Why 'comfort women' deal doesn't shut book on Japan's wartime sex slavery
By S.J. Friedman
Updated 0426 GMT (1226 HKT) December 31, 2015
Former 'comfort woman' recalls horrors
Former 'comfort woman' recalls horrors 02:51
Japan's deal on "comfort women" limited to Korean sex slaves
There are many others in China, Taiwan, Philippines that suffered
Wartime sex slavery continues today in Syria and Iraq
S.J. Friedman is the author of the book "Silenced No More: Voices of Comfort Women." The opinions expressed here are solely hers.
(CNN)After 70 years, the Japanese and South Korean governments finally released a joint statement outlining a bilateral agreement to settle the issue of comfort women, a euphemism for girls and women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers from the 1930s until the end of World War WII.
The agreement states the Japanese government will offer a one-time final apology and to pay 1 billion yen ($8.3m) to provide care for victims through a foundation.
While there are those who argue that this is a breakthrough for the comfort women movement, the longest running activist movement on sex slavery in modern history, this agreement only deals with one country -- the reconciliation between Japan and South Korea.
It doesn't begin to address the fact that other nations continue to hold a similar grudge against the Japanese government.
In the past few days, other government leaders have begun to speak out. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou called on the Japanese government to apologize and extend compensation to Taiwanese women used as wartime sex slaves.
Harrowing stories of sex slavery during WW2
Harrowing stories of sex slavery during WW2 01:53
Academics have estimated that 200,000 women and girls across Asia Pacific were forced into sexual slavery by Japan's military. While up to half of these victims were estimated to be from Korea, there were many other victims from China, Taiwan, Netherlands, Philippines, and Indonesia who were also systematically used as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army.
The leading scholar in China on comfort women, Su Zhiliang, of Shanghai Normal University, told me the number of victims may be much higher -- 400,000 -- with 200,000 Chinese women forced to work as unpaid prostitutes.
He calculated this figure from the approximately 1,000 military brothels that were managed by the Japanese government and military. Each year in China, more women find the courage to come out and tell their own story.
During research for my book "Silenced No More," I interviewed dozens of women from China and other countries who had been forced into prostitution. Like their Korean counterparts, the period of captivity they experienced destroyed their lives.
Many of them suffered from severe post-traumatic stress syndrome.
They faced debilitating physical and emotional problems that prevented them from living normal lives.
The first Chinese survivor to speak out, the late Wan Aihua, was 15 when she was captured, tortured and repeatedly raped. Wan had fainting spells whenever she recounted her experiences during the war. Even in her old age, she suffered great physical, emotional pain, and was unable to marry and have children of her own. She eventually adopted a daughter.
Wan Aihua was the first Chinese survivor to testify in public in China. She was from Shanxi, a province where many of the victims were from -- Hainan being one other prominent origin.
Wan Aihua was the first Chinese survivor to testify in public in China. She was from Shanxi, a province where many of the victims were from -- Hainan being one other prominent origin.
These victims deserve a sincere apology that brings healing and official restitution.
Aren't their needs for reconciliation just as important and relevant as their Korean counterparts? Shouldn't their governments also be seeking a similar apology and compensation for their victims?
If the Japanese government and prime minister issue an apology for Korea, this same process must be carried out in the other countries where women suffered the same fate. These women also want the Japanese government admit legal responsibility for what really happened with a strong, sincere voice that offers them the dignity and respect they deserve.
So important is this issue to the Chinese government that in December 2015 they opened a museum in Nanjing that focuses solely on the plight of comfort women.
During the inauguration, a handful of adopted children of Chinese survivors attended on behalf of their mothers who had passed away. The museum was set up create awareness of this human rights tragedy and as a way to honor the comfort women and their legacy. It also seeks to prevent similar sexual violence in military conflicts around the world.
Closure of these war wounds is urgently needed for all those involved. This reconciliation will help to heal both the victims and perpetrators alike, as well as for the nations involved.
Even after 70 years, feelings of animosity and hatred still prevail among the Chinese against the Japanese. If this is not addressed, it will continue to be passed down from generation to generation. To break this cycle, an apology would bring about healing and help facilitate a grassroots reconciliation process.
