On September 21, 2017, I was invited to appear on Korean television in the U.S. in order to explain why Himawari JAPAN and others in the Japanese community oppose the comfort woman monument being considered for placement in Fort Lee, NJ. I declined to appear on TV but promised to explain my position in writing. However, the television producers never replied to me as they promised. So, I am posting my answers on our blog page.
The reason I declined the invitation to appear on Korean television is that I personally received a threatening letter from a Korean man saying he “wants to rain punches on me.” I filed a report with the police, so the incident is on record and is being investigated. This is another clear indication that the motivation behind the monument is not harmony but racial hatred. Below, the television producers will find the reasons we are opposing the comfort woman monument that has been proposed for Fort Lee. I ask that, if the television producers decide to use any portion of this letter, they use it in its entirety and not just a portion of it.
Many of us in the Japanese community oppose the comfort woman monument proposed by Fort Lee High School Korean students for the following reasons.
Allegedly, the proposed monument will contain no words targeting any specific race or nationality. However, the Korean woman attending the meeting at the council on September 7th, who was assumed to be the mother of the high school student who proposed the monument, said, “Many women across Asia-Pacific suffered and the dark history of Japan can never change.” She also spoke about the Korean women being sex slaves. This clearly indicates that the motivation to erect this monument stems from strong anti-Japan sentiment. Therefore, there is little doubt that this monument is aimed against the Japanese. We do not want a monument of hatred in our local community.
We noticed that the girl in the proposed poem was 13 years old and raped by many soldiers. If this is a true story it would have been a serious war crime. Under the Japanese Army comfort woman system, there were strict rules to prohibit the recruitment of women under 17 years old. It is highly likely that the girl in question was deceived by a Korean pimp and forced to work in an unlicensed private brothel. Comfort women were recruited mostly by Korean pimps.
The comfort woman system during WWII was officially adopted by the South Korean Government, and was maintained by the South Korean government throughout the Korean War and the Vietnam War to serve both Korean and American soldiers. A group of former Korean comfort women who served American soldiers during the 1960s and 1970s sued the South Korean government a few years ago. Their case is still in court.
There is also an inquiry being raised by an NGO in the UK stating that South Korean troops massacred Vietnamese villagers and raped numerous Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War, leaving behind tens of thousands of children of mixed race called Lai Dai Han (라이따이한). The South Korean government has never offered a formal apology to Vietnam for its brutal war crimes.
As Professor Lee Young-hoon of Seoul National University points out, Japan’s comfort woman system was a licensed prostitution system for the exclusive use of the military forces. Parents of comfort women were paid a large sum as an advance payment, and their daughters paid off these debts over a contractual period. Once the comfort woman had paid off the debt, her contract was complete and she could go home. The system itself was legal at the time. Prof. Lee also states that it was not uncommon for daughters who refused to sign up with the Korean pimps to be forcibly taken away by those pimps. It then became a case of illegal human trafficking. In such cases, it is likely that the illegally-trafficked girls were forced to work in an unlicensed private brothel just like the 13-year-old girl in the student’s poem.
As Prof. Lee and other Korean scholars also state, it is not true that the Japanese army kidnapped women off the streets or took them out of normal houses. Women from Korean rural villages were often recruited by Korean pimps. Japan should be held liable if they had not completely banned these Korean pimps’ illegal activities. Please see Prof. Lee’s lectures below.
The harsh reality is that North Korea is taking advantage of the comfort woman issue in order to drive a wedge between Japan and South Korea. We believe these innocent Korean students are not aware of this political manipulation.
We should be more concentrated on rescuing girls being trafficked for the sex industry in today’s society than on arguing over historical matters. Many Korean women, at this very moment, are suffering due to sex trafficking all over the world.
We have deep sympathy for all the women who had to work in military prostitution systems, whether this work was voluntary or forced. Our point is that we have to commemorate women of all nationalities in all wars indiscriminately. It is not beneficial to society to commemorate only one type of incident as a violation of women’s human rights while overlooking others. This is a universal issue. In the same spirit of solidarity, all memorials to be erected on public land should be unanimously agreed upon by the community. Whatever we do in the local community must always be geared towards reconciliation and harmony, not division and hatred.
President, Himawari JAPAN
South Korea’s Vietnam