Twisting facts about ‘comfort women’

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Twisting facts about ‘comfort women’

Yoichi Shimada, a council member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and two others met with Mindy Kotler, director of Asia Policy Point, Larry Niksch, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Dennis Halpin, a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) earlier this month, where they were presented with a booklet titled “The Comfort Women Issue” by Japanese rightists. It defines the “comfort women” - a term used to euphemistically refer to sexual slaves mobilized by Japan for use in its Imperial Army before and during World War II - as “women who were in the position of having to sell sex to soldiers even though it was not their intention.”

While the booklet portrayed the sexual slavery as being conducted against the women’s will, describing it as “to sell sex” slyly defines their enslavement as prostitution. Also, it argues that “the cause for their recruitment was not coercion by government authorities but their poverty and the intervention of private recruiters,” which rebuts the forcible mobilization of these women and holds them responsible.

It has been revealed that ultra-conservative private Japanese organizations also distributed the promotional booklet that describes the wartime sex slavery as prostitution to think tanks in Washington, D.C.

Halpin was furious as he told me about the booklet. The Japanese are attempting to convince the United States and the international community that the comfort women were not sex slaves of imperial Japan. He added that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had defined comfort women as wartime sex slaves.

The booklet also claims that the 1996 report on comfort women, a special investigation by the UN Human Rights Commission into the violence they had suffered, was based on false allegations, as Japanese recruiter Seiji Yoshida’s testimony had been “proven to be untrue.” The report is based on evidence and testimonies by comfort women, including a girl taken by Japanese guards at thirteen years of age and another victim who thought she was going to work at a munitions factory. The booklet devalues the testimonies of former sex slaves, as “no effort was made to authenticate their testimony or question contradictory points.”

Despite the work of Japanese far-rightists, it is generally acknowledged that their claims are not convincing, as Washington approaches wartime sex slavery as a human rights violation. It seems they don’t understand that false claims cannot cover up their shameful history.

*The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 30, Page 33


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