READ: The 'Chinese Schindler' who saved thousands of jews
Wartime sexual slavery today
The voices of elderly survivors of Imperial Japanese military sex slavery have roused people to identify with their suffering. The breaking of their silence was a heroic act.
They could have kept these secrets do their grave. But instead, to prevent it from happening again, they had the courage to stand up for others.
The elderly survivors have left a legacy of moral courage and human rights activism. What happened to these women must be remembered.
We must reflect and understand the universal lessons from these crimes against humanity and see that they do not happen again. We need to also learn from this chapter of history. This form of exploitation and abuse didn't end with World War II.
It continues today, in Iraq and Syria, where women are enslaved in armed conflicts.
For this cycle to end, the world needs to take a stand and declare once and for all that there are lines that cannot be crossed in war. These lines need to be backed up with war crime tribunals and aggressive monitoring. Systematic rape through forced prostitution is a crime against humanity that will only stop when it is given the importance it deserves.
Kristie Lu Stout shares the stories of Chinese women forced to be sex slaves from Sylvia Yu Friedman's book "Silenced No More: Voices of Comfort Women"
Harrowing stories of sex slavery during WW2
Almost 14 years after she began writing it, author S.J. Friedman has published a book that hopes to break the decades-long silence surrounding the mass trafficking of women and children in Asia that took place between 1931 and 1945. It's estimated that up to 400,000 women and children - half of them Chinese, the rest Korean, Dutch, Taiwanese and Filipino - were taken as sex slaves to satisfy the needs of the Japanese military during the second world war.
The victims, some as young as 11 years old, were raped by up to 40 soldiers a day. Those who tried to escape would be beaten or killed as an example; others would commit suicide to avoid the physical and emotional trauma.
Now that the remaining survivors are elderly, there is a sense of urgency: they want the truth to be known and for the Japanese government - which, Friedman says, suffers from "historical amnesia" and claims the women were voluntary prostitutes - to recognise and apologise for what happened.
Their stories are hard to read; visual imagery takes us beyond mere statistics, and forces us to imagine what they went through; the queues of men with their pants down, the stench of antiseptic and stale sweat, the permanent throbbing pain, the nausea.
Today, the remaining survivors are disabled, unable to stand straight, some partially deaf, others infertile due to uterine diseases and abuse. Their youth lost, most have since been unable to enjoy a normal relationship with men let alone bear children and raise their own family.
Yet theirs is also a tale of survival, of the human spirit. The women that Friedman meets have been fearless enough to overcome the taboo associated with rape and to share their stories with others. These seemingly frail old women are in fact resilient, determined fighters, and will continue their resistance.
Friedman also talks to Japanese activists such as Yoshifumi Tawara, secretary general of an educational network and known for his fight against revisionist textbooks, who as a consequence has been targeted by the Japanese right. She even meets three former Japanese soldiers who express hope for future reconciliation.
The author has been deeply moved by the many women she encountered while writing the book. We could point out that the stories could have been packaged in a more compelling way - at times she gets lost in the detail, and the book would have benefitted from some photography to put faces to the names and numbers. But this would be to miss the point.
Friedman has made a valuable effort to address what remains a universal problem: she points out that today nearly 36 million victims of human trafficking suffer in silence as victims of sex slavery or forced labour. While some may consider it incendiary, the most important message to take from this book is one of hope for peace.
As former UN special rapporteur and investigator Gay McDougall puts it: "Through truth and justice comes reconciliation and healing, and where there is healing for the past, there is hope for the future."
Silenced No More - Voices of Comfort Women by S.J. Friedman (Freedom Publishers)
Sylvia receiving the 2013 International Human Rights Press Award (TV Merit) from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, the Hong Kong Journalists Association & Amnesty International HK.
Ellen van der Ploeg (Dutch ‘comfort women’ survivor) has wicked sense of humor
November 3, 2009 in Racial Reconciliation | Tags: Anti-Japan sentiment
The indomitable and amazing Ms. Ellen van der Ploeg at the Hague, the Netherlands
Sylvia Yu (right) interviewing Dutch comfort woman survivor Ellen van der Ploeg (left) for video and print media
That's me (right) interviewing Dutch comfort woman survivor Ellen van der Ploeg (left) for film
Today I finished typing out my interviews with Ellen that lasted over several days in the Hague, the Netherlands. She is generous of spirit and kind-hearted and not to mention wickedly funny. My time with her was full of easy laughter and warm smiles.
