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Avatar of GI KoreaBy on July 14th, 2012 at 3:59 am

Should the “Comfort Women” Be Called Enforced Sex Slaves?

» by in: Japan

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 Ad

1944 Comfort Woman Recruitment Ad

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

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

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.

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  • Teadrinker
    4:10 am on July 14th, 2012 1

    “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.”

    Ah, so you’d be okay if your parents sold you to a pimp who’d rent your ass to 30 or 40 guys per day?

  • Glans
    4:26 am on July 14th, 2012 2

    Comfort women who were enforced sex slaves should be called enforced sex slaves; comfort women who were not enforced sex slaves should not be called enforced sex slaves.

  • Bill
    4:36 am on July 14th, 2012 3

    After my time in Korea in the 70′s, I’ve always found these articles and protests quite funny. In the 70′s, the rural villagers would quite often sell their daughters to a mama-san for a few thousand dollars, and for the most part, never have anything to do with the girl again. The head of the family would even go to their ‘city hall’ and have the daughter’s name removed from their family records like she never existed. I did meet one girl though (she wound up being my yobo for about 7 months), whose parents still acknowledged her, and she’d head down the street and have dinner with them once a week.

  • Sonagi
    5:02 am on July 14th, 2012 4

    Comfort women who were forced to into the the trade could be called forced sex slaves or simply sex slaves since the term is generally understood to i ply coercion or compulsion. “Enforced” modifies words like “regulation”, “law”, “code”, and “limit”. People are forced, not enforced.

  • Gerry Bevers
    6:07 am on July 14th, 2012 5

    If only 33 “comfort women” have been confirmed, then how did Mr. Ji come to his conclusion that 20% of the total number of comfort women were forcibly conscripted into becoming “sex slaves”? I assume he extrapolated from the testimonies of the the 33 confirmed comfort women, which would mean that only 6.6 of them have claimed to have been forcibly conscripted.

    Even if all 33 of the women are saying what they believe to be true, then that still seems like a small sample from which to extrapolate, especially when one considers that the women had been bombarded with more than fifty years of anti-Japanese propaganda before choosing to speak up in a very anti-Japanese environment.

    By the way, if South Korea chooses to redefine “comfort woman” to mean “enforced sex slave,” then that would mean that South Korea had 261,089 “enforced sex slaves” servicing UN troops in Korea in 1959.

    October 19, 1959 “Donga Ilbo” Article

  • Gerry Bevers
    6:37 am on July 14th, 2012 6

    Sonagi wrote:

    Comfort women who were forced to into the the trade could be called forced sex slaves or simply sex slaves since the term is generally understood to i ply coercion or compulsion. “Enforced” modifies words like “regulation”, “law”, “code”, and “limit”. People are forced, not enforced.

    We are getting this information about “enforced sex slaves” from a Korean source, so what I think happened was that “conscripted sex slaves” was translated into Korean and then retranslated back into English to get the mistranslated “Enforced Sex Slaves.”

  • tbonetylr
    8:16 am on July 14th, 2012 7

    If Hillary really said and suggested it don’t worry, Koreans don’t usually use or do what is suggested by others especially when it comes to choosing English words and phrases. They know English well, “comfort women” will stand. Who is the happy smiling guy in the picture?

  • Matt
    11:36 am on July 14th, 2012 8

    @Tbone-I would be interested in knowing the background on this picture too. My first thoughts were that it was during the war, but his uniform looks to fresh for that. I wonder if they wore uniforms that fresh behind the lines, like down south after the lines stabilized? The girl on the left has a bandaged elbow. Maybe the number at the corner could be a date scratched in in military format (DDMMYY), but January in these clothes? And to be honest, it was kinda like he thought, “Let me find the first group of people digging through the garbage for food and take a picture with them. Oh, and let me make sure one of them is pregnant, probably with another joe’s baby and include her!”

  • 2 ID Doc
    12:53 pm on July 14th, 2012 9

    I think the number is just a serial or reference number used for archive purposes, I have seen that in other Signal Corps photos from the 50s &60s

  • Kingkitty
    1:57 pm on July 14th, 2012 10

    Liberals trying to rename stuff again

  • Matt
    2:20 pm on July 14th, 2012 11

    @ 2ID Doc-from the 50s and 60s? Probably is a rear area photograph during the war then…

  • john james
    4:55 pm on July 14th, 2012 12

    will the Philippine Juicy girls that work in Korea be referred to as Sex Slaves as well??

  • Tom
    5:55 pm on July 14th, 2012 13

    Yes they are forced to have unwanted sex with GI’s.

  • Dragonfly
    6:50 pm on July 14th, 2012 14

    I think the photo tells the story far better than words can.

  • Hanne Andersen
    9:31 pm on July 14th, 2012 15

    This sex slavery has gone on forever. The League of Nations was aware of it in the 20s the LON had a Committee set up specifically for the trafficking of women and children in Asia. I believe the reasons it was brought to the LON’s attention was due to the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the fact that these emancipated women were calling attention to these violations against women and children. The LON which was the precursor to the UN chose to ignore it until recently mainly because the issue could no longer be buried.

  • Leon LaPorte
    12:24 am on July 15th, 2012 16

    15. A lot older than the 20th century. It is condoned and celebrated by the big three Mediterranean Death Cults.

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

  • Simon
    3:17 pm on July 15th, 2012 17

    “the rest were likely prostitutes or women sold to the Japanese by their families or Korean brokers..”

    Wikipedia: “Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work.”

    Anyway, it’s quite cynical to focus on the mode of recruitment when the conditions they faced at the comfort stations were arguably the same for everybody.

  • Denny
    3:56 pm on July 15th, 2012 18

    Actually, most Koreans and Japanese get along fine. It’s the extreme nationalists on both sides who hate each other.

  • come on!
    1:48 pm on July 19th, 2012 19

    oh please ,they weren’t force we all Korean women are all whores and there fathers pimp them our.
    saying they were force is just a way of hiding the truth.

  • Joon
    12:45 am on July 28th, 2012 20

    Japan must do what is right. Sincere apology, and sending money to the victims of this disgusting crime. They should even change the fake history they teach in Japanese schools, return all historical artifacts from Korea and china, and pay them for their past colonialism because many resources have been stolen. There should also be a national holiday to remember the people that had to suffer in the hands of the Japanese criminals. If Japan does all this, i guarantee you there will be peace. But if Japan stays stubborn and refuse to acknowledge and do something about this. I believe they will regret it later on. When there neighbors become more powerful than them. THIS IS JAPANS’S LAST CHANCE. I HOPE THEY MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION!


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