Category Archives: NAGAO Hidemi

Life of the Self-Proclaimed Comfort Women after Motherland Liberation

日本語/Japanese 】【 英語English PDF 】【 日本語Japanese PDF

July 30, 2020

Hidemi Nagao

( Former Civil and Media Liaison Officer of the Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, Novelist and Non-fiction Writer )

Life of the Self-Proclaimed Comfort Women after Motherland Liberation

  1. Repentance

I would like to repent my unilateral preconception.

It has been several years since I got interested in the comfort women issue of the wartime.  When I read books of hilarious episodes written by Seiji Yoshida and Kako Senda, the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily, had already retracted over a dozen articles regarding Yoshida’s fictions.  I, therefore, did not side with a claim that the Japanese authorities had abducted 200,000 women to make them work as sexual slaves in warfront.  Though I dare not deny some cases in which brokers trafficked women from both Japan and the Korean Peninsula to warfront.  I consider the cases as exceptions in the days when the prostitution license system was in place.

I authored a few books and opinion pieces since early 2019 in which I specifically discussed personality of the self-proclaimed comfort women in Korea.1  It is because I thought they had their “self” divided and lost their personality by becoming a group icon of the human rights violation issue.

My focus on personality of those women derives from what Mahatma Gandhi said about one’s belief and personality.

“Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words.  Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions.  Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits.  Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values.  Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.”

Ordinary people always question themselves who they are and for what and for whom they live.  The struggle of questioning makes them strengthen their belief, which translates into action and builds personality.  This is what personal growth is about.

Life of people begins with a period of education and proceeds to a period of work prior to reaching a period of retirement.  The self-proclaimed women had to enter the period of work, being deprived of a full period of education partly due to family poverty and partly due to the inadequate education system.  What awaited them in the period of retirement—after the long period of work—was the comfort women issue.

As I reflected on a span of their life, I have realized that my thoughts were unilateral.  For, I discussed their personality without paying any attention to their long period of work.

On May 7, 2020, Lee Yong-soo broke the ice, which led to uncovering of dubious spending practices of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Korean Council hereinafter) regarding comfort women donations and government subsidies.  Lee also publicly said she had detested the pronominal phrase, “Sexual Slave.”  A while later, some intellectuals began to question anew what those women truly needed for their life.

Based on the circumstances above and my carelessness, I will review the life of the self-proclaimed comfort women after the liberation of their homeland.  This is what I meant by repentance.  Problem is I cannot read or speak the Korean language though I have just made a solemn pledge.  To compensate for my inability, I carefully review herein translated versions of those women’s testimonies that are contained in books below.

Book A: The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and the Study Committee on the Volunteer Corps (Ed.). (1993). “Shogen: Kyosei Renko Sareta Chosenjin Gun Ianfu Tachi” [Testimonies of comfort women forcibly taken by the military] (author translation). (The Uri-Yeoseong Network on Military Comfort Women Issues, Trans.). Tokyo. Akashi Publishing.  Book A contains 19 testimonies.

Book BI and BII: Nishino, Rumiko & Kim, Puja. Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (Ed.) (2006, 2010). “Shogen: Mirai heno Kioku Asia ‘Ianfu’ Shogenshu Parts I & II—Minami-Kita Zainichi Koreans” [Collection of Witness Statements of Asian Comfort Women, Memories for Future Regarding North and South Korea and Japan] (a/t). Tokyo. Akashi Publishing.  Book BI and BII contains 26 testimonies, 5 of which are copied from Book A.

  1. Questions to Books A and BI & BII

Each testimony is about 15 to 18 pages long on the average.  The experiences of the self-proclaimed comfort women, as sexual slaves, are fully detailed, regardless of the credibility of the testimonies.  I have a few questions about them.  I provide the following excerpts as a premise of my misgivings (underlined by author).

Yun Chung-ok, Co-representative of the Korean Council, wrote in Preface of Book A (author translation, a/t hereinafter):

“It is urgent for us to reveal the whole truth.  Materials found in newspapers and official documents are certainly important, however, testimonies of the former comfort women are no less important than those materials.  They are living witnesses of those days with both physical and mental disorders.  …  We are aware how difficult it is for them to reveal what really happened at comfort stations.  But the issue we have on hand is a serious matter that pertains to human beings.  …  I think we must get their life stories down on paper.”