She’s a courageous woman who wants the world to know the truth of what happened to her during the war. The Japanese government still has not issued a heartfelt apology to her and other survivors of sex slavery. She is not counting on one either (sad, but perhaps the most realistic scenario).
Ellen wants to prevent the enslavement and repeated rape of women from happening again. It’s her lifelong fight to raise her voice in order to stop violence against women and girls in times of war.
On another note, I believe that racial reconciliation is necessary between Japan and the ‘conquered’ countries during the last world war: Holland, China, Korea, Philippines, Myanmar etc. Unlike Germany, Japan has not dealt with the war and issues arising out of it, ie atrocities & war crimes. These acts of inhumane cruelty still linger in the memory of these nations and cannot help but impact upcoming generations.
However, the younger generation in Japan is largely unaware of its Imperial military’s history in Asia in that time period. When they learn of the truth, I believe we are one step closer to healing the rift between Japan and the nations that were affected by the Japanese military.
There’s so much more on my mind, but I am feeling under the weather and need to sleep. Goodnight.
“Hating Japan” Column by Sylvia Yu on CBC News Analysis & Viewpoint
September 24, 2009 in China, Racial Reconciliation | Tags: Anti-Japan sentiment, Forgiveness, Racial Reconciliation
Wan Ai Hua, the first "comfort woman" survivor from China to publicly testify
April 11, 2005
Even though the Second World War ended in Asia 60 years ago, thousands of people marching through the streets of Beijing over this past weekend were not about to let go of their bitterness over Japanese war crimes committed before and during that war.
For two days this weekend in China’s capital, normally a city of well-behaved citizens in this noisy but strict police state, it was a surreal scene of streets filled with hundreds of soldiers, with their masks and shields and sub-machine guns, as well as an equal number of police officers and curious onlookers.
The police were far outnumbered by at least a thousand angry protesters who were pelting eggs, rocks and bottles at the Japanese Embassy – and at anything Japanese. They were chanting “Down with Japan” at one point. I saw hundreds of people on one of the main roads marching and waving gigantic Chinese flags, and some had Japan’s flag with an X marked on it.
The people marching were calling on Beijing to block Japan’s intentions to get a seat on the United Nations Security Council. They were also demanding a boycott of Japanese products in response to Japanese school history textbooks that gloss over wartime atrocities in China, like the massacre of more than 200,000 Chinese during what’s known as the Rape of Nanking in 1937.
Another sore point is Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeat visits to the Yasukuni shrine, where war criminals are honoured.
The protesters were angered by their perception of Japan as unwilling to sincerely apologize to war crimes victims, including survivors of the Imperial Military sex slavery system – what’s known as the “comfort women” system – which was endorsed by the government and run by the army.
More than 200,000 women were kidnapped or coerced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers; they were of Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Burmese and Dutch backgrounds, and from other occupied territories.
It’s known the Japanese government was involved in a shady cover-up of the military sex slavery, even going so far as accusing these elderly women of volunteering and prostituting themselves. This infuriated the Koreans and Chinese.
The protesters’ weekend show of force was, in fact, a surprising culmination of a cyber phenomenon: a recent growing protest in the form of a petition circulating through the internet opposes Japan having the privilege of veto power on the Security Council at the UN.
Within weeks, millions of Chinese signed the petition aimed at UN member countries, leaders and ambassadors before a vote is taken. To date, 30 million people and counting have become cyber warriors against Japan.
Some report a crowd of 6,000 people marched towards the Japanese Embassy from the university area. Then they surrounded the Japanese ambassador’s residence. Embassy windows were smashed and the Japanese government called in the Chinese ambassador and demanded an apology, compensation and protection for its nationals living in China. A Japanese Embassy spokesperson said Chinese police stood by and did nothing while people threw rocks at the embassy.
You could say the Chinese government allowed the protest to take place. Buses were organized to bring students in and take them back home. One police officer was heard saying through a megaphone, “You’ve been working hard all day, and it’s now time for you to go home. Organizers take your people home.”
In the aftermath, one Toyota was overturned onto its roof. And a camera store owner cleared his shelves of Sony and Nikon cameras before the crowds could get to it.
