Japan's Sex Slave "Comfort Women" During World War II
The death in South Korea of a World War II sex
slave "comfort woman" has reopened demands for Tokyo to pay more
reparations for allowing its troops to rape thousands of imprisoned
The death from
cancer of 92-year-old Kim Bok-dong on January 28
silenced a woman who, for almost 30 years, led weekly protests for
more compensation in front of the Japanese Embassy's wartime location
The Japan's military
enslaved Ms. Kim and thousands of other Asian
females as "comfort women" who were forced to provide sexual services
to Japanese troops during the war.
200,000 females, most of them teenagers, were raped
imprisoned by Japan's military in China, Korea, Taiwan, the
Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, according to
London-based Amnesty International.
In 2005, the human rights organization
brought Lee Yong Soo and
another so-called "comfort woman" here to Bangkok during the
publication of Amnesty International's report titled, "Justice for
Survivors of Japan's Military Sexual Slavery System".
Ms. Lee described
how a fearful Japanese kamikaze suicide pilot
insisted he had fallen in love with her, even while continually raping
her during the war.
"I was 15, in my home in
southern Korea, when a Japanese man came
behind me at night, put his hand over my mouth and kidnapped me," Ms.
Lee, then a 70-year-old South Korean, said during an interview in
In 1944, Japanese authorities
kidnapped the girl and took her to
Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, and imprisoned her on a
ship where she was tortured, threatened, and forced to allow hundreds
of Japanese soldiers sexually abuse her.
"There were five of us girls, with 300 soldiers on
the ship, and we
were repeatedly raped on the journey which took maybe two months from
North Korea to Taiwan," she said, speaking in Korean language.
"There was a
'comfort station' in Taiwan where I then received
who belonged to the kamikaze, a special suicide brigade."
While she was imprisoned in Taiwan, one of the
pilots who was repeatedly raping her told Ms. Lee that she was his
Japanese soldier gave me a Japanese nick-name, 'Toshiko'.
the kamikaze pilot taught me a song. He made up a song, because he
was afraid he would die when he finally had to fly.
"It's in Japanese. The song goes like this," Ms. Lee said.
She softly sang the lilting tune after
translating it Japanese into
Korean, which was then interpreted into English by a translator during
"The fighting planes are taking off,
Taiwan is disappearing far below.
Nobody is saying goodbye to me.
One person who can cry for me is Toshiko.
We will fight in Okinawa,
If I die, I will guide you to your mother.
So please don't cry,
because you will go back to your mother."
Amid her horrendous suffering, that song gave Ms. Lee the hope that
she would one day be free.
"I think he is my
savior. I still thank him," she said, emphasizing
that she did not feel romantic toward him.
"He came to me many times. That soldier told me I was his first love."
Lee, who was weeping during our interview, said the kamikaze
"gave me all his soap, and other things for taking care of myself,
because he said he was leaving tomorrow to die."
Ms. Lee remained single throughout her life.
returned home to Korea in May 1946, after more than
years" of being raped.
She also demanded justice from Tokyo.
Ms. Lee and other sex slaves under the
Japanese during World War II
have demanded reparations that includes rehabilitation, compensation
for the victims, restoration of lost homes, property and livelihood,
and a guarantee of non-repetition for future generations.
During World War II, up to 200,000 women were
enslaved and raped by
the Japanese Imperial army, some as young as 12 years old, Amnesty
military imprisoned the females in so-called "comfort
for months, and some for many years.
said they were chained together for long periods of time
forced to allow 40 to 50 men rape them each day.
The Japanese military created "comfort stations" in
Borneo, the Philippines, the Pacific islands, Singapore, Malaya, Burma
January 29, South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited an
up for Ms. Kim at a Seoul hospital.
Ms. Kim's death the day before ended the life of a woman
devoted herself to "restoring human dignity" and that her campaigning
gave South Koreans a "braveness to face the truth," according to the
According to Yoon Meehyang, who heads an activist
South Korean victims of Japan, Ms. Kim was seized from her home when
she was 14.
Ms. Kim was
forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers at
brothels in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore from
1940 to 1945.
officially apologized for the wartime atrocity after
government investigated the females' plight during the early 1990s.
Tokyo agreed to pay $9 million to a
foundation to assist the females,
but refused to describe the cash as a compensation.
Richard S. Ehrlich is a
Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He co-authored three
non-fiction books about Thailand, including "'Hello My Big Big Honey!'
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews," "60
Stories of Royal Lineage," and "Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News
Since 1946." Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter "Ceremonies
and Regalia" in a book published in English and Thai titled, "King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in
Perspective." Mr. Ehrlich's newest book, "Sheila Carfenders, Doctor
Mask & President Akimbo" portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who is abducted to Asia by her abusive San Francisco
His online sites are: