Ja­pan Can’t Wash “Com­fort Women” Out of Hair

The Diplomatic Insight - - Editor's Note - Dr Ah­mad Rashid Malik

The "com­fort women" is an his­tor­i­cal black scar on the face of Ja­pan and the feud has not been washed out de­spite diplo­matic ef­forts and Ja­pan’s po­lit­i­cal nor­mal­iza­tion with South Korea since 1965. The is­sue stays alive as a bit­ter mem­ory and hurts the feel­ings of Ja­pan’s num­ber of neigh­bors. The is­sue of­ten erupts and spoils good­will cre­ated be­tween Ja­pan and its east­ern neigh­bors. Ja­pan’s relations with many East Asian na­tions of­ten bogged down on his­tor­i­cal is­sues – some­thing a very pe­cu­liar si­t­u­a­tion than other re­gions. There al­ways re­mains an un­der­cur­rent of past in­ci­dents that are buried long ago through diplo­matic and po­lit­i­cal ef­forts but un-sur­faced time and again. The re­cy­cle continues. This also un­der­mines the level of eco­nomic achieve­ments made be­tween Ja­pan and sev­eral of East Asian coun­tries. Relations have never re­mained tran­quil be­tween Ja­pan and the Repub­lic South Korea. They have deep-rooted his­tor­i­cal dif­fer­ences. Ja­pan was an im­pe­rial power col­o­niz­ing Korea be­tween the two coun­tries. Re­cently, harsh diplo­matic words were ex­changed and ac­tions were taken by both sides. Ja­pan has its own logic of deal­ing a num­ber of his­tor­i­cal, ter­ri­to­rial, and diplo­matic is­sues with South Korea. The for­mer has its own way of deal­ing with Ja­pan.

The Com­fort Women

Dur­ing wars pow­er­ful na­tions of­ten com­mit­ted many crimes. Th­ese in­cluded sex­ual crimes. On the fore­front of th­ese sex­ual crimes was im­pe­rial Ja­pan. The “com­fort women” is the lat­est heated feud erupted in the South Korean cap­i­tal of Seoul. Bronze stat­ues of com­fort women have been erected in Seoul in De­cem­ber 2011 and Bu­san in De­cem­ber 2016 in front of the Ja­panese diplo­matic mis­sions, re­mind­ing Ja­panese about sex­ual atroc­i­ties passed onto the un­for­tu­nate slave Korean women, kept by Ja­panese im­pe­rial army dur­ing wars to ap­pease Ja­panese sol­diers. Th­ese women are known as “ianfu” (in Ja­panese mean­ing ‘com­fort women’), ‘’hal­moni’’, (in Korean) ‘’grand­moth­ers’’ a eu­phemism for in­no­cent women pro­vided forced sex to Ja­panese sol­diers and worked in broth­els in Ja­pan and other places dur­ing wars for Ja­panese army. The com­fort women brought in from Korean Penin­sula as it was not di­vided then and was un­der Ja­pan’s con­trol. There­fore, women from North Korea were also sys­tem­at­i­cally mo­lested by force by Ja­panese sol­diers. This pro­vides a com­mon ground to arch ri­vals, the two Koreas, to stand up for the same cause against Ja­pan to­gether. The is­sue is a point of di­vide be­tween South Korea and Ja­pan but it could The com­fort women also brought in from China, the Philip­pines, In­done­sia, Malaysia and else­where in Ja­panese oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries and all to­gether they ranged up to 410,000. It is es­ti­mated that half of those com­fort women the num­ber was ex­ag­ger­ated. Many of com­fort women died of forced abor­tions, sex­ual dis­eases, phys­i­cal beat­ings, and tor­tures in army camps. in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized the brothel system of com­fort women at large com­fort women were a gift for their na­tional ser­vice. This at­tracted more young Ja­panese to join the army. Com­fort women were not pros­ti­tutes be­cause they did not re­ceive any money for the sex ser­vice they of­fered but kept as slave worse than caged an­i­mals. Com­fort women were sent to other im­pe­rial sol­diers. The cen­turies old dig­nity of Asian women was mo­lested and slurred by im­pe­rial Ja­panese forces. The full con­tents of the is­sue was un­sur­faced in 1987 but Ja­pan con­tin­u­ously de­nied all such claims for long. The is­sue was brought to light by re­searchers and Ja­pan ad­mit­ted that erupted in the 1990s in South Korea. Then Ja­pan of­fered an apol­ogy in 1993 but the is­sue did not re­solve. Ja­pan, how­ever, ar­gued that the San Fran­cisco Treaty of 1951 solved all such is­sues but the gov­ern­ments in South Korea, China, and the Philip­pines asked for the set­tle­ment of the is­sue.

Chi­nese and Malayan girls forcibly taken from Pe­nang by the Ja­panese to work as ‘com­fort girls’ for the troops. Cour­tesy: Photo by Lemon A E (Sergeant), No 9 Army Film & Pho­to­graphic Unit, Wikipedia Com­mons.

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