While I was watching the protest unfold, I felt great empathy for the Japanese and feared for their safety, especially the well-being of Japanese journalists standing nearby; but I also understood all too keenly why the Chinese were feeling so incensed.
I know from my many conversations with local Chinese that hatred towards Japan runs deep because of its invasion of China, and many of them have expressed anger about the cruelty of the soldiers.
This period is of particular interest to me as I have witnessed many elder Korean-Canadians subtly protesting the Japanese government’s lack of apology for the colonization of Korea by boycotting Japanese electronics and cars.
I have also spent time and interviewed former sex slave survivors, such as 77-year-old Wan Ai Hua, in an effort to help document their stories. They are haunted and in despair that they may never receive an apology from the Japanese government in their lifetime, when that is all they want to hear in their old age. They feel it would help heal their wounds.
And I have heard the frustrations of several Chinese, Korean and American human rights activists and lawyers who tell me that their ongoing fight to receive an apology and compensation for these aging sex slave survivors through the courts is continually stonewalled through direct Japanese government pressure on judges, who are political appointees and fear for their careers.
On the other hand, I have also met wonderful and supportive Japanese activists who detest the government-approved textbooks and hope to reconcile with the Koreans and Chinese. They have put their reputations and careers on the line to work towards this end as writers, lawyers and scholars.
So the question I was asking myself over the weekend was, how do you heal these wounds between the two countries? Unless diplomatic relations between China and Japan are smoothed over quickly, I do foresee an eventual mass exodus of Japanese companies and nationals.
The Japanese already view China as a hostile place for them to live. Now, with millions of Chinese hitting the Japanese in their pocketbooks, where it counts, this could, in an ideal world, lead to some backtracking and serious review of the recently-approved textbooks.
China really doesn’t need Japan economy-wise, since numerous countries are lining up to invest. But Japan needs China more than ever to revitalize its sagging financial state.
In a worst-case scenario, and probably the most realistic, survivors of wartime atrocities like Zhu Qiaomei – one of the oldest, who died at 96 in Shanghai not too long ago – will never receive an apology from the Japanese government. Only 39 other “comfort women” survivors have come forward in China and some are involved in legal battles for compensation.
The Japanese government has been accused of dragging its feet in the legal process, in hopes that the aged would get discouraged or even die off.
But even so, the death of survivors will certainly not extinguish the incendiary issue of this painful chapter of history, as the weekend’s protests clearly show. With the up-and-coming generations and future leaders in China’s universities and internet cafes circulating Hate-Japan e-mails and chatroom talk, the future relationship between China and Japan is not so rosy, to say the least. Unless a miracle happens or China suddenly forgives Japan.
Plans are already in the works in Beijing for a 60th anniversary celebration of the end of the Japanese War of Aggression. It’s clear the Chinese government doesn’t plan to forget anytime soon.
The forgotten victims of Japanese biological warfare in China
February 26, 2012 in Biological warfare, China, Human Rights, Japanese war crimes, Reflection | Tags: Anti-Japan sentiment, Biological warfare, Empower the voiceless, Rural villagers
From the archives: My CBC Viewpoint China Column from 2005
By Sylvia Yu
For 63 years, Mr. Chen Chong Wen has had to change the bandages on his leg daily. His home-style remedy for his oozing wound is to use a playing card to stop the flow. “There’s no medicine for this,” he said, “it hurts very much and it itches.”
The stench of rotting flesh is overwhelming as he shows his leg. His open sore is terrible-looking and has a tofu-like texture. He feels he’s been a burden to his family because they have to take care of him. “It’s my bad luck,” he says and looks down at the ground.
Mr. Chen Chong Wen (center) with injured leg from biological warfare
Chen was infected with “rotten leg disease,” it’s also known as glanders, as he was running away from the Japanese Imperial Army in Zhejiang province in 1942. His mother was also infected. And not too long after her heel rotted off, she died in terrible pain.
At the time he didn’t know why he had met such misfortune, but Chen now knows that he was a victim of biological warfare, inflicted by the Japanese military during an invasion of China.
Chen has had several costly surgeries in the last eight years with no government support. He’s interested in joining a lawsuit against the government of Japan to receive some compensation to ease some of his suffering. So far no single rotten-leg case has been filed against the Japanese government.
