recruitment of teishintai was made at the school level under a national mobilization order, that recruitment covered educated women, while most comfort women received only the low level of education or some without any school education. People in the Republic of Korea came to believe that comfort women were forcibly recruited due, first and foremost, to this misconception in the 1990s, rather than because comfort women lied, as claimed by those in Japan who deny the existence of comfort women.

Looking back to the colonial period, however, there had already been hearsay that “if you go to serve in the teishintai, you would become comfort women.” Comfort women were then described as those who “offer themselves” (volunteer) to “do things for soldiers.” As a matter of fact, comfort women were occasionally told to do things other than sexual consolation, including such tasks as nursing aid and laundry, and as such, the above cannot be brushed aside as a completely-mistaken notion (Korean comfort women were actually made to perform such activities as cleaning soldiers’ graves and laundry).

The percentage of former comfort women who testified that they had been taken by the military is rather small, at least judging from collections of their testimonies. And even in those cases, it is more likely that recruiters acting as civilian employees of the military appeared in military uniforms. In addition, the possibility cannot be entirely excluded that recruiters might have told them that they were going to serve in the teishintai as part of the national mobilization already under way at the time in a bid to make their recruitment work easier. It appears that recruiters were often pairs of Japanese and Korean men.

However, an overwhelming majority of testimonies said they had been deceived into being recruited as comfort women by, for example, being told that they would be taken to factories while they were alone or in a small group of women. In that sense, it should be understood that there was no forcible recruitment in the sense that they were taken by the military, or if any, they were still exceptional cases, or deviant actions by individuals. The author believes that it is wrong to conclude that the military, as an organization, engaged in the deceit or forcible recruitment (through its involvement in the planning and the consistent system of directions).

As for Dutch and Chinese women, the military was directly involved in the grouping and segregation of them for sexual labor, and the military’s actions literally represented forcible recruitment. In these cases, however, those women cannot be referred to as “comfort women” in the sense described above. While Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese women performed the role of supporting and heartening soldiers as women of Imperial Japan, the Japanese military’s actions against Dutch and Chinese women served the purpose of continuous rape of enemy women who were conquered. As all the women were simply categorized as the same kinds of victims, with no regard for the differences in their relationships with the Japanese military, those who denied or affirmed the existence of comfort women could not find common ground for the comprehension of the concepts of “forcible recruitment” and “comfort women,” thus further deepening the confusion surrounding the comfort women issue.

In the broad categorization, there are three types of women among people who are presumed to be comfort women since the comfort women issue emerged: (1) “comfort women” in the original sense of the term (this category should be viewed as members of a kind of national mobilization in a looser sense than the teishintai); (2) women working at privately-run facilities (including those that existed in occupied territories and battlefields from early on) that were designated and managed by the military from the perspective of maintaining good hygiene and so forth; and (3) enemy women captured in battlefields and subjected to continuous rape.

Of these types of women, Dutch and Chinese women were literally “forced” to provide sexual service. In the case of Korea where recruiters in military uniforms (who acted as civilian employees of the military) recruited women, as recruiters deceived them into becoming comfort women by telling them that they were being taken to serve in the teishintai (forcibly, albeit as part of the national mobilization facilitated by the creation of laws, but “voluntary” in form), it is highly likely that women with such experiences perceived them as forcible recruitment. In other words, rather than former comfort women telling lies (though it cannot be asserted definitively that there are absolutely no cases of lying), it is highly likely that recruiters, currently assumed to not exist, had lied.

7. The Japanese Military and Korean Comfort Women

Korean comfort women, in some locations, worked in kimono, given Japanese names. In other words, they were substituting for Japanese women. Comfort women carried different rates, with Japanese women going for the highest rates, followed by Korean women. Korean women, who would surely not have been involved under normal circumstances, were mobilized out of “patriotism” for Japan. In that sense, the presence of Korean comfort women was created by Japan’s colonial occupation, and in that regard, Japan is responsible for its colonial occupation. Furthermore, as Korean women arrived at comfort stations, they were often raped by military officers and army physicians, and during troop movements, Korean women, just because they were Koreans, were easily subjected to rape, in addition to designated sexual labor.

At the same time, when Korean women worked at military comfort stations, assembled for the state, they were structurally positioned as peers in a joint struggle against the enemy. There were cases where superiors clamped down on soldiers’ violence against Korean comfort women or the military intervened to regulate their exploitation by recruiters.

