Any imbalance in power makes physical and sexual assault more probable. This is particularly true in the widespread incidences of rape during wartime.
An estimated one hundred thousand to four hundred thousand female sex slaves were forced to deliver sexual services to Japanese soldiers, both before and during World War II. They have been variously called "comfort women," "military sex slaves," "MSS," "military comfort women," and -- in Japanese -- "jugun ianfu." This program was approved by the Imperial Conference, which was composed of the emperor, representatives from the armed forces and the main Cabinet ministers. The conference was formed after Japan invaded Manchuria in 1937.
A book reviewer for Amazon.com stated:
In terms of the actual numbers of rapes, the Amazon.com reviewer is probably correct. This atrocity by the Japanese government probably represents the largest organized mass rape in recorded history. Rapes probably numbered in excess of ten million. However, in terms of the numbers of women raped, there was at least one other wartime event which involved more women: the rape of German, Polish and even Russian women by Russian soldiers during the final months of World War II in Europe. Hopefully, the new permanent International Criminal Court will give future women victims an opportunity to initiate lawsuits against their attackers and obtain justice.
Many comfort women died without being repatriated. "They were simply discarded when they got too sick to be of any use. During the last months of WWII, most Comfort Women were murdered or left to die by retreating Japanese troops." 1 Most of the survivors are now probably approaching -- or have reached -- 80 years of age. They will probably all die without hearing an official apology or receiving compensation for their ordeal, from the Government of Japan.
About the "comfort women:"
The first "comfort houses" were established approximately 1932-MAR during the battle of Shanghai. Following the second Sino-Japanese war of 1937, these houses were installed generally in occupied lands. Approximately 80 to 90% of the "comfort women" came from Korea which was occupied by the Japanese military at the time. Many of the rest were Chinese. 3 Some other Asian and Dutch women from countries that Japan had invaded were also enslaved . There were rumors about this form of slavery after the war. It was not until 1991 that a South Korean woman, Grandma Kim Hak Soon, became the first person to speak publicly about the existence of comfort women. It has since became public knowledge as other victim survivors have come forward and as groups have been founded to demand justice for these women.
One source suggests that the Japanese government organized the comfort stations for a number of reasons:
1990: Response by the Japanese Government:
In 1990, amid rumors of sexual slavery by the Armed Forces before and during World War II, a Japanese official spoke at a session of the Japanese Diet. He denied any governmental involvement with the recruitment of comfort women. This triggered the founding of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan in 1990-NOV. The Council sent an open letter to Kaifu Toshiki, the Prime Minister of Japan. They demanded that the government take six actions:
In 1991-APR, the Japanese Government responded that there was no evidence of any forced draft of Korean women. Thus they would initiate no admission of responsibility, apologies, disclosure, memorial, compensation and educational effort. In 1991-AUG, the first of many comfort woman, went public with her story.
In 1992-JAN, Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a Japanese history professor, went public with documents that he had obtained from the Library of the National Institute for Defense. This forced a government investigation. In its 1992-JUL report "Results of Investigation into the Question of 'Military Comfort Women' Originating from the Korean Peninsula," the Japanese Government finally admitted that a wide-spread wartime organization of comfort stations existed. Finally, in a supplementary report issued in 1993-AUG, "The Japanese government admitted deception, coercion and official involvement in the recruitment of comfort women..." 5
Filmmaker and activist Dai Sil Kim Gibson commented: "Japan is ultimately responsible for redressing the crimes it has committed. Japan will not have discharged fully its obligations under international law until it admits its legal liability, pays official compensation and prosecutes the offenders. Japan has taken some steps to apologize but none accompanied by an official acknowledgement that what it did to these women were crimes against humanity, war crimes." 6
As of 2001-DEC, the Japanese Government has not given a full apology to these women, nor has it offered compensation to the victims. They have taken one minor step: they arranged with a private charitable organization to pay limited amounts of money to the survivors. The fund expires at the end of 2007-MAR. 11 In 2000-OCT, the Democratic Party, the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party of Japan jointly sponsored a bill in the Japanese Diet to support the comfort women. It died in 2000-DEC.