Since June 1995, Chinese victims of Japanese war crimes have begun to sue the Japanese government, according to Kang Jian, a Beijing-based human rights lawyer. She says there are 24 cases altogether on behalf of biological warfare survivors, Rape of Nanking (Nanjing) and sexual slavery victims.
“We’re asking relatives to testify and we have survivors to bear witness on the use of biological warfare dropped on villages, and chemical bombs and canisters that are still being unearthed in China,” she says.
Li Meitou with Thekla Lit, a founder of BC Alpha. (Photo: BC Alpha)
Last fall I met another survivor of biological warfare in southern China. I went to visit 77-year-old Ms. Li Meitou in her home village near Tang Xi township.
The tiny woman limps along ahead of me as we walk to her home. She smiles gently and often in spite of the chronic pain she endures. Li has had rotten leg disease since she was 12 years old.
“I’ve had difficulty walking and I experience pain, a fierce burning feeling,” she says. Because she can’t afford medical treatment, she uses some over-the-counter medicine and salt.
Li’s home was a small, dark one-room place with a dirt floor and dingy walls; one small table and bench lined the back. I felt sick that she had to live this way. Why wasn’t she receiving any substantial financial support?
As she sits down she takes off her bandage and shows me her rotting leg. One of my friends has to walk back and turn away because the smell of her open wound made him nauseous. She asked us to tell her story to the world so that all would know what the Japanese did to her and others in her village.
Exact figures of deaths as a result of Japanese biological warfare are hard to come by. But China’s most famous champion of biological warfare survivors, Wang Xuan, who has gathered evidence for lawsuits launched in Tokyo, says as many as 50,000 people in Quzhou died in 1940 from the plague that spread to neighbouring areas until 1948. In total 300,000 people fell ill from this plague attack.
China's most famous champion of biological warfare survivors, Wang Xuan. (Photo: BC Alpha)
Wang, whose home village in Yiwu was devastated by biological warfare, says the Japanese military used germ-carrying fleas mixed with grains, fibres, beans and cottons. They dropped these “balls” from the sky and let them float down. The local rats then ate the grains, and the fleas also jumped onto small animals and infected people.
The fleas were specially raised to carry germs at the infamous Unit 731 laboratory in Northern China that the Japanese military set up to create and test biological warfare experiments. One Unit 731 veteran testified in a Japanese court how rats and fleas were raised and how 600 kg of anthrax was produced monthly at the compound.
About a decade ago, farmers from Wang’s home village “wanted to fight for their rights and dignity” for the immense suffering and deaths caused by the Japanese military. They sent a petition to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.
Somehow a group of Japanese peace activists heard about the village and decided to find out more. The Japanese activists reported their findings at an international symposium in Harbin, China, which the Japan Times covered. Wang, who was living in Japan at the time, read the article. The rest is history. She got in touch with people from her village again and eventually became a vocal activist as well as researcher and translator for the Japanese legal team.
The illiterate villagers set up a Japanese biological warfare investigation committee. They were able to obtain a diary of a Japanese military doctor who was stationed with the occupation army in Yiwu. He was a Christian and humane, says Wang. He condemned the war crimes and documented biological warfare activities in his diary.
There was three years of preparation involving the Japanese peace activists, scholars, villagers and local Chinese government. They had an annual medical check up to trace evidences of the plague in the area. Every year, researchers caught 100 rats to see if they still carried the plague, by determining if plague germ antibodies were in their blood.
Up until 1996, plague germs were found in rats. In 2001, a Chinese doctor testified that biological warfare still threatens the Chinese people. His testimony was covered by international news agencies.
The villagers lost their first-ever lawsuit in August 2002. However, the Tokyo District Court confirmed the use of biological warfare by the Japanese Imperial Army. “For the first time in history an office of authority in Japan admitted biological warfare in China. The verdict is in history. The [Japanese court] said biological warfare was in violation of the Geneva Treaty and international agreements and that Japan was responsible for that,” says Wang. “But they said the issue of responsibility was resolved because China gave up her rights [to seek war reparations] in the 1972 Sino-Japan Joint Communiqué.”
