First filmed ev­i­dence of ‘com­fort women’ found in US ar­chives

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chi­nadai­

Newly un­cov­ered footage of a group of “com­fort women” pro­vides filmed ev­i­dence of the Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Army’s sex­ual en­slave­ment of women from Asian coun­tries dur­ing the World War II era.

The black-and-white footage shot in 1944 by a US Army pri­vate in Yun­nan prov­ince shows the women stand­ing out­side a brick house. They were bare­foot and looked ner­vous.

Af­ter a two-year search through US ar­chives, re­searchers from Seoul Univer­sity un­cov­ered the footage at the US Na­tional Ar­chives and Records Administration. The women were filmed af­ter they were lib­er­ated by Chi­nese and United States al­lied forces as the troops re­claimed Song­shan, in Yun­nan, from the Ja­panese.

The Ja­panese mil­i­tary kept an es­ti­mated 200,000 women as sex slaves be­fore and dur­ing World War II.

The re­searchers iden­ti­fied the women as Korean by match­ing their clothes and fa­cial ap­pear­ance with ex­ist­ing his­tor­i­cal pho­tos — a set of pho­tos taken by a pri­vate in the US Army Sig­nal Corps’ 164th Pho­to­graphic Unit and re­dis­cov­ered in 2000.

“The film clearly shows the fear and anx­i­ety on the women’s faces and body move­ments. As a wo­man, I can clearly iden­tify with these women as they stood bare­foot, so help­less and scared,” said Lil­lian Sing, co-chair of the San Fran­cisco-based Com­fort Women Jus­tice Coali­tion.

Call­ing the footage “the most pow­er­ful and per­sua­sive ev­i­dence”, Sing, a re­tired Su­pe­rior Court judge in San Fran­cisco, said, “In a court of law, this film is con­sid­ered the best ev­i­dence and a smok­ing gun show­ing what hap­pened in 1944.”

Be­fore the film clip sur­faced, the only visual im­ages had been still pho­to­graphs and ac­counts from sur­vivors.

“This is vivid, mov­ing,

proac­tive, and al­most alive film, and what it showed can­not be de­nied,” Sing said.

The dis­cov­ery of the footage is sig­nif­i­cant as it re­futes con­vinc­ingly Ja­pan’s claim that there is no ev­i­dence of “com­fort women”, said Peipei Qiu, pro­fes­sor of Chi­nese and Ja­panese at Vas­sar Col­lege and au­thor of the award­win­ning book Chi­nese Com­fort Women: Tes­ti­monies from Im­pe­rial Ja­pan’s Sex Slaves.

“This footage tied in with wartime records. The area of Teng­chong, Song­shan and Longling in Yun­nan prov­ince was an im­por­tant fortress on the vi­tal wartime sup­ply line in China,” said Qiu. Her book also records this his­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to the West Yun­nan NGO Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion for the Un­re­solved Is­sues of the Anti-Ja­panese War, the Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Army oc­cu­pied Longling county in 1942, and within two weeks set up a mil­i­tary com­fort sta­tion there.

Fight­ing among the sol­diers took place fre­quently for the op­por­tu­nity to use the sta­tion, so the Ja­panese Army trans­ported about 100 “com­fort women” from Tai­wan and set up two more com­fort sta­tions at a tem­ple and a church, said Qiu.

The Ja­panese sol­ders also raped the cap­tured lo­cal women and then de­tained them, set­ting up more com­fort sta­tions. Be­sides lo­cal women, lo­cal peo­ple also saw Ja­panese and Korean women con­fined in the com­fort sta­tions.

“What hap­pened to the ‘com­fort women’ in this sta­tion when the Ja­panese forces with­drew re­mains un­known, although there have been re­ports that, in nearby La­meng town­ship and Teng­chong county, Ja­panese troops forced Korean ‘com­fort women’ to take mer­curic chlo­ride, while they shot and killed Chi­nese com­fort women,” Qiu said. Mer­curic chlo­ride is a poi­sonous sub­stance found in some an­ti­sep­tics and bat­ter­ies.

“We have only 22 ‘com­fort women’ alive in China and 37 alive in South Korea. Jus­tice can­not be de­layed any longer,” Sing said.

We have only 22 ‘com­fort women’ alive in China and 37 alive in South Korea.” Lil­lian Sing, co-chair, Com­fort Women Jus­tice Coali­tion


Footage from 1944 shows “com­fort women” in Song­shan, Yun­nan prov­ince, af­ter its lib­er­a­tion from Ja­panese troops.

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