[War and Sex Crimes] The Reality of “Comfort Women” in Korea: “Base Village” led by President Park Chung-hee
”When I ran away from home (at a government job placement agency), I was offered a job at a U.S. military club. We talked about having to sleep with military personnel, but do you think I know what ‘sleep’ meant at that age? I cried every day.
In July of this year, South Korea’s left-leaning Hankyoreh newspaper reported the words of a 63-year-old woman, a former U.S. military comfort woman, as follows.
After the armistice of the Korean War in 1953, 122 South Korean women who prostituted themselves to U.S. soldiers in a prostitution district (base village) near a U.S. military base in South Korea filed a state compensation lawsuit with the South Korean government in June; they claimed that they had been placed under the strict control of the South Korean government and that their human rights had been violated.
However, the South Korean media and public opinion, which had been propagating the Japanese comfort women issue around the world, were largely silent.
In the book Military and Sexual Violence: The Korean Peninsula in the Twentieth Century, Japanese and South Korean researchers critically examined the use of prostitution by the Japanese, U.S. and South Korean militaries in the Korean Peninsula. In 1947, under the U.S. military regime, South Korea abolished its state-sanctioned system of prostitution, the public prostitution system, and banned prostitution. However, its operation was ambiguous.
The South Korean government implemented a policy of double standards. It cracked down on prostitution for the general public, but set up specific areas and left prostitution by private businesses untreated. In particular, it encouraged “kisaeng tourism” for the purpose of providing comfort to U.S. soldiers and prostitution for foreigners in order to obtain foreign currency.
With economic growth and the movement for women’s rights through democratization since the 1980s, the prostitution business has become less prominent than before, but it still remains. And, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, women who are economically and familiarly disadvantaged in the industry.
There was also the involvement of the state in the prostitution industry in Korea.
The South Korean military operated its own comfort stations under the guise of a “special comfort unit” until 1954. Prostitutes were described on their papers as “supplies”. There were 89 women in the Seoul area at the time, and records show that they worked with an average of six women a day. It is said that soldiers who served in the war were given priority in using the prostitutes as a reward for their services.
In the 1970s, at the request of the U.S. military, the president at the time, Park Chung-hee, the father of President Park Geun-hye, who has attacked Japan over the issue of comfort women, personally led a campaign to clean up the base village. The president affirmed the existence of prostitution.
In principle, the military-related prostitution business in South Korea has been managed by the government, although it has been conducted by private contractors. This is the same format as that used by the Japanese military and other militaries of various countries during World War II.
Given this historical fact, the actions of activists and media in Japan and South Korea, as well as the South Korean government in denouncing Japan, are clearly contradictory. It even seems like a political conspiracy.
The Asahi Shimbun is reviewing the facts on this issue, including an admission of a major misrepresentation of the comfort women issue. One way to respond to unfair criticism of Japan is to point to examples of sexual crimes committed by the militaries of South Korea and other countries, as we have shown in this series of articles. (Journalist Takaaki Ishii)