While the issue of comfort women has always been around, it made it to the limelight in the 90s. A Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a Japanese historian, publication coupled with a report by the UN aggravated the issue.
In his publication, Yoshimi Yoshiaki stated that he had uncovered documents which linked Japan to the comfort ladies ‘business’ back in the 1930s and 1940s. He also claimed that Japan was kidnapping a lot of women and forcing them to work as sex slaves.
Most of these were Korean women and were murdered later after the war. The damning allegations followed the apologetic press statements from the Japanese government which gave the media a juicy story line.
South Korea took this revelation by storm and made gains on their anti-Japan campaign. However, the more they pushed them, the more the issue seemed to lose weight. The issue failure was due to these two main reasons.
Firstly, it was a little difficult to substantiate these claims. Apart from few cases in which the long arm of the law dealt with the perpetrators, these allegations could not prove the significant number of 200,000 Korean comfort women predicaments.
In fact, much of the comfort women testimonies which even today’s sympathizers claim can be attributed directly or indirectly to Yoshida Seiji’s fiction Watashi no senso hanzai (‘My War Crimes’) of 1982.Secondly, the more the issue is examined then, the worse countries such as South Korea appear.
The comfort women stories have always made headlines in the columns. From American Civil War to the ancient Greeks. German researcher Magnus Hirschfeld during his premiere study on the inseparability of sex and war discovered that combatant governments widely arranged brothels for their soldiers.
However, during World War II, troops were often surrounded by hostile locals. For this reason, American troops, having the largest brothel system run by any military, resulted in having their comfort station in Honolulu along Hotel Street. Japanese field commanders often barred animosity towards the comfort ladies to curb leaks to the enemy.
To curb animosity towards troops, reduce rape and venereal diseases, senior Japanese officials formed their comfort stations or Iansho. Women recruitment for these happened via intermediaries who often had experience selling and buying young women.
Venereal diseases such as gonorrhea and syphilis were among the reasons commanders opted to provide their troops with women for sex. The diseases had gotten to the point that they could ground troops from going to the battlefield like was the case with U.S Gen. Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers.
She brought in ladies for her troops from India until when Gen. Joseph Stilwell chipped in. Even though ordered against it, GIs often wandered to Kunming’s notorious district where the infection was thought to be at 100%. The deed angered Gen Claire hence the shipping of the ladies.
Peculiarly, the South Korean comfort women still existed long after the war was over. Even though the war ended in 1945, the then South Korea president Park Chung-hee assented an order to clean up the troop towns where the ladies serviced U.S troops.
The aim of all these was to keep the US in South Korea and the American dollar flowing into the country’s economy. The Korean comfort women still face discrimination today while being stuck in the cycle of sex work.
South Korea too is culpable for war crimes. Bringing up the history of comfort women stories during wartime is potentially catastrophic.
They were cruel to Allied POWs during World War II and are also guilty of their troops raping and butchering harmless Vietnamese peasant ladies in different places in 1966 and 1968. Besides, the San legacy of Lai Dai Han still hangs on, the numerous illegitimate children born and abandoned during the Vietnamese War.
In a move that can anger sympathizers, the US has a significant number of comfort women statues. Similarly, many can be located in South Korea and notably in Busan right in front of the Japanese embassy. Furthermore, another statue was put up in Sydney in 2016 and Manila in 2017.
It is worth noting that all these are important American allies in Asia and if anything goes wrong then China is the one that will reap the most. The issue is being used by China to engineer a decline in relations between Asia and the US and lower Japan’s reputation worldwide.
For this reason, the recent deal for the two states by Japan’s Shinzo Abe and his South Korean counterpart President Park Geun-hye should be welcomed. In the deal, Japan is to pay ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) to help victims while South Korea scales down the rhetoric.