Much Of What You May Think You Know About Korean ‘Comfort Women’ Is Wrong
The comfort women issue exploded in 1992 when Japanese historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki announced the discovery of documents linking the Japanese government to the wartime brothel network in the 1930s and ‘40s. Japan was accused of abducting hundreds of thousands of women as sex slaves, and then of massacring them in droves once the Fifteen-Year War in Asia had been all but lost. The main victims were said to be Koreans. Japanese politicians made endless apologies, and the anti-establishment Japanese press had a field day. Even the United Nations got involved, releasing the infamous Coomaraswamy Report on the comfort women issue in 1996.
For South Korea, where anti-Japanism is a perennial centerpiece of statecraft, the comfort women issue would seem to be a diplomatic slam dunk. And yet, the more South Korea presses the topic, the more it loses ground.
There are two main reasons for this.
First, the key comfort women claims are not true. Apart from rare war crimes (wherein offenders were later tried and punished), there was no systematized “forced abduction.” There were nowhere near “200,000 comfort women”. Many of the comfort women were not Korean. Much of this fantasy flowed from the pen of a communist named Yoshida Seiji, whose 1982 work of fiction, Watashi no senso hanzai (“My war crimes”), was treated as fact by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Today’s comfort women partisans continue to recycle Yoshida’s points, even if they do not cite him by name. Indeed, even the Coomaraswamy Report is essentially a rehashing of Yoshida’s book.
The second reason is that the closer one examines the comfort women issue, the worse other countries (including South Korea) begin to look.
From the ancient Greeks to the American Civil War to Bordels Mobile de Campagne, prostitutes have always followed the …read more
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