The policy of the Japanese government appears to be to refuse to recognize their responsibility for these crimes, and to stonewall all requests for justice. As of 2002, most of the comfort women are now in their 70's or early 80's. We suspect that the Japanese government hopes that when their victims die, memories of the atrocity will dissipate.
Involvement by Western governments:
The Netherlands prosecuted some of the soldiers who had captured 35 Dutch women during World War II when the Japanese Army overran Dutch colonies in Asia. Those responsible were sentenced to prison. 4
The Korean Government ignored the sex-slavery issue in 1965 when it negotiated a treaty with Japan which settled other grievances due to war damage and colonialism.
Shortly after the war, the U.S. Government appears to have had knowledge of various Japanese war atrocities. They were aware that the Unit 731 biological warfare lab conducted experiments on human beings and "against entire populations and was responsible for anywhere from 3,000 to 200,000 deaths." 7 The unit's commanders were given amnesty in return for access to their research records. They also had knowledge of the "rape of Nanjing" in 1937, and the comfort women issue. But they chose to largely ignore the war crimes. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), (a.k.a. the Tokyo Tribunal) of 1946 primarily concerned itself with the charge of waging wars of aggression. Gross human rights violations were largely ignored. 6 In their defense, it is important to note that human rights in 1946 did not have the high profile that they do today.
1997-1998: 105th Congress resolution:
In 1997, Rep. William O. Lipinski (IL) submitted a concurrent resolution (H. CON. RES. 126) which expressed "the sense of Congress concerning the war crimes committed by the Japanese military during World War II." It described how "the Government of Japan deliberately ignored and flagrantly violated the Geneva and Hague Conventions and committed atrocious crimes against humanity." Included brief descriptions of the:
The resolution asked that the Government of Japan:
The resolution was initially co-sponsored by eight Democrats and seven Republicans. 8 This eventually grew to at least 39 sponsors. It was backed by many Chinese communities in the U.S., and by many organizations, including the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans.
Rep. Lipinski stated:
According to the Sun Tzu Organization:
In 1998, the resolution was blocked because the U.S. State Department objected to the reparation clause. The resolution has since died.
2000-DEC: International war crimes tribunal
The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Military Sexual Slavery was an unofficial war crimes tribunal that was organized and convened by a Japanese-based non-governmental organization (NGO), the Violence Against Women in War Network. Also participating were people of six other countries from which women had been enslaved: China, Indonesia, North Korea, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan. It was held in Tokyo, on 2000-DEC-7 to 12. A distinguished international team of prosecutors was present, including:
Chief Judge Gabrielle Kirk MacDonald, an American who had served as President of the Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal, spoke for herself and three other judges. She denounced the late Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal. Ms. MacDonald said, "Hirohito knew or should have known about the establishment of the system of comfort stations, but he took no action to respond."
Facts revealed at a 2001-NOV conference in Los Angeles, CA:
A conference on "Japanese Crimes Against Humanity: Sexual Slavery and
Forced Labor" was held in Los Angeles, CA, in late 2001-NOV. Japanese
researchers delivered papers which claimed that the Japanese military, the rest
of the government, and Japanese industry were all involved in the decision to provide sex slaves
for the country's soldiers. 5
2007: Japanese prime minister denies sexual slavery happened:
On 2007-MAR-02, Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said that the "comfort women" were not coerced into becoming sexual slaves. He said:
Lee Yong-soo, 78, was about 15 years of age when she was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers from South Korea to work in a brothel in Taiwan. She said:
Mr Abe's comment negates an apology by the government's chief spokesman, Yohei Kono for the women's suffering in 1993. Mr Abe and about 120 MPs from Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party wants the 1993 apology toned down.
John Negroponte, the US deputy secretary of state who was visiting Tokyo at the time of Mr. Abe's statement said: "Our view is that what happened during the war was deplorable." 11
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