Depending on the area or the period of time, there is no doubt that comfort women underwent the inhumane experiences of having had to comfort an overwhelmingly large number of soldiers. At the same time, there were rules in place to protect comfort women from high-handed actions by soldiers or recruiters. Needless to say, there was no evidence that these rules were strictly observed, and Korean comfort women remained amid overall ethnic discrimination. While the notion that it is possible that love affairs existed between Korean comfort women and Japanese soldiers should not be entirely disregarded, that would not nullify exploitation within the structure that one came from the suzerain state and the other from the colony.

Some Korean comfort women, while traveling with troops on the front lines, underwent the inhumane experiences of being subjected to the insatiable carnal appetite of Japanese soldiers in the line of fire on battlefields and falling victim to gunfire and shelling. In other words, Korean women were put into such plight because of the colonial occupation by Japan, even if they earned some money under contract. Therefore, Japan’s responsibility for Korean comfort women should be accounted for first as its responsibility for the colonial occupation, ahead of its responsibility for the war.

8. Recruiters

While it is true that comfort women were recruited to meet the needs of the military, no testimonies or materials have been found until now to indicate that the Japanese military had officially sanctioned any abductions or lying about recruitment. Furthermore, in most cases, it was Japanese or Korean recruiters that forcibly recruited these women even by lying, coerced them to work even when they were sick, kept their eyes on them to keep them from escaping, or forced them to have abortions.

Some people assert that comfort women earned significant amounts of money, but many of them remained poor because of exploitation by recruiters and could not overcome debt.

Scars that remained on the bodies of former comfort women were frequently caused by recruiters. In many cases, violence against them was perpetrated by the military, but violence was banned officially.

Prof. Yoshimi asserts that comfort women had no freedom to choose where to live or to engage in business. But that was essentially because of restrictions imposed by recruiters and restrictions due to being in battle areas, and should be viewed in the same manner as the lack of freedom of movement for servicemen.

Simply put, criminal offenses related to comfort women, or actions that ran afoul of prevailing law at the time were abductions, kidnapping and human trafficking. It may be possible to view the use of comfort stations as morally problematic sin, but it is legally difficult to treat it as a criminal offense (that contravened prevailing law at the time). Compared with this, cases involving Dutch and Chinese women were clearly criminal offenses, and perpetrators were punished as individuals, not the military as a whole.

9. 200,000 Girls

The figure of 200,000represents the combined number of Japanese and Korean teishintai members recruited under national mobilization. An article of a South Korean newspaper in 1970 reported that the number was broken down into 150,000 Japanese women and 50,000-60,000 Korean women, and this number was later treated as the number of comfort women, also due in part to the misconception described above. In addition, as stated earlier, all of these comfort women did not necessarily work at military comfort stations established by the military.

Among those who became comfort women, there were actually only a small number of young girls, and girls still in their early teens were very few. Servicemen then also viewed such girls as exceptional cases. Many of those who came forward to reveal that they served as comfort women tended to emphasize that they were still young girls, and this may mean that they were actually those girls categorized as exceptional cases. In fact, most women who testified said that other people were older than me. Young girls are made to serve as prostitutes around the world, and in that sense, it may be conceivable that there actually were a lot of young girls who were comfort women. But that should be understood as resulting from the intentions of recruiters, not the intentions of the Japanese military. This is another problem that should be approached from various angles, but the actual average age of comfort women evidenced by documents left was over 20.

10. Returning Home after the War

Comfort women could not return home after Japan’s defeat in the war presumably because many had fallen victim to shelling in battlefields or caught up in suicidal attacks. Comfort women who were in China went through the same ordeals experienced by the so-called evacuees/returnees. Depending on where they were, returning home itself was difficult, and it is presumed that some died or were killed on the way back home. It should be understood that others came home or stayed behind where they were. It goes without saying that the Japanese military that mobilized them is responsible for having left them behind after the defeat. Nonetheless, in many cases, comfort women’s resentment towards being left behind is directed at recruiters, rather than the Japanese military. When comfort women were traveling with troops, they had to consider returning home amid losing battles. As such, the situations they found themselves in were quite varied, and in some cases, the military helped their return home.

