Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comfort Woman Documentary "63 Years On"

In 2008 the documentary "63 Years On" was made with interviews of five women who had been used by the Japanese forces as 위안부 or "comfort women". One questions the male-centered term "comfort woman" as the term can connote no comfort whatsoever to the women who were repeatedly raped for months or years as they were brutalized in Japanese operated brothels aimed at keeping the men from 'raping and pillaging' in the areas they occupied and also in an attempt to control venereal diseases that the men would be exposed to if raping all across the countrysides.

The documentary centers around the interviews of 5 women who were forced into sex slavery: 1 Korean from Cheju-do, 2 Filipinas, 1 Chinese, and 1 Dutch. These five women are representative voices of women from 13 countries who were used in the more than 1000 comfort Japanese operated comfort stations spread out in Japanese occupied territories.

Not one of the thousands upon thousands of "comfort women" spoke out about her sex slavery experience in public unti l991 for societies were male dominated in many countries, women's virginity was to be maintained at all times and to lose one's virginity was to incur blame, especially among the Confucian countries like Korea and Taiwan from which the majority of "comfort women" had been taken as these countries were colonized by Japan at the time.

Figures suggest that 200,000 women from 13 countries were victims of the comfort stations. That number can never be corroborated as many women died of starvation, of rape, of venereal diseases, at the emotions of the men who came to rape them, and of suicide.

After the war, Japan was tried for war crimes with focus on compensation to the Allied Nations. The comfort woman issue was intentionally avoided during the trials, and as was pointed out in the documentary, only men were in the court system and only men had a voice and so women were denied compensation or even a voice in the trials of the men who had damaged them for life. The "comfort women" were forced to live on as prisoners, bound by their wounds, and unable to integrate back into society because of loss of home, family or social acceptance due to being "experienced" women. Confucianism, as a patriarchal system touting strict rules on women's bodies, denied their reintegration back into society, so if the "comfort women's" family knew of their past and were still accepting, the women could never speak to anyone regarding their shameful past; it must remain forever hidden for public or extended family shame would result.

In 1991 Kim Hak Sun became the first former "comfort woman" to speak out. Until that time due to shame no woman had made a public complaint in the 50 years since being taken as a sex slave. After the Korean woman spoke out, Jan H. (the Dutch woman interviewed in the documentary) became the first European woman to speak out on the issue. She spoke out because as she said, "That woman needed support and she needed support from the international community." Jan correctly felt that without westerners acknowledging that the comfort woman issue also involved westerners and was not limited to victims in the Far East, the international communities would more or less ignore the seriousness of the historical period of systematic rape. By going public on a topic that she too had suppressed since the war, Jan H. was able to support Kim Hak Sun and to rally the Western interest on the issue.

Japan denies any claim concerning the comfort stations that thrived throughout occupied Japanese territories and states there are no proven records. [There are but Japan makes excuses or remains silent when asked about them.] Their attitude is to 'blame the victim'. In 1998 the McDonald Report by the UN was filed, and alas, world recognition was achieved. On July 30, 2007 the US urged the Japanese to apologize. The result was denial.

However, Shizo Abe, former politician apologized to President George W. Bush in a formal meeting with Pres. Bush sitting on the platform with him. Pres. Bush nodded his acceptance. [The audience exploded in laughter at the idiocy of (1) why would a politican apologize to an American on a Japanese military problem concerning 13 countries, loudest of which has been S. Korea and which the US was not involved in, and (2) why would a president calmly accept the apology as if indeed it were his right to accept and not the 200,000 women who lost their lives during the brutalities or have lived with emotional war wounds since?!?!] Such an apology is steeped in political rewards and reeks of insincerity. A sincere apology would be to the women prinicipally of the Far East and not a male head of state from the US. A sincere apology would be mentioned in history books and students' textbooks and would involve compensation, and not be focused on political ingratiations and the possible reaping of further political and economic accolades.

Former "Comfort Women" final comments

Of the approximate 200,000 women taken as "comfort women" [I don't know the approximations of S. Korean numbers], within S. Korea 243 have registered since 1991 with the government. At present, statistics state there are approximately 65 living ... that number is rapidy changing as the average age of the halmonis, the popular preferred term now, is 86; and with failing health and old age, their numbers are sadly declining ... and without that cathartic apology they so badly crave.

The numbers of registered living former "comfort women" are:
ages 77 - 79 ............ 4
ages 80 - 84 ............ 23
ages 85 - 89 ............ 30
ages 90+ ................ 9

The purpose of this documentary is to further get the word out about un-tried and un-repented for war crimes perpetrated by the Japanese. It is only by the raising of many voices will an apology be forced from the Japanese. The women are old, sickly and carry their burdens of shame even now, and so they demand a public apology and compensation. [See 1000 Demonstrations on Wednesday, December 14, for the full demands made by the former sex slaves.]

Without a true apology concerning the war that finished 63 years ago [from 2008 when the documentary was made], the war will just continue for these victims.

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