Japanese sex slavery
The coffin passed the Japanese embassy in Seoul, accompanied on its final journey by mourners waving banners and holding yellow butterflies. It was not your usual funeral procession. But then, Kim Bok-dong was not your usual woman, and this was her final act of resistance against a country which had stolen so much from her. Kim was one of thousands of so-called "comfort women" rounded up by the Japanese army and forced to work as sex slaves for years on end. She died on Monday, at the age of 92, without ever receiving the apology she wanted; still railing against the injustice; still angry with Japan for taking the life she could and should have had. She was just 14 when the Japanese soldiers arrived at her family's home in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang.
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The Japanese imperial army asked the government to provide one wartime sex slave for every 70 soldiers serving in China in the late s, according to dispatches that offer evidence of official involvement in the recruitment of women to work in military brothels. The term was a euphemism used to describe tens of thousands of women from Korea, Taiwan, Japan , the Philippines and other countries who were forced into sexual servitude before and during the second world war. The dispatches appear to support claims by historians and campaigners that the Japanese government played a role in procuring the women, while challenging the narrative given by Japanese conservatives — including senior figures in the governing Liberal Democratic party — that the women did not work against their will. Their ordeal has been a constant source of friction between Japan and South Korea since the early s, when the first survivor went public with her story. The dispatch noted that women had been taken further south in military vehicles after Japanese forces occupied Xuzhou in Jiangsu province. The materials were collected by the cabinet secretariat between April and March , the news agency said. Of the 23 documents, 13 are classified dispatches to the foreign ministry from Japanese consulates dated , a year after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident triggered war between the two countries.
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Comfort women were mainly women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied countries and territories before and during World War II , or who participated in the earlier program of voluntary prostitution. Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20, by Japanese historian Ikuhiko Hata  to as high as , to , by Chinese scholar Hua-Lun Huang  ; the exact numbers are still being researched and debated. Originally, the brothels were established to provide soldiers with voluntary prostitutes in order to reduce the incidence of wartime rape , a cause of rising anti-Japanese sentiment across occupied territories.
The sex slaves issue has been a source of a painful dispute between South Korea and Japan. The Kyodo reports shows one dispatch from the consul general of Jinan to the foreign minister that said the Japanese invasion had caused a surge in prostitution in the area, with geisha from Japan, comfort women from Japan, and comfort women from Korea. Another dispatch from the consul general of Qingdao in Shandong province in China says the Imperial Army asked for one woman to accommodate every 70 soldiers, while the navy had requested more comfort women and geisha, Kyodo said. The number of sex slaves is not certain, but historians say they numbered in the tens of thousands or more, and their purpose was to prevent the spread of disease and curtail rapes among soldiers. The Japanese government says reparations are settled but it has set up funds to support the victims.