11. Atonement and Compensation in the 1990s

The Asian Women’s Fund (AWF), established by Japan in the 1990s for atonement and compensation for those who came forward as former comfort women, was not the result of legislation by the Japanese Diet as demanded by the victims, but something created based on the consensus of the Cabinet ministers of the time. Some members of the Diet made efforts to enact a relevant law, but for former comfort women in the Republic of Korea, no law was enacted because the issue of state-to-state reparations had been settled under the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the existence or non-existence of forcible recruitment was the focal point of discussions then. The Fund was not created by legislation passed by the Japanese Diet, but represented the atonement and compensation based on the consensus of the Cabinet ministers of the Japanese Government. The Fund was criticized as a means of avoiding responsibility by those who called for legislation by the Japanese Diet, but it was in fact a means of taking responsibility by the Japanese Government, which considered state reparations as being out of the question, as individual compensation had been settled under the interstate treaty of 1965. Moreover, there were no grounds for legal responsibility, and instead the Japanese Government created the Fund to take moral responsibility. Initially, the Fund was said to be financed with donations from Japanese people, but medical and welfare subsidies equivalent to \3 million per person were paid out. While not explicitly being called “compensation payments” more than half of these payments delivered to former comfort women actually came from the national coffers. Ultimately, as much as 89% of the project’s expenses were financed by the Government. In that sense, the Fund was not simply a private-sector fund but represented efforts to provide atonement and compensation, made by the Japanese Government and Japanese people in concert.

12. The 1965 Settlement of the Past

The 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea was a treaty that addressed the aftermath of the war, and based on the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952. It was not a treaty on the settlement of past colonial occupation. This explains why the Japan-Republic of Korea treaty contained no words of apology for the colonial occupation. In fact, compensation for requisition was limited to damages after the start of the Sino-Japanese War. However, because Korea was not an opponent in Japan’s war, and rather it fought alongside Japan, this compensation was for former Japanese citizens, like government pensions. The compensation mainly covered the ex-post treatment of savings and other monetary matters in the wake of the abrupt separation of Japan and Korea.

In addition, Japan at the time suggested that the individual right of claim should be left claimable individually. However, the Republic of Korea rejected the suggestion, asserting that the Republic of Korea, as the only state on the Korean Peninsula, should be given said right on behalf of individuals, apparently bearing in mind the presence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). In other words, the “Republic of Korea” asserted that it was the only legitimate country that could claim compensation (Bak-jin Chang), in light of the historical circumstances that it was in the midst of the severe Cold War era.

Initially , the Republic of Korea intended to claim compensation for the damage (human losses, etc.) caused by the colonial occupation. It is not clear why that demand was ultimately dropped, but it might be related to the dispute that is still ongoing—that the colonial occupation was lawful, and the colonization was the result of Korea’s own decision. It is true that at that time, other former empires never apologized for colonial occupation either, perhaps showing the limitations of thinking in those times. The 1965 treaty between Japan and the Republic of Korea in no way represented Japan’s apology for its colonial rule, but it was because the times had not ripened for former suzerain states to think of apologizing for colonial rule amid the Cold War and former colonized countries, caught in the backwash of the Cold War era, also hurried on with the settlement of the past.

13. The 1910 Annexation Treaty

Looking even further back on history, there is an argument that the Japan-Korea annexation treaty of 1910 was forcibly concluded and thus was illegal. Furthermore, if the conclusion of the treaty is construed to be illegal, Japan would naturally be held legally responsible for the colonial occupation. However, even when it was evident that the annexation was led by a small number of people, as long as the annexation came about through legal procedures (at that time) in the form of the treaty, on a practical level it is difficult to argue that it was illegal, though the argument may be ethically correct. The annexation came with the approval of major powers that also had colonies, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The annexation may be regarded as illegal in that it was based solely on their own unilateral law, but as long as there exists a document showing that Korea itself endorsed the annexation, the reality is that Korea, unfortunately, cannot claim that it was illegal.

Nevertheless, the annexation, on which most of Korean people were not consulted nor notified cannot be described as having been truly approved of in that it had not obtained the consent or approval of most Koreans. However, after Korea’s representatives accepted the annexation, it was no longer illegal, however objectionable it was, and this should be understood to be part of the political limitations of the times. If future generations acknowledge that such laws were problematic (Japan’s apology made in the 1990s can already be viewed as an indirect acknowledgment of that fact), it is possible to argue that the annexation was not illegal because it had not violated the law but was morally problematic. In other words, the annexation was illegal in the sense that it was an act that was contrary to already determined rules, but as long as a value judgment was not made vis-à-vis the act (colonial occupation) during those years, it is difficult to determine that it was illegal. However, it is still possible to criticize the colonial occupation even without relying on law.

