26 ‘comfort women’ sent to south Pacific isles
The Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul National University’s Human Rights Center said historical documents have been found that prove that Korean girls and women were forced into sexual enslavement on the Chuuk Islands, at the time a home to a major Japanese naval base.
Lee Bok-sun, a Korean survivor who died in 2011, had claimed she was forced to board a ship taking her to the islands but didn’t have any documents proving her account.
Located some 2,422 miles southeast of Korea’s Jeju Island, Chuuk, also known as Truk, is currently part of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Proof unveiled Monday included an article in The New York Times, a log written by the U.S. military and a list of passengers on a ship that sailed from the island back to Japan as the Japanese military cleared its warships out of Chuuk after American forces attacked the base.
The historical documents were provided by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
In a New York Times article headlined “Japanese On Truk Are Not Prisoners” dated March 2, 1946, a passage reads: “Koreans were sent home by the Truk commander, Marine Brig. Gen. Robert Blake of Berkeley, Calif. and with them went 27 Korean comfort girls. The girls, said General Blake, wanted to stay and work for the Americans. They feared the Koreans would throw them overboard for having served Japanese but General Blake packed them off and has not heard whether any were thrown overboard.”
“Comfort women” or “comfort girls” are euphemistic terms for the females forced by Japan’s military to work in front-line brothels - “comfort stations” - during World War II.
According to a log from the U.S. military, 3,483 people out of 14,298 who were shipped back to Japan were Koreans, of whom 190 were soldiers, 3,049 were laborers for the Japanese navy and 244 were civilians.
Among the 368 passengers who took a ship named the Ikino, on Jan. 17, 1946, 249 were Koreans, among them 26 comfort women and three children, said the research team.
The 26 comfort girls were identified by their Japanese names on the boarding roster, which made it difficult for the research team to figure out whether any of them were on the Korean government’s official list of survivors, drawn up decades later when the victims spoke up.
A Seoul government official who was involved in the study said their first goal was tracking down Lee Bok-sun, the survivor who later told the government she was shipped to the island, when they came upon the name Fukujun Hitokawa, who was described to have been from Daegu, Lee’s original birthplace.
The team dug through Lee’s husband’s census registration form and found out that Fukujun Hitokawa matched Lee’s Japanese name.
BY HONG JI-YU, LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]
More in Social Affairs
As life is upended by the pandemic, inequalities deepen in Korean society
Daily cases hit 583 and aren't declining soon
Mastermind of sex abuse ring sentenced to 40 years
DP wants parliamentary probe of prosecutor general
Symposium illuminates Asian countries' responses to pandemic