Yoshida's False Confession
In 1983, a Japanese writer, Seiji Yoshida, published a book titled "My War Crime - Forcing Transportation of the Koreans." It was an alleged confession that he had "transported about 205 Korean women forcibly under the command of the Japanese military to make them comfort women for Japanese soldiers." Later, The Asahi Shimbun, radical anti-Japanese newspaper in Japan, used the materials from the book to spread this information on the "comfort women" to the mass media.
The comfort women, portrayed by Yoshida, would indeed have been sex slaves, if all the facts exposed would be confirmed as true accounts. Later, Yoshida updated his revelations, claiming that the procurement of comfort women was arranged on direct orders of the Japanese Army Commandment, instructing him to “mobilize a Korean female volunteer corps.”
On May 15, 1943, a first lieutenant from Western District Army Headquarters arrived at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Police Department’s Labor Administration office. The officer delivered a labor mobilization order addressed to the Yamaguchi Labor Service Association chairman (also governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture). The head of the Labor Administration Section was also secretary of the Labor Service Association.
As head of the Shimonoseki Branch Mobilization Department, I was asked to be present because I would be executing the mobilization order. The lieutenant explained that the mobilization order was issued to National Labor Service Association groups in prefectures in Japan’s Western District, and in each province in the southern part of Korea. Two thousand workers were to be mobilized. The order delivered to the Yamaguchi Prefectural National Labor Service Association contained the following information.
1. Volunteer corps of 200 Korean women to serve as entertainers for the Imperial Army
2. Age: 18-29 (married women acceptable; pregnant women not acceptable)
3. Healthy women (medical examination required, especially tests for venereal diseases)
4. Duration: One year (renewal possible if desired)
5. Remuneration: \30 per month
6. Clothing allowance: \20 (to be paid in advance)
7. Place of assignment: central China
8. Recruiting areas: southwestern Korea and Cheju Island
9. Departure date: 12:00 noon, 30 May 1943
10. Meeting place: Western Army, Unit 74
The women’s Labor Service unit was renamed the Female Volunteer Corps. Students at girls’ schools and local girls (members of girls’ youth groups) working in munitions factories were called “Female Volunteer Corps,” but the female volunteer corps members who provided entertainment to soldiers of the Imperial Army were actually comfort women.
This is a sad story on the unfortunate fates of the Korean women, but later, it became absolutely clear that historical accounts and documented facts do not support it in many details. Finally, Yoshida himself admitted the story, posted in the book, was fabricated.
Yoshida's Book Translated into Korean
In 1989, Yoshida's book was translated into Korean. However, at Jeju island of Korea where Yoshida said to have moved the women forcibly, there were Korean people, and several historians, who doubted it from the first glance. The Jeju Newspaper journalists conducted the investigation and later posted an article in the newspaper, calling it a historical falsification, not supported by any facts. One of the prominent Japanese historians, Ikuhiko Hata, has also visited Jeju Island to perform additional investigation, and results were aligned with all previous accounts – the told story has never happened in the real life.
In the Jeju Newspaper from August 14, 1989 in was finally and openly admitted, that there was neither factual evidence, nor personal testimony of Japanese Army forcefully kidnapped girls.
Following multiple negative reviews, pressed by the formal investigations’ outcomes, Yoshida finally confessed that his story was one big falsification. He never apologized for the created political tensions and public controversy, but took a "so-what" attitude, saying: "It is not a profitable approach to write the truth in a book. Newspapers also do the same thing, don't they?"
One of the possible explanations was that Yoshida was a communist sympathizer. The main strategy of the Japanese Communist Party was at the time make all the efforts to portrait Japanese government and political system as evil, driving the efforts for convert the country to the communist state. Based on some unverified accounts, Yoshida received substantial monetary grant from the Soviet government, led by Leonid Brezhnev (before his death in 1982), for this book, which was in line with the USSR interests in Asia.
In spite the fact that the falsification was proven, and admitted by the perpetrator, there are still people who believe the story of "forcibly-moved comfort women" is a sad historical reality.
No Forced Transportation
It is the well-known fact that there were comfort women for the Japanese military in battlefields. However, in most cases, the comfort women were doing business, willingly trading their sexual favors for money. There were also several Korean businessmen, who arranged and mediated the sexual services arrangements between the military and women. According to some accounts, there were professional women, who were able to earn 10 times of a university graduate salary, or 100 times of a soldier paycheck. They could build house in their homeland after 2-3 years of the job.
At the same time, following the Korean translation of Yoshida's book publication, several testimonies appeared in Korea from the women who said, "I was forcibly moved to become a comfort woman for Japanese soldiers. The Japanese government, compensate!"
In 1993, the Japanese government arranged legal hearings of the testimonies from 16 ex-comfort women and inquired other 10 ex-comfort women. Among these 26 cases, there were 8, who testified indeed to have been forcibly moved. However, none of these testimonies could be positively validated by the documents, records, and other people reports.
Japanese Government's Communication
Regardless of the validity of the women testimonies, the Japanese politicians apologized to the Korean government for the allegedly performed crimes against forcefully recruited to the prostitution comfort women.
A statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono highlighted that "the Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations, and the transfer of comfort women.... that, in many cases they were recruited against their own will."
The government of Japan, it continued, would like to "extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women". A private compensation fund was also set up.
A Japanese politician who had been in charge of making the draft of the apologizing interview, later said, "We had an agreement with the Korean government that with this interview, both of us would make past issues all settled and would intend for the future. But seeing that today's Korean government is saying about compensation for the past, I am really disappointed."
The same thing can be said to the Japan-Republic of Korea Basic Relations Treaty concluded in 1965. Japan and Korea agreed that with this treaty, all past issues had been settled and that Korea would not require any compensation for the past anymore. But Korean presidents after that have submitted several formal inquiries and required substantial monetary compensation from Japan, disregarding the treaty.
South Korea and Japan reached a landmark deal December 28, 2015 to resolve the issue of Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, announced the agreement after talks at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul. The meeting focused on Japan’s admission of responsibility for the wartime crime as well as plans to pay reparations to the victims.
In a joint press conference, Kishida said the comfort women issue is an issue where women under the then military’s involvement bore deep scars to their honor and dignity, adding that from this perspective, the Japanese government acutely feels responsible. Japan promised to offer 1 billion yen (approximately 9.7 billion won) in compensation for the ‘comfort women’.
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