14. The Issue of Legality

What the Republic of Korea is demanding is reparations by Japan by acknowledging as illegal the military’s involvement in the recruitment of comfort women and the use of comfort stations (many Japanese supporters also argue in favor of this demand). However, as long as prostitution was not regarded as illegal in Japan at the time, it is difficult to determine that the military’s involvement was illegal, even when it was beginning to be internationally regarded as illegal at the time. In those years, even sexual violence was not punishable under law, and for this reason, men repeatedly carried out rape even without a sense of guilt.

However, human trafficking was recognized as illegal even during those years. Thus, the question is whether the Japanese military had given instructions to engage in human trafficking. Though the military appears to have tacitly approved actions that they knew were tantamount to human trafficking, they regulated such actions by rules. In that sense, the colonial occupation, rape or forcible mobilization (servicemen and the teishintai), though unfortunate, were not illegal at the time, and could not be helped, even though they certainly committed the sin of disregarding the positions of other ethnic groups or women. It was for this reason that Japan and the Republic of Korea in 1965 handled the individual right of claim not as war reparations as was the case among Allied countries but simply as the settlement of unresolved issues for former Japanese citizens.

15. Revisiting the Asian Women’s Fund

In that sense, the moral responsibility in the 1990s addressed precisely the atonement and compensation based on that, even if it was not a particularly conscious effort. Former comfort women who first raised the issue were recognized as existing as a result of the colonial occupation and compensation was intended for that. Furthermore, as was discussed above, it is somewhat difficult to call on Japan to take legal responsibility for the colonial occupation.

Italy and the United Kingdom have already offered their apologies for colonial occupation. As for Japan, former Prime Ministers Morihiro Hosokawa and Tomiichi Murayama have done so, too. However, though the comfort women issue was considered in relation to the colonial occupation, that approach disappeared over time, after former comfort women came forward in other countries and the comfort women issue came to be captured as a universal issue affecting all women. However, the comfort women issue in other countries/areas is considered to have been settled, at least tentatively, as they have accepted compensation through the Asian Women’s Fund. Since only Korean comfort women are currently demanding compensation by pointing to the illegal nature of the comfort women issue, it needs to be recaptured as the Republic of Korea issue. Moreover, some appropriate solutions should be considered, while bearing in mind all aspects of the situation anew. The approach to this issue as an issue of women’s human rights by considering it along with the women of the Netherlands, China and other countries does not shed light on the specific circumstance of Korean comfort women.

Some Japanese assert that other countries engaged in similar acts. However, if they were to pursue this line argument, they should call on the Netherlands and the other former colonial powers of the world to reflect on the problems caused by colonial occupation. Only by doing so would it be possible to make the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands address this issue as one of their own, that is, of having mobilized women from their own country and others to satiate the carnal appetite men from their own countries and having had them continuously provide “comfort” to their servicemen and merchants.

16. Sexual Slavery

Korean comfort women were forced to perform the roles of paramilitary personnel. It is an indisputable fact that they faced miserable circumstances, but the key players who coerced them into forced labor were recruiters as well as the military. The slavery of these women in the sense that they had no freedom was first of all the result of the relationship with recruiters, called “masters.” The issue of sexual slavery should be considered from the perspective of the nature of that relationship.

These women were also slaves of the state in the sense that they were indirectly mobilized to meet the needs of the state and even their lives were treated as collateral (from being in battlefields, and becoming sick and overworked). They were no different from military servicemen in the sense that they had no freedom of movement, no freedom to get out of the business and no freedom even to defend their lives.

17. Kono Statement

The 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged that Korean women became comfort women “against their own will,” but did not acknowledge “forcible recruitment.” In other words, the Kono Statement noted that the process of being transferred was against their will and that sexual labor at comfort stations was not of their own choice, thus acknowledging the nature of structural coercion instead of the nature of physical coercion. The statement thus contained the words that accurately acknowledged that the existence of Korean comfort women was the result of Japan’s colonial occupation, even if they appear to have worked as comfort women voluntarily. In other words, the statement did not acknowledge the so-called nature of coercion, as asserted by those seeking a review of the Kono Statement, and since the “involvement of the military authorities of the day” in the establishment and management of comfort stations is a fact, there should be no need to review the Kono Statement.