Professor An Byeong-jik of the Economic Faculty of the Seoul University wrote in Forward also in Book A (a/t):

“While reviewing investigation results, we found it most difficult to reconstruct one’s testimonies because what she had said was oftentimes logically contradictory.  …  The most annoying thing the investigators experienced was when they noticed the interviewees intentionally distorting facts.  To overcome such cases, each of us tried hard to build confidence with each interviewee.  Our efforts were rewarded in most cases, however, there were cases in which investigators had to quit interviewing halfway through.

              We conducted an interview more than five or six times for each woman.

              I do not claim our investigations are flawless.  For, as in the case of comfort women, I think it difficult for anyone who was treated as a subhuman to narrate everything she had gone through.  I also think it impossible for us to complete investigations in a short time (*underlined by author).”

2.1.        Investigations of Book A heard stories of 40 women though as many as 110 women were registered as former comfort women in the early days.  The Korean Council published testimonies of only 19 women.  This may be attributable to “logical contradictions” and “intentional distortions of facts” Professor An mentioned.  No one, however, explained why the published accounts were reduced from 110 to 40 to 19.  Does it mean the rest, 91, were not comfort women?

2.2.        This question also relates to the “intentional distortions of facts.”  Why did those women dare not tell facts?  Having female investigators interview them, building confidence with them, and holding interviews more than a few times should have made it possible for them to come out of their shell.  Besides, they knew their testimonies were supposed to protect women’s rights and, furthermore, pursue social justice.

2.3.        Six of the 19 women used pseudonyms in Book A.  Why did five of them have their photographic portraits shown on the first page of their testimonies?

2.4.        Five testimonies in Book B are copied, word for word, from Book A.  Does it mean 14 others in Book A are not trustworthy?  Either way, the total number of the women in both Book A and Book BI and BII is not 45 but 40.  It must be noted there are two different women whose names are identical.

2.5.        Why did the investigators not prepare a list of key issues in advance?  It is vital to reveal the whole truth—as Professor Yun mentioned—by organizing key issues by category.  Putting things in order would have visualize not only the how and why the women became comfort women but also the how and under what system they made a living at each comfort station in warfront.  It is unfortunate that the testimonies portrayed a litany of complaints because the investigators were merely in listen-only mode toward the women.  There are cases in which time and place remained unknown.  The significance of the “living witnesses” emphasized by Professor Yun did not bear fruit, if not wasted.

Books BI and BII compiled more than a decade after Book A was published did not correct the inadequacy of systematic approaches observed in Book A.  As for the inadequacy mentioned above, O Yon-ju, one of the editors, made the following comment (Book BI, pp. 237-238) (*underlined by author).

“Stories I heard from a halmoni (*grandmother in Korean) sounded like reading a prepared statement written in a concise and orderly manner.  She narrated each event, following closely the passage of time.  I interviewed her four times; she repeated her accounts almost in the same way.  In the meantime, her memories began to bother me because they had been fixed in a certain pattern.  I sort of struggled to find out means to make her talk about other things.

              I was compelled, during an interview, to ask questions to change the set flow of her thoughts.  Giving up listening to her experience, I decided to start questioning her about general ideas of things or about her emotional conditions.”

2.6.        Both Books A and BI and BII failed to make a comprehensive conclusion to the key issues listed below.

(1) The difference between comfort stations in warfront and brothels in Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria—which were internationally recognized as under Japanese rule—and Japan.  Those in the latter were Pusan (Korea), Hsinchu (Taiwan), Jilin (Manchuria), and Osaka/Toyama/Okinawa (Japan).

(2) The presence or absence of the following matters: trade of women by parents, family members, or husbands (Kim Hak-sun, Hwang Geum-Joo, Lee Yong-nyeo, Park Sun-e, Lee Gye-wol, Lee Ok-pun); identification papers (Park You-nian); term of employment (Lee Sang-ok of South Korea, Park Sun-e); earnings (Lee Sang-ok of South Korea, Park You-nian, Kim Sun-ok); savings and transfer of money home (Moon Ok-chu, Park Sun-e, Park You-nian, Ha Sang-suk); exchange of correspondence (Moon Ok-chu, Park Do-ri, Gil Won-ok); and liberty restrictions such as going for shopping and watching movies (O O-mok, Moon Ok-chu, Lee Tok-nam, Park Do-ri).