In the recent war of words and diplomatic tensions between China and Japan, the most important voices have not been heard. Many actual victims of Japanese war crimes are living in squalid conditions and cannot afford basic medical treatment.
How is it that survivors of cruel, inhumane acts in war, like Chen Chong Wen, have been forgotten? I just don’t understand and shake my head at the Japanese prime minister and his repeat visits to a shrine that honours infamous war criminals (no one responsible for biological warfare was ever convicted for crimes against humanity).
Indeed, I’m dumbfounded at the lack of financial aid for these biological war crime survivors, when I’ve been told China is angry about Japanese history textbooks that whitewash the suffering of the Chinese during the Japanese invasion. The elderly survivors need medical help, and they need financial aid.
I will never forget the sight of Chen Chong Wen weeping. With a pained expression on his face, Chen sobbed loudly, “I don’t want anything else. I just want the wound to close. That’s the only thing I want.”
Wan Aihua (万爱花)
The last days of Wan Aihua- a 'comfort woman' during the WWII
(People's Daily Online) 08:03, September 10, 2013
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Wan bathes in the sunshine near the window, Nov. 1, 2012. (Chinanews/Wei Liang)
"I don't' want to die, because I'm a witness of crime in the war. I will wait till the Japanese government apologizes." Those were the words repeated by 84-year-olld Wan Aihua when she was still alive. She said that she wasn't afraid of death, but she could never walk out the shadow of the abuse in the past.
Wan Aihua had been kidnapped three times by the Japanese army since she was 14 during the WWII. She had been tortured, raped and sexaully abused by the Japanese army which led to multiple fractures, lifelong infertility and other squeals to her. In 1992, Wan became the first one in China who testified against Japanese sexual violence in WWII. At 0:45 a.m. on Sept. 4, 2013, the old woman left the world with unsatisfied wills. All her pains and pathos have been buried at the end of life. No last words left.
From June 2012 to July 2013, we visited Wan several times and recorded her last days with camera. The biggest wish of Wan is to live on to continue suing the Japanese government until it makes apology. "If the thing can be done, I will die at ease," she said. But till the end of her life, she still didn't get any apology from the Japanese government.
福島 香織 2015年11月18日（水）3 4 5
万愛花 Wan Aihua
劉面換 Liu Mianhuan
2007/01/02 (Tue) 従軍慰安婦問題を考える
만애화(万愛花, Wan Aihua)
1930년 중국 내몽골 출생
4살 때쯤, 매매혼으로 양천촌(羊泉村)의 궁핍한 집에 팔렸지만, 남편은 어린 나를 꺼려해서 집에 붙어 있지 않았습니다. 항일 전쟁이 시작되고 나서 나는 14세에 공산당원이 되어, 팔로군을 위해서 일하게 되었습니다. 15세 때에는 부촌장이 되어 일본에 대항했습니다.1942년 6월 중순, 마을에 침입해 온 일본군에게 일본군의 거점인 진규사에 끌려가서, 야오톤에 감금되어 「공산당의 정보를 말해」라고 심한 고문을 받았습니다. 1주일 후에 도망갔지만, 8월 무렵, 연못에서 세탁을 하고 있을 때에 다시 잡혀 버렸습니다. 야오톤에 감금되어, 몇 명의 일본병이 강간하고 「당원의 이름을 말해」라고 벨트나 봉, 총의 개머리판 등으로 심한 고문을 받았습니다.이 때도 틈을 보고 도망갔지만, 12월인가 새해가 된 1월 무렵, 또 잡혀 거점에 끌려가서 심한 고문을 받았습니다. 의식을 잃은 나를 죽었다고 생각한 일본병은 발가벗겨서 강변에 버렸습니다. 운이 좋아서 마을의 노인에게 구함을 받아서 기적적으로 살아났습니다.사진 만애화(万愛花)씨, 곽희취(郭喜翠)씨, 주희향(周喜香)씨가 감금되었던 야오톤(횡혈식 주거)
촬영：信川美津子 사진 야오톤의 내부. 만애화씨는 여기에 세 번 감금당했다.
촬영：信川美津子/cite> 사진 리수매(李秀梅)씨, 류면환(劉面換)씨,진림도(陳林桃)씨, 후동아(侯冬娥)씨가 감금된 야오톤