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The role of Comfort Women in actual South Korea’s antagonism toward Japan

Par   •  1 Novembre 2018  •  3 628 Mots (15 Pages)  •  258 Vues

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(C. Sarah Soh (2008) The Comfort Women Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan, The University of Chicago Press.1)

Changes in the women’s place in society

It is important to recall that during the colonization, Korea went under a capitalistic industrialization, thus the status of the women in the society changed a lot. Korea was a patriarchal society based on Confucianism in which women had little to no place outside their house. They had to obey to their father and brothers, after they get married they had to obey their husband and husband’s parents. Sadly, they were often victim of domestic violence. During the colonization, many Korean man had to leave their house to work in the Japanese army or in factories, Korean women were left alone and were finally given more opportunities to gain their autonomy. The emergence of what C. Sarah Soh called “working class new women” (C. Sarah Soh (2008) The Comfort Women Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan, page 13) started to emerge among the Korean girls which could be one of the reason why some of them wanted to be independent from their family and earn their own money. Owners of “comfort stations” took advantage of this new wave of Korean women looking for independence and it can explain why many women willingly worked as prostitutes.

Education

These aspirations of Korean women to get their autonomy were probably also nourished by the new education system that Japan developed in Korea.

During the Joseon dynasty, the percentage of illiteracy was extremely high among Korean men and women. Only the upper-class boys called Yangban had access to school were most of the subjects were about Chinese classics and books were written in Chinese letters, thus inaccessible to the poor un-educated farmers who never learned how to read Chinese. Girls were forced to stay inside the house to learn how to be become a good wife and did not have

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access to education either. With the opening of the Japanese-managed schools and the introduction of a new education system, more young Korean boys and girls could finally go to school and thus gained the access to more rewarding jobs outside the house.

Living conditions in the Comfort Stations

Even though some Korean women “freely” (because the majority didn’t know what was awaiting them) decided to work in brothels, they underwent terrible living and working conditions that were later described by “sexual slavery” by writers and medias. According to their testimonies they used to work from early morning to late night with no break even during their menstruations.

“Usually, ten to fifteen soldiers came each day. If the soldiers gave money to me, I gave it to the owners in exchange for condoms and tissue. […] When I refused to allow a soldier to go twice, I was sometimes beaten.” (Testimony of Hah Sang Suk in Testimonies of former „Comfort Women“ from Korea, page 2 https://www.koreaverband.de/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/biographies_KoreanComfortWomen_english.pdf)

Because of the poor living conditions and the lack of medicine many women got infections, caught tuberculosis, STDs or even got pregnant because some soldiers didn’t want to use condoms even if they officially had to. Some even committed suicide because of the awful treatments they received from the Japanese soldiers. If indeed some women freely decided to work in the comfort stations, they surely didn’t expect such horrible working conditions and for that the Japanese government have a part of responsibility that they did not recognize.

The end of the war and the end of Comfort Stations

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After the Japanese army was beaten by the Allies, some women could escape the comfort stations and were rescued by the U.S soldiers. Others were abandoned along with the injured Japanese soldiers. After the end of the Pacific War on 15th of August 1945, the Comfort Stations were completely abandoned and prostitutes were afraid to go back to their home country because they felt humiliated and feared rejection as in the patriarchal societies of Asia, having been raped is a profound disgrace. The victims remained silent as for the authorities, who preferred to act as if nothing had happened. A silence that was kept intact for many years even after the war which only increased the rancor and grief of the Comfort Women.

II- Current controversies about comfort women

After the war: who cares about it?

As I said after the Second World War, Korea did not raise any protests about Comfort Women. During the Tokyo War Trial in 1946, Japan was judged for its deeds before and during the WW2, but the Comfort Women question was not even mentioned during the trial. The first president of Korea after its Independence, Rhee Syngman, and independence- fighter who is known to be the most anti-Japan president of South Korea, demanded reparations to Japan for what they did during the Colonization but in his reclamations, he didn’t mention the Comfort Women’s case.

In the 80’s Korean finally started to claim enormous damages from Japan for what Comfort Women went through but the problem was that they didn’t have any concrete evidences of what happened except the few testimonies of some women who were brave enough to speak out. Instead, there were concrete proofs that the Japanese army didn’t use force to recruit young women and that Korean collaborators helped recruiting young girls in

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rural areas. For example, there were newspapers advertisement about recruiting Comfort Women Korean and Japanese newspapers (most of the prostitutes were Japanese). With these evidences, the Japanese government could easily prove that girls were “not forced” to work for the Japanese Army in exchange of money. As the working conditions were not explicitly mentioned in the newspapers, I don’t think

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