(3) Those cases in which the Koreans brokered and accompanied Korean women to warfront and ran comfort stations for themselves.  As Lt. Col. Archie Miyamoto, Lt. Col. of the U.S. Army (Ret.), wrote by referencing Japan’s Foreign Ministry consulate documents, it is the Koreans who managed comfort stations with Korean women while it is the Japanese who operated comfort stations with Japanese women.2

  1. Limitations of the investigations and stretched interpretations

Commercial publication of Book A brought about a result that 19 women represented 110 women who stood up at the beginning, 239 women who were officially registered by the South Korean government, and finally 200,000 women whom more than a few individuals and groups claim.  In this sense, the Korean Council achieved its objective.

The Japanese mass media often conduct public opinion polls.  They normally consider confidence interval and confidence level of a population, randomly contact approximately 2,000 persons, and come up with representative opinions based on the collect responses from 50% or so of the surveyed,

In the case of the self-proclaimed comfort women, the 40 women in Books A and BI and BII are not randomly sampled from a population of, say, 110, 239, or 200,000.  Their testimonies, therefore, contain sample coverage bias.  Because those 40 women independently comprise the whole population for themselves, it should not be stretched to interpret that they are a part of all other comfort women.  What it points to is the limitation of the investigations.

As for the stereotypical statement of those 40 women that they had been treated as subhuman, it should be merely interpreted as their claim because of lack of testimonial evidence provided by third parties.   It is, therefore, appropriate—from the vantage point of a big picture—to conclude that many a woman in Books A and BI and BII fell victim to malicious brokers and operators of comfort stations/brothels.

  1. Life of the self-proclaimed comfort women in post-liberation days

Those 40 women gave, in a greater or lesser degree, their accounts of life after the Korean Peninsula was liberated.  There is no reason to question the credibility of their accounts.  For, adding the “illogical contradictory statements and distortion of facts” to their post-liberation days would not serve as any corroborating evidence to accuse the Japanese government.

The investigators seem to have paid some attention to the women’s life at the time of the interviews.  Their assumption was probably that those women were living a life tougher than common women were because of their sufferings in the past.

4.1.        Historical background of the Korean Peninsula

The Allied Powers defeated Japan in August 1945, which liberated the Korean peninsula from Japan’s rule.  The conflicts of interest of the Allied Powers, however, divided the peninsula into South Korea and North Korea over the 38th parallel.  North Korea proceeded under the totalitarian regime while South Korea tried to build a democratic system.  The Korean War broke out and continued for three years from 1950 till the armistice agreement was signed in 1953.  The Koreans, as a result, could not freely cross the north-south border.  It was since mid-1960s when South Korea began to enter a high economic growth period under President Park Chun-hee.  Though the president was assassinated in 1970s, the nation was committed to democratization from 1980s.  The democratization provided women with opportunities to voice their opinion.

4.2.        Periods as comfort women, time of returning home, and marriage and childbirth

Table (1) below shows testimonial data of the periods as comfort women and the year they returned home as well as their marriage and childbirth.

4.2.1.    Periods as comfort women

The self-proclaimed comfort women left home after being traded for money, by deception, or for making money.  The periods they were at comfort stations or brothels vary from two months to a half year for the shortest, nine years for the longest, with the average of approximately three years and four months.  More than a few of them stayed where they were after the motherland liberation, some of whom got repatriated decades later.

4.2.2.    Marriage and childbirth

Most of the women who stayed single were strongly ashamed of their blemished virginity and chastity as Yun Do-ri and Jang Soo-wol narrated.  Their belief is probably nurtured by Confucian values to respect one’s husband and parents that had been prevailing since the days of Joseon Dynasty which was characterized by the Yangban class and patriarchy.  Misogyny, however, was generally observed both in Japan and other nations while chastity was imposed upon women.

Those who stayed single were 20% of the total women (8÷40╳100).  This rate seems to be higher in comparison of Japan’s national census statistics of 2015: Men is 23.4% and Women 14.1%.

Their enduring hardships under foreign sky did not necessarily make them distrust for men.  Those women were young when they returned home.  Quite a few of them were encouraged by their families and neighbors to get married.  29 women found their spouses or partners to live with.

