A Testimony from a former “comfort woman” A plead for support from the country

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A Testimony from a former “comfort woman” A plead for support from the country


The Japanese-Korean issue over the “comfort women” strikes a rock once again after the disassembling of the Japanese-Korean “Comfort Women” Agreement Foundation. Why are the Koreans so concerned over this issue? This is a question a Korean women who lives within South Korea has. She was a former “comfort woman” for the US military. This is an interview with her by Shinichiro Akaishi, the journalist who published, “A Korean scolding the Koreans”.

Akaishi: It was in spring 2014, when I met the former “comfort woman” for the US military, Yon-ming Chang (age 65 at the time.) Ms. Chang lived in the outskirts of Seoul.

The story of Ms. Chang’s life was a fierce one. At the age of 17, having no sexual experience, was tricked by a Korean human trafficker which was the beginning of her life as a “comfort woman”. Soon as the interview started, she started to speak out:

Chang: “I have served the US military as a “comfort woman” for 30 years. It hurts me to even try to remember those days…”

A US military “comfort woman” refers to women who sexually served the US soldiers while the US military was stationed in South Korea during the War. The US military spread out and often camped in Korean villages; the women were usually recruited from these villages. The South Korean government was not only aware, but also managed these “comfort women” during the 1960’s to the 1980’s to maintain the US troops to stay in Korea. This was released to the public by the Korean parliament in November 2013 and was the center of attention for the media for a while.

In June 2014, 122 former “comfort women” who served the US military filed a class action against the Korean Government to claim national compensation at the Central District Court in Seoul. They claimed that their human rights were robbed during those times while serving as “comfort women” managed under the Korean government at the time.

The Korean government continuously demands against the Japanese government to “compensate for their actions in the past to soothe the pain and suffering of the former comfort women”. The “comfort women” who served the US military are claiming the exact same thing; however this topic is taboo in South Korea and the voices of these women are ignored to this day.

Chang: “ I lost my mother and father when I was 2 years old due to the Korean War. I moved from one foster home to another until I was 17 years old when I started working at a small cafeteria in Itaewon, where one of the US military camps were based.”

Chang: “The lady at the cafeteria told me that since I was cuteso I should work at the club for the US soldiers. I was told that if I go there, I would have to prostitute myself and I told her I could not do that. The lady told me that I had no home; who would take care of me if she died? She told me to work there while she was still alive. I had to listen to what she said.”

Chang: “There was a Korean manager at the club. When I went to the club, he strictly told me that if I was to make money there, I had to take my clothes off.” 

Chang: “I had no sexual experience with men. So for the first 3 or 4 times I was summoned by a US soldier, I refused to sell my body. I was too afraid. But the manager told me that he was going to fire me if I didn’t. I did not receive any education so I could not read nor write; I had no other choice. I had no where to go and no money, so I had to go into prostitution.”

Chang: “Everyday, US soldiers demanded my body several times a day. You have no idea what prostituting everyday feels like. But I got scolded if I said I didn’t want to go. There was no other choice. My manager threatened me what would happen if I didn’t go.”

Currently, Ms. Chang lives in a approximately 10 square meter room with 3 dogs she rescued. Her monthly rent is approximately $240 (CDN). Her only income is the government welfare which is about $480 (CDN) a month. And more than anything, she has no family, relatives or friends and lives alone.The Korean community and society and their prejudice towards former “comfort women” is what is causing her to suffer.

Chang: Aren’t the US dollars that we earned was what became the base of the rise of the Korean economy? Is it not because we earned those US dollars, that Korea today became so abundant?”

Chang: “Every former “US military comfort woman” is suffering in poverty. Once they become to old to serve and leave the village where the US military was based in, we cannot return to the Korean society. People scammed me and took most of the money I earned. They called me Yangarbo (a Korean prejudice term for prostitutes) even after many years; I still get ignored and get thrown horrible words and names. Because all the discrimination I get outside, I prefer living alone and not leaving the house.”

Chang: “I see the issue of “comfort women” who served the Japanese military often on TV. What is the difference between us who served the US military and them, who served the Japanese military? We are both women who were forced to sell our bodies…”

Chang: “The former “comfort women” who served the Japanese military are supported by everyone and the government takes care of them. On the other hand, we live in poverty and are given only minimum welfare. It is enough for us not to die; but we are barely surviving. We are the same in the sense that we had no other choice but to sell our bodies. We sold our bodies for the country but the government give us nothing.”

Chang: “I’m not going to live any longer, I don’t need that much money. I just want the government to recognize us and give us the least support to sustain our lives.”

After Ms. Chang testified this, she gave me a sad smile and said, “ I don’t mind you revealing my face and real name in your article because I only spoke the truth.”

For the first trial concerning the former US military “comfort women”, the Korean government admitted improperaccommodation of these women and also the improper treatmentand/or quarantine of the women who had sexual transmitted diseases. In February 2018, the Seoul High Court claimed against the government that “forced sexual service was indeed promoted and justified to raise the morale of the foreign military forces in South Korea, and also to obtain foreign currencies” and made the judgement that the Korean government pay 74 of the 117 former “comfort women” special benefits of 700,000 Won(approximately $7000 CDN) per person and for the other 43, they paid a benefit of 300,000 Won (approximately $3000 CDN) per person. The court demanded the Korean government to admit their responsibilities, and to pay the compensation.

For the issue of the Japanese-Korean agreement concerning “comfort women” who served the Japanese military, it was agreed that each former “comfort woman” received 1,000,000 Won (approximately $100,000 CDN) each. What is the difference between the “comfort women” who served the US military and the Japanese military?

Interview with Yon-Ming Chang excerpted from “A Korean Scolds a Korean” by Shinichiro Akaishi 

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