- 3. WAS THERE NO FORCED RECRUITMENT?
One of the Korean comfort women speaking at an international hearing in Tokyo in 1992Remarks that deny the forced recruitment by the Japanese military have been made by many influential, conservative political leaders in Japan. When discussions began in the United States House of Representatives in March 2007 on House Resolution 121, which demanded Tokyo’s formal unequivocal apology to the comfort women and pressed the Japanese government to take responsibility, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet made statements which reflect the current Abe administration’s historical view.
A Japanese right-wing group ran an advertisement in a major American newspaper denying that comfort women were forced to serve during World War II (The Washington Post, June 14, 2007).—“There is no evidence to back up (the assertion) that there was coercion as initially defined” in the role of “the Japanese military or government” in recruiting comfort women.
—There were apparent cases of coercion by private recruiters for the military, but “it was not as though military police broke into people’s homes and took them (women) away like kidnappers,” and “testimonies to the effect that there had been a hunt for comfort women are complete fabrications.”
—The Japanese government refused to issue an apology to former comfort women in response to the passing of House Resolution 121 by the United States House of Representatives.
Exposed to a storm of criticism at home and abroad, Prime Minister Abe extended an apology “as Prime Minister” to the former comfort women, declaring that he stood by the Kono Statement of 1993, which acknowledged the official involvement of the Japanese Imperial Army as well as coerced recruitment. The apology, however, was eviscerated even before receiving comment. Hakubun Shimomura, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary and Prime Minister Abe’s closest aide, said, “I believe some parents may have sold their daughters. But that does not mean the Japanese army was involved.” Prime Minister Abe himself did not retract his denial of coerced recruitment, despite his endorsement of the Kono Statement.
Such backtracking by Japanese political leaders in their remarks on coerced recruitment explains why Japan has been unable to gain the trust of neighboring countries in its sincerity regarding the comfort women system and other war crimes. Its double standard is now being criticized in the United States, as well. The Washington Post, in its editorial “Shinzo Abe’s Double Talk,” published on March 24, 2007, pointed out that if Japan seeks international support in the kidnapping cases of its citizens by North Korea.
Professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi, of Chuo University, in Japan, unveiled documents proving the Japanese military was directly involved in recruiting comfort women for Japanese soldiers during World War II (Asahi Shimbun , January 11, 1992).
Dead bodies of Japanese soldiers and two women assumed to be comfort women in Yunnan, Chinait should straightforwardly accept responsibility and apologize for its past crime of the abduction, rape, and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of women during World War II.
The Japanese government’s fixation on denying coerced recruitment, though resonant with only a small number of people, seems to obscure the big picture of the comfort women issue: that the Japanese military and government were involved in not only recruiting and transporting women, but also in establishing and operating the brothels where the women were forced to live in servitude, deprived of freedom and dignity. Although the Japanese military’s abuses are an established fact supported by disclosures from official records and testimonies in various countries, and despite the numerous recommendations for Japanese action by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the fifty-five Comfort Women resolutions passed by national and local legislatures in several nations, including local assemblies in Japan, the Japanese central government has been very reluctant to accept the demands of the victims and the recommendations of international society.
A Japanese military document related to the recruitment of comfort women which was found by Professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi
- Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the results of the study concerning “comfort women”
August 4, 1993
The government of Japan has been reviewing the issue of the wartime comfort women since
I wish to announce the findings of this study.
“As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women.
Comfort stations were operated in response to the requests of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.”
Documents from the Taiwanese Development Company, many of which are connected with the Japanese military comfort women system.
- The testimony by Kim Bok-dong conveys well the tragedy of a 15-year-old girl, who was falsely told she would be working at a factory that makes military uniforms, but was instead taken to comfort stations
I was born on May 1, 1926, in Yangsan, Gyeongnam Province, the fourth among six daughters. By 1941, all of my elder sisters had been married off for fear that otherwise the Japanese might take them away. I was considered too young to be a target at the age of 15, so I stayed behind. One day, the heads of our village came to our house, along with a Japanese man in yellowish clothes. They demanded that one of us girls be sent to a military uniform factory to serve our country since there were no sons in the family. That was how I was taken away.
Upon arriving at Guangdong, we boarded a military truck that drove us to a place that looked like a clinic. There, I struggled with all my might not to be put on a wooden examination board, but an army surgeon forced my clothes off and examined my lower body. After the examination, we were taken to a corridor with about 30 rooms in total. We were each assigned to a room tagged with a number and the comfort woman’s name underneath. We could not leave because the Japanese man and the Korean man who took us there were on guard outside our rooms. That night, the surgeon who examined us came into my room. I was so terrified that I ran to the back of the room, but he chased
after me and hit me awfully hard across the face. After being beaten up for a while, I couldn’t even feel my cheeks—it was impossible not to do what he wanted. Normally, I had to (sexually) serve about 15 men a day, but on weekends, the number was beyond belief. I think it was more than 50.
One morning, soldiers came in a truck and told us to pack our stuff and get on it. After we travelled for a while, first on that truck, then on a ilitary cargo ship, we arrived in Hong Kong. We stayed in Hong Kong for about three months and then were on the move again, first to Singapore, then Indonesia a few months later, then Malaysia and finally back to Indonesia. In Singapore, we were sometimes sent to military camps deep in the mountains. About ten comfort women would be dispatched at a time, surrounded by soldiers. Each camp would transform a tent into a temporary comfort station partitioned with plywood boards to accommodate three to four at a time. The last place we went was back to Singapore. Korea regained its independence while we were there, though it was five years before I could take a ferry to Busan and get back home to Yangsan.
—From Korean Comfort Women Drafted by the Japanese Military, vol. 2 (1997)