That is currently what the Korean government is thinking about doing after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supposedly said that all State Department reports on the issue must use the term “enforced sex slave” instead of comfort women:
South Korea intends to consider using the term “sex slaves” to describe women who were forced to serve in Japanese military brothels in World War II, Seoul’s top diplomat said Friday.
South Korean victims have long been euphemistically called “comfort woman.”
South Korea is “willing to consider” changing the wording to sex slaves, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said in a parliamentary session.
He said South Korea can switch the wording through consultations with the victims, noting the current terminology was coined in the past by taking into account the victims’ opinions.
His comment came days after South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had requested the use of the term “enforced sex slaves,” not just “comfort women,” in her department.
Clinton’s department has neither confirmed nor denied the report. [Korea Herald]
In my opinion the term “comfort women” is a more accurate term because not all the comfort women were enforced sex slaves. Before the Korean nationalists and apologists go bonkers in the comments section let me prove my point. Actually I will let this Korean academic prove my point for me:
1944 Comfort Woman Recruitment AdThe controversial military commentator Ji Man-won has come under fire again after saying that claims by some women to have been drafted into sexual slavery as “comfort women” by the Japanese Army were fraudulent.
Ji said on his website on Wednesday and Thursday that only 33 women had been confirmed former “comfort women,” or Chongshindae, by Shim Mi-ja, a comfort woman whose painful past was acknowledged by the Japanese Supreme Court. Ji said none of the 33 took part in a protest former comfort women stage every Wednesday in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. He said Japan concluded that one ostensible comfort woman who appeared frequently on TV was a fraud and refused to pay her compensation. Ji claimed no more than 20 percent of all comfort women were forcefully conscripted by Japan, while the rest were ordinary prostitutes trying to escape from poverty. [Chosun Ilbo]
Using Ji’s analysis that only 20% of the comfort women were actually forcefully conscripted into becoming sex slaves this still means anywhere from 20,000 – 40,000 women were scripted if based on the total usually thrown around of 150,000 – 200,000 were comfort women. The bottom line is that tens of thousands were actually conscripted into into enforced prostitution which is still a huge number. The rest were likely prostitutes or women sold to the Japanese by their families or Korean brokers which is something a lot of people don’t want to talk about. This may even explain why one of the leaders of the comfort women I wrote about three years ago continuously changed her story of how she became a comfort woman.
If people really want to read scholarly work on the comfort women issue and not the emotional, nationalistic views on the subject that is often heard I recommend reading Sarah Soh’s book, The Comfort Women. Here is a synopsis of the book:
In an era marked by atrocities perpetrated on a grand scale, the tragedy of the so-called comfort women—mostly Korean women forced into prostitution by the Japanese army—endures as one of the darkest events of World War II. These women have usually been labeled victims of a war crime, a simplistic view that makes it easy to pin blame on the policies of imperial Japan and therefore easier to consign the episode to a war-torn past. In this revelatory study, C. Sarah Soh provocatively disputes this master narrative.
Soh reveals that the forces of Japanese colonialism and Korean patriarchy together shaped the fate of Korean comfort women—a double bind made strikingly apparent in the cases of women cast into sexual slavery after fleeing abuse at home. Other victims were press-ganged into prostitution, sometimes with the help of Korean procurers. Drawing on historical research and interviews with survivors, Soh tells the stories of these women from girlhood through their subjugation and beyond to their efforts to overcome the traumas of their past. Finally, Soh examines the array of factors— from South Korean nationalist politics to the aims of the international women’s human rights movement—that have contributed to the incomplete view of the tragedy that still dominates today.
With this all said I still recommend like I did three years ago that the Japanese Prime Minister should give a large public speech apologizing for the enforced sexual slavery of tens of thousands of women. During this speech he should announce that to atone for Japan’s past sins that the government will become a leading advocate for women enforced into sexual slavery, particularly the North Korean women that are modern day comfort women in China. This would in turn bring attention to these women forced into prostitution in China and make it difficult for Korean politicians who like to use this issue as election red meat to continue to criticize Japan for enforced prostitution that happened 60 years ago while they do nothing to address the sexual slavery of Korean women happening in China right now.
However, it is likely nothing is going get done because the Japanese government does want to upset their own political opportunists on the Japanese far right who think Japan did nothing wrong. It is pretty to easy to understand why the Korean public would have concerns about signing security agreements with the Japanese when an issue like this one cannot be resolved.