18. Conflicts over the Settlement

The Fund created by the Japanese Government was viewed as a private-sector fund partly because of the way it was reported in the mass media. However, that recognition was generated primarily because the Japanese Government failed to fully explain its deep involvement in the Fund out of concern that this new compensation might run counter to the 1965 treaty. Nevertheless, while there were people who viewed the Fund as a compelling next-best policy, those people who strongly denounced the Japanese Government as shirking their responsibility and have until now denounced it over the comfort women issue had thought that legislation by the Japanese Diet alone would lead to the reform of Japanese society. As explained earlier, however, the focus on the forcible recruitment and the existence of the 1965 treaty make it difficult to regard the damage concerning comfort women as illegal acts by the state.

However, as a consequence, such assertions have substantially increased the number of people who resent discussions and such assertions over the comfort women issue in Japan over the past 20 years, particularly in the last 10 years. The parties involved should reflect upon the fact that their movement to solve the comfort women issue and build peace in Asia consequently generated conflicts against their intentions. Supporters held an international tribunal to brand the Japanese Emperor as a criminal, but such a movement could not enjoy broad consensus among the Japanese people. Subsequently, hate speech became prevalent in Japan, beginning with anti-Korean sentiment. At the root of these developments was resentment against the comfort women issue.

19. Global Views

From the 2000s onwards, activists adopted the approach of appealing to the international community instead of persuading the Japanese Government. As a result, the Coomaraswamy report and the majority of various other U.N. reports conclude that “as many as 200,000 young girls were forcibly taken to work as sex slaves and most of them were massacred after Japan’s defeat in the war.” Although resolutions adopted by parliaments of European countries and the United States were based on these reports, global denunciations of Japan are not necessarily correct, as seen above.

Dutch women also testified at the United Nations, and the Dutch case surely warranted the term “rape center.” However the situation face by Dutch women was fundamentally different from those of Korean and Japanese comfort women. Dutch women suffered as they resided in Indonesia, which was colonized by the Netherlands, but subsequently occupied by Japan. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for the Netherlands and other European countries and the United States, which had colonized many Asian countries, to denounce Japan alone.

20. Empires and Comfort Women

In the Republic of Korea, Okinawa and other places where the U.S. forces locate their bases, even now there are women who comfort soldiers sent far away from their homes. In other words, as was the case in Japan immediately after the end of the war, in the Republic of Korea during the Korean War as well as thereafter, military forces are continuing to create comfort women even at present. The only differences between them and the comfort women of the Japanese military are whether they were made aware of their role as being for the state and whether it was peacetime (but standing by for war) or wartime.

Those bases were previously established for the war or for the Cold War and continued to maintain their status. Now, it is the United States that is continuing to create comfort women in Japan and in the Republic of Korea. Needless to say, Japan and the Republic of Korea provide them and give tacit approval to the situation.

As states once established empires to expand the sphere of their political and economic influence, certain forces in specific countries seek global hegemony. It is truly ironic that the United States, which is at the core of such forces, continues to issue resolutions denouncing Japan for the comfort women issue.

Liberal forces that were supposed to be fighting for the weak generated conflicts between Japan and the Republic of Korea, apparently unwillingly so, and consequently helped accelerate the militarization and conservative swing of the Republic of Korea. Criticizing Japan in cooperation with North Korea would, in effect, mean playing a part in the continuation of the Cold War mindset.

Therefore, those who affirm the existence of former comfort women must shed this Cold War mindset, while deniers must become aware of the misery face by comfort women by understanding that they were not just prostitutes. Then, both side would surely be able to work towards a settlement of the comfort women issue by finding national consensus within Japan. To that end, it is desirable to first establish a bilateral consultative body at the initiative of the both governments where opposing camps can exchange views. To reach a consensus, it is essential for the consultative body to include former comfort women and third-party experts in addition to lobbying organizations. It is also desirable to set a time limit on discussions (meeting once a month for a period of six months, for example) and allow media access to such discussions for simultaneous reporting in both countries. This author personally believes that based on the results of discussions at this consultative body, the most desirable option is to adopt a Diet Resolution that incorporates the recognition that the existence of comfort women was the result of colonial occupation. Such an outcome would be significant in terms of (1) a fresh start for the efforts of the Asian Women’s Fund in the 1990s; (2) Japan’s critical response to resolutions adopted by European countries and the United States; and (3) redefinition of the self-perception of “postwar Japan” as “post-imperial Japan.”