As for an infertility rate among couples, it is generally believed to be about 10%.  A 2015 survey done by Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security and Research indicates as many as 29.3% of them were concerned about their infertility.  It may not be appropriate to compare the situation of decades ago to today, those women’s infertility rate comes to approximately 27.5%.  This rate does not draw a quick conclusion that their infertility is attributable to their employment practice; most of them claim they had tended to as many as 20 to 30 men a day.  Yet, 11 of them had become pregnant and delivered babies more than once.

12 of them adopted children regardless of the presence of partners.  It is believed to be attributable to their maternal instinct and their want of a social life structure.  That fact should be understood as noteworthy and socially commendable despite the social turmoil they went through after the liberation of the motherland.

Married, concubine, or cohabitation: 29 (excepting marriages prior to becoming comfort women; one of them only lived with a partner)

Single: 8
Unknown: 3

Childbirths: 11
Infertile: 8 (including one miscarriage)
A husband went missing immediately after marriage: 1
Unknown: 3

Adoption of children: 12

Table (1)

Book A:

  1. Kim Hak-sun: For 3 months till fall of 1941; married, one daughter and one son; returned home in June 1946
  1. Kim Tok-jin: 1937-1940 (February or March); returned home a month or so later; concubine, two sons and one daughter
  1. Lee Yon-suk: 1939 (December)-1945 (August); returned home in January1946; co-habitation, infertile, divorced
  1. Ha Sun-nyeo: 1940 (or 1938)-1942; returned home in 1946; co-habitation
  1. O O-mok: 1937-1945; returned home in 1945; married to a widower, infertile, divorced, adopted a girl
  1. Hwang Geum-Joo: 1941-1945; returned home in early December 1945; single, adopted three orphans
  1. Moon Bil-gi: 1943-1945; returned home in August 1945; concubine, reared younger sister’s grandchild
  1. Lee Yong-soo: 1945 (January)-1945 (August); returned home in 1946; married in 1989, divorced
  1. Lee Ok-pun: 1942-1945 (August); returned home in 1947; single
  1. Moon Ok-chu: 1940-1941, 1942 (July)-1945 (August); returned home in 1945; married twice, adopted the former husband’s son
  1. Lee Sun-ok: Married and divorced before 1938, 1938-1944; returned home in early 1945; cohabitation
  1. Lee Sang-ok: 1936-1942; returned home in December 1946; married, miscarried
  1. Lee Tok-nam: 1939-1942; returned home in 1945; Single, adopted younger sister’s child
  1. Lee Yong-nyeo: 1942-1945; returned home in April 1946; cohabitation, infertile, adopted her partner’s son
  1. Kim Te-son: 1944 (November-December); returned home in 1945; cohabitation, two daughters
  1. Park Sun-e: Married and delivered a son before 1942, traded by her husband; 1942-end of 1943; returned home in January 1944; married, three children
  1. Choi Myong-sun: 1945 (January-July); returned home in 1945; married, one son, remarried, three daughters and a son
  1. Kang Duk-kyung: 1944 (fall)-1945 (August); one child before 1945; returned home in January 1946; single
  1. Yun Do-ri: 1943 (September)-1945 (August); did not leave Pusan; single

Book BI:

  1. Park Yong-sim: 1938 (August)-1944 (September); returned to North Korea; married, infertile, adopted an orphan
  1. Song Sin-do: Married before 1938, four children before 1945, 1938-1945; went to Miyagi, Japan; lived with a partner
  1. Kim Hak-sun (*mentioned earlier)
  1. Lee Gye-wol: 1937-1939 (March); returned to North Korea at the end of 1940; single, adopted a child
  1. Kak Kim-nyeo: 1939 (fall)-1941 (November); went to North Korea; married, a child
  1. Park Do-ri: 1940-1945; returned home in 1945; concubine, married later, a son and three daughters
  1. Kim Yon-suk: 1940-1945 (spring); returned to North Korea in 1945; married, infertile
  1. Hwang Geum-Joo (*mentioned earlier)
  1. Park Ok-son: 1941-1945; went to north of North Korea; married, a daughter and a son; returned home in 2001
  1. Lee Ok-son: 1943-1945; returned home in 2000; immediately after marriage, her husband went missing
  1. Moon Bil-gi (*mentioned earlier)
  1. Kang Duk-kyung (*mentioned earlier)

