Comfort Woman Statue

Bitter Japan Korea Relations Over the ‘Comfort Women’ Issue

It is now 72 years since the Pacific War ended yet issues related to the Japanese military’s vicious behaviour in Asia still persist. One of these issues is that of the so-called ‘comfort women’ a term referring to women who were forced to provide sexual service to Japanese soldiers at military brothels in Japan s occupied territories between 1932 and 1945.

Though the women were first recruited from existing brothels in Japan, the numbers were expanded to include women from Taiwan, Korea, China, the Philippines and Indonesia. It is estimated that the number of these women were in the tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands. Many of these women were duped into this line of work – many mere teenagers – and some committed suicide due to the onerous nature of their ‘duties’. With the end of war they were abandoned by the Japanese military.

This issue, and Japan’s Government continued obfuscation and part denial of this issue particularly angers the Koreans and Chinese.

The latest in this ongoing saga is Japan’s anger at unveiling of a “comfort-woman” statue representing wartime sex slaves in front of its consulate in the Korean port city of Busan. In protest, Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine in Seoul and the consul-general in Busan have been temporarily recalled. A similar statue by the same sculptor was placed in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul in 2011. The South Korean Foreign Ministry called Japan’s decision to recall its ambassador “very regrettable.” And so issues from a war several generations ago drag on and on.

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All photos and text copyright © Tony Smyth