On the Discussions between Prof. Hata and Prof. Yoshimi

On the views of Prof. Ikuhiko Hata

  1. Hata views comfort women only as prostitutes, passing over the fact that they were coerced to show patriotism for Japan and particularly at comfort stations managed by the Japanese military, they supported soldiers as paramilitary personnel. They faced a miserable plight as prostitutes as well. They earned money and enjoyed their situation “because they worked for the military.” Hata tends to focus only on these aspects when they represented just part of their circumstances. For example, they enjoyed athletic festivals just to muddle through their hard life.
  2. Hata believes that recruiters were all Koreans. In reality, recruiters came in pairs of Japanese and Korean recruiters in many cases.
  3. Hata seeks to blame only Koreans. He argues that former comfort women do not say that they had been sold, but they are saying so in the collections of their testimonies.
  4. Recruiters did not simply work under the urging of the military. Some recruiters were given the status of civilian employees of the military.
  5. Women were checked apparently for the purpose of not allowing them to use such products, but this would mean that there were no problems as long as contracts were in place. However, as there were cases where women thought that they were to help the military apparently without acknowledging it, it cannot be argued that there were no problems as long as contracts were in place.
  6. The movement did develop some political aspects, but that is attributable to only some of the participants. Most of participants in the movement should be considered to be acting simply out of goodwill.

On the views of Prof. Yoshiaki Yoshimi

  1. It is correct to treat structural coercion as forcible recruitment in nature. However, as there are many people who construe that the military authorities have taken women to comfort stations, Yoshimi should give an accurate description of the differences.
  2. Sexual slavery?Recruiters and the state were responsible for restricting the freedom of comfort women. Prostitutes also face slave-like circumstances.
  3. It is highly likely that the world accepted the Republic of Korea’s arguments about the comfort women issue because of ulterior motives on the part of the movement that provided questionable materials, and on the part of European countries and the United States.
  4. The severe livelihood of comfort women was brought about by recruiters. Inflation was not the only problem.
  5. He failed to note the difference related to Dutch women.
  6. There were some purely private-sector recruiters. Not all recruiters were civilian employees of the military. Those who went to the front lines were given the status of civilian employees of the military. While there were various types of comfort stations, Yoshimi only discusses comfort stations managed by the military.
  7. Responsibility. While recruiters were responsible for human trafficking, Yoshimi does not refer to the responsibility of recruiters. It is true that the state did have a part in this. But there should be a distinction between the fact that the military knew about, gave instructions for and assisted it (the author is not entirely sure whether the use of ships alone amounted to assisting in human trafficking) and that the military knew and tacitly approved it or used it without knowing. There must have been differences depending on the periods of time and places. But he places all the blame on the military.
  8. Yoshimi failed to note the self-motivation found in the nature of structural coercion. He argues that comfort women were sex slaves as they were brought to comfort stations as a result of human trafficking, but there were cases outside of that categorization. Above all, the “masters” of comfort women were recruiters.

Both historians only consider the evidence that suits their views, and both seem to have foregone conclusions. As long as that remains the case, even discussions between “historians” cannot probably find common ground.

  • Both tend to emphasize only whether damage has been done or not. But the colony had both aspects.
  • What should be considered is who will provide compensation for the misery of people mobilized by the motivations of the state (empire). Soldiers were part among these people. Comfort women as well. The private sector (permanent settlers and adults) also has no small responsibility for having played a part.
  • The handling of the comfort women issue is thorny because the method of compensation was limited to one form despite the existence of a variety of cases.
  • Comfort women were both prostitutes and innocent girls. Such a contradiction is indeed the contradiction of the colony. Things may have changed somewhat nowadays, but prostitutes were basically a role inflicted on the socially weak, and in that sense, they represent an issue of class and are created by social structure. They could not become the “masters” of their bodies and lives. It is precisely this recognition that should be the significance of considering the comfort women issue.