Book BII:

  1. Park You-nian: 1938 (August)-1945; returned home to North Korea in March 1946; cohabitation, a son, adopted a few girls, cohabitation again
  1. Sim Dar-om: 1939-1940, 1940-1945; returned home later; unknown
  1. Gil Won-ok: 1940-1941, 1941-1945; returned home after 1945; married, left home; cohabitation, adopted a child
  1. Moon Ok-chu (*mentioned earlier)
  1. Jang Soo-wol: 1941 (September)-1945 (June); returned home in North Korea before August 1945; single
  1. Kim Bok-dong: 1941-1945; returned home after August 1945; married, infertile, re-married
  1. Kim Gun-ja: 1942 (March)-1945; returned home after August 1945; cohabitation
  1. Kim Sol-an: 1944-1945; returned home after August 1945; married, three sons, divorced, re-married, six abortions
  1. Lee Sang-ok: 1943-fled before 1945 (?); lived in North Korea after 1945; unknown
  1. Kang Il-chul: 1944-1945; lived in Jilin after August 1945; married, a son; re-married, a daughter and two sons; returned home in 2000
  1. Lee Jong-nyeo: 1943 (July)-1945; lived in North Korea after August 1945; unknown
  1. Pei Pong-gi: Married twice before 1944; 1944-1945 (March); lived in Okinawa thereafter; single
  1. Ha Sang-suk: 1944 (May)-1945; lived in China after August 1945; cohabitation, infertile, cohabitation again, married, infertile
  1. Kim Sun-ok: 1943-1945 (?); lived in China after August 1945; returned home in 2005; married, two daughters and a son; re-married, two daughters, adopted a boy

4.3.        Occupations

Almost all self-proclaimed comfort women returned home in the Korean Peninsula after the motherland liberation, excepting a few who stayed under foreign sky.  Some found their families at home while others discovered they were gone.  A few of them took up jobs after landing in Pusan and Inchon to bring home some money.  Many of them changed jobs frequently.  Some of them seriously succeeded in their business by settling down in one place.  One lost her fortune later as she became a debt guarantor for a friend.  Many a woman took up homemaking after finding her partner.  It is true that they got through painful hardships up until 1990s.  I dare say, at the risk of offending some people, the way they lived deserves great praise.  Following is a list of occupations they had.

Trafficking heroin, contraband, and U.S. dollars; selling American commodity goods and insurance policies; peddling clothes, fish, and groceries; running pubs, restaurants, a general store, a boarding house, food stalls, and an inn; working as employees of pubs, restaurants, factories, farms, and cooperative farms; becoming housemaids and live-in housemaids, a singer, a nurse, Kisaeng, a lumberjack, and a prostitute for U.S. troops.

A sidebar comment is nine of the South Koreans were welfare recipients at the time of the investigations.  Two of the six who live in North Korea seem also to be on welfare.

  1. Memories of their life

Provided below are several comments the self-proclaimed comfort women made toward life.  It is regrettable the investigators failed to characterize the women’s personalities.  Relevant descriptions not longer than several lines.  Their thoughts, endorsed and enriched by strong will and long experience, might have provided men and women of all ages with valuable insights. (*Underlined by author)

Kim Tok-jin: “The Japanese should be blamed but I hate much more those Koreans who became their pawn.  I have a lot to say to our government, which must compensate for us.”

Lee Yon-suk: “Not only the Japanese but also the Koreans trampled one another to go on living.  Both are to be blamed.  …  I am not concerned about getting reparations.  For, I may go away tomorrow.”

Hwang Geum-Joo: “My wish is to live an independent life until the end while not being ignored by others and at the same time offering assistance for the people in hardship.”

Lee Tok-nam: “People are supposed to live by accepting their fate.  They will lose happiness of today if they have eyes bigger than one’s stomach.  I no longer entertain a big dream.  When I was young, I had a bad temper.  Because I spent my younger days there (*Southeast Asia), I am reluctant to meet people.  All I want now is to lead a quiet life.”

Kim Te-son: “I think that all the sufferings are attributable to sins of our ancestors.  It is because of the poverty of our country in which we were born.  Even if I was married when I was young, I might have become a comfort woman in one way or another.  It is fate that I was born in those days.”

