Comfort Women: Truth, Please

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but…

Truth is scary.

The above 1942 advertisement for Philip Morris cigarettes reads as follows: No worry about throat irritation even when you inhale! This exclusive proved Philip Morris superiority is reported by eminent doctors…Finer pleasure plus REAL protection.

So, Philip Morris was not exactly telling the truth.

Sometimes the Truth sucks.

Yet we still have to suck it up and admit the Truth because as renowned essayist George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

I came across a headline about the recent US visit of Prime Minister Abe from Japan. It seems he asked publisher McGraw-Hill to remove information about the Comfort Women of World War II from US textbooks.

McGraw-Hill refused.

Many Japanese do not want to acknowledge the existence of forced service by Comfort Women. At least 53, 000 it seems. Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it.

The International Commission of Jurists estimates that Japan enslaved 100,000 to 200,000 thousand women as Comfort Women for Japanese troops. The women serviced roughly 30 men per day and endured frequent beatings. The majority of the women–who came from Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia–were either abducted or misled. The numbers are difficult to substantiate as three fourths of the Comfort Women died during their service or were executed near the end of the war.

You read that correctly. Three fourths of these women died.

Image: Rangoon, Burma. A young ethnic Chinese woman from a Japanese Army comfort station is interviewed by an Allied officer on August 8, 1945. Source: Wikipedia.

You see how young the girl in the above photo is? Some of the Comfort Women were prepubescent girls.

Image via Al Jezeera America.

Here’s a photo of a group of Korean comfort women.

I expressed my concern about the prime minister’s request that US textbooks be revised. I thought of the novel 1984–“All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory” or as Orwell calls it “doublethink.” Then someone sent me the following video, explaining how this video exposed the real truth behind the Comfort Women stories.

I watched and was appalled. You can watch, too, and let me know what you think. Please do.

In this video, journalist (I use that word loosely) Yujiro Taniyama claims that Comfort Women were prostitutes who volunteered to have sex with Japanese troops. Taniyama’s presentation is filled with fallacies (Red Herring, Sweeping Generalization among others), but mostly I really lost my cool because this video violated the “whole truth” rule…you know, “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

How does the concept of whole truth work? Let’s say a New York critic wrote, “Joe Blank’s book Blood Bath is the perfect example of a detective novel filled with legal inaccuracies, ridiculous scenarios, and laughable character development.” Joe Blank could put on his back cover that New York critics call his novel Blood Bath “the perfect example of a detective novel.”

The truth but not exactly the whole truth.

Taniyama does the same thing when he gives the following quote from US War Document 49: “a ‘comfort girl’ is no more than a prostitute.” He offers this quote as proof that Comfort Women worked voluntarily and came on their own.

You can see Document 49 for yourself. What the journalist does not mention from that document is this: “in May of 1942 Japanese agents arrived in Korea for the purpose of enlisting Korean girls for ‘comfort service.’ The nature of this ‘service’ was…assumed to be work connected with visiting the wounded in hospitals, rolling bandages, and generally making the soldiers happy.”

Not exactly the life of Comfort Women that The International Commission of Jurists discovered during their inquiries.

When I added my thoughts to the journalist’s film, I received some interesting responses. One commenter had this to say, “your excuse cannot explain that South Korea had had the exact same comfort women for U.S. troops during the Korean war.” He/she cited a news report that Comfort Women are suing South Korea and the U.S. government for their treatment in comfort houses in the post-Korean War years and sent a link to this article by Ju-Min Park.

My guess is that this commenter’s strategy is a sort of “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks” stance. The fact is government evil-doers exist in all countries. Whether U.S. troops frequented comfort houses post-Korean War or not, we have plenty of shame of our own. The difference being we have acknowledged our shame. I’m thinking the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the sterilization of Abenaki, the Eugenics movement that inspired Hitler, drug testing of low-income prisoners, the aforementioned tobacco propaganda–these are just the first five U.S. violations of human dignity that sprang into my mind.

Interestingly, at the exact moment that the Japanese were subjugating Comfort Women, Philip Morris was spreading its lies about the health benefits of tobacco. Tobacco has killed more than the number of Comfort Women by far (The American Lung Association estimates 443,000 each year in the U.S.; WHO, 6 million worldwide), but we as a nation finally rejected those lies and admitted the truth.

Isn’t it time for the Japanese (as well as any Korean or U.S. exploiters) to do the same?


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