Testimony details wartime atrocities

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Testimony details wartime atrocities

A Korean man who worked for the Imperial Japanese Army as a civilian soldier during World War II testified in a short interview clip about how Korean women had been forced to serve as sexual slaves at the military units at which he served.

On Monday, the Association for the Pacific War Victims, a civilian organization, released a short clip of a longer interview filmed in the early 1990s with the late Song Bok-seob, who narrowly got through trial at a post-war military tribunal regarding his involvement with the Japanese Army.

“There was no place around Singapore and Sumatra that didn’t have ‘comfort women,’” Song said in the video, employing the euphemistic term commonly used to describe the thousands of women and girls, mostly Korean, who were forced into military brothels by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

The comfort women in Palembang, a city in Sumatra, western Indonesia, Song continued, were divided into two military brothels.

According to the association, Song wanted to avoid forceful conscription in the early 1940s and joined the Japanese Army as a civilian soldier, serving as a prison guard at an Indonesian unit. After Japan’s defeat, Song was arrested in Feb. 1946 by Allied Forces, and tried in a British military tribunal as a class BC war criminal in July the same year.

He was initially sentenced to death but later able to obtain a pardon with the help of an English lieutenant-colonel whom Song previously guarded.

There were about 20 civilian soldiers at that time, and only Song and one other man managed to survive.

“At that time, my life was not a human’s life,” he said in the clip, adding that the Japanese government “needs to compensate me tenfold because my life was on the line even more so than the others.”

He eventually returned to his hometown in South Jeolla after his release.

In 1992, Song released to local media a list of 61 Korean women forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese Army in the Sumatra region.

The video footage was released by the association to mark the 22nd anniversary of the landmark statement made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on Aug. 4, 1993, that recognized that the comfort women were “recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion” and that, at the time, administrative and military personnel “directly took part in the recruitment.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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