Park Sun-e: “I made public my past experiences because I thought it would be of service to my country.  Our people must never be enslaved by a foreign country again.”

Yun Do-ri: “I would like to be born again as a woman.  It would be nice for me to study hard under the good care of parents, to get married to a good man, and to bear a child.”

Sim Dar-om: “The Buddha statue on the altar truly evokes a profound sense of wonder.  It gives me everyday wisdom of this and that.  I can live a good life day after day because the Buddha makes me act like a human and gives me an opportunity to get along with other people.”

Gil Won-ok: About her adoption of a boy a stranger gave a birth to, “I am deeply indebted to Lord for my son whom I raised to make him go to the graduate school of a college of theology.”

Kim Sol-an: “My (*second) husband is a college graduate.  He said he would not mind it (*after I had my elder sister disclosed my past to him).  He said what had happened in the past would not matter any longer.  I thought in my heart that one who studied hard are different from others.”

Kang Il-chul: “Those licensed prostitutes went to warfront to earn money.  We were forced to go there.”

Ha Sang-suk: “I worked at a cotton-spinning company in China from 1962 to about ten years ago.  I was mentioned in the newspaper as a model employee.  I worked hard because I did not want the Chinese to consider the Koreans were incapable of doing work.  I was awarded in 1992 for having a happy family.”

A sidebar comment:  Kang Duk-kyung studied painting after she moved in the House of Sharing in 1992.

  1. The Korean Council policies and a personal comment

The personal life of those self-proclaimed comfort women was probably a secondary matter for the Korean Council that had a social cause to criticize Japan.  As mentioned earlier, nine of those women were on welfare when their testimonies were published.  Many researchers would probably lose no time in asserting, “It is their experience of the past that brought about their welfare status of today.  That is why a hard blow of justice must be delivered to the perpetrators.”  Have the council’s campaigns with great public fanfare really improved their circumstances?  Had rationing a portion of the donated money and setting up the House of Sharing sufficiently satisfied those women?

Tsukasa Yajima, the House’s employee in charge of international affairs, blew the whistle to the Kyodo News on May 28, 2020 that the donated money had not properly been used for the women in the house.  He wrote in 2005 an interesting observation about the life of nine women as follows (Book BI, pp. 255-257).  What Yajima narrated is, in no way, a case of improvement of their situations.

“A verbal brawl takes place among them over small things, which is the clash of their egos.  Visitors who come to the House often comment each woman appears like any ordinary grandma.  I would say all of them are fearless and greedy, not to mention making underhanded tricks more than anyone else does.  It is true everyone is two-faced.  But when you encounter the women’s hidden nature, you would find them extremely uncomfortable and musing, at the same time.”

At the beginning, the Korean Council campaigns were supposed to consist of the two pillars below, which operated as the two wheels of a cart.

(1) To pursue actions to demand Japan to take responsibilities for the comfort women

(2) To provide psychological and material support for those women

The Korean Council encouraged those women to take part in the Wednesday demonstrations in the nation, took them overseas to attend unveiling ceremonies of comfort women cenotaphs and statues, and arranged them to take the congressional and assembly witness stands.  It is true that the council, by making public the women’s past, could appeal human rights violations not only to Japan but also to the world.  The pillar (1) has been partially successful.

Concerning the comfort women issue itself, Professor Chin Sung-Chung of the Seoul University said as follows in an opinion piece titled ‘In Seeking Concrete Solutions for the Victims’ (Book BII, pp. 381).

“It is the social conditions of war, racial prejudice, and patriarchy that brought forth the comfort women system.  Eliminating them will be the fundamental solution to the problem.”

The three factors Professor Chin mentioned—metaphysical in some way—are concisely reviewed: (a) War breaks out of conflicts of interest as history has seen.  Therefore, it is not necessarily rightful to blame Japan alone from a geopolitical point of view.  (b) The racial prejudice Professor Chin mentioned is a criticism against Japan that colonized the Korean Peninsula and treated the Koreans as the second class citizens for the Japanese.  The Western Powers exploited local people wherever they were in the modern age of colonial imperialism.  This fact would be no excuse for Japan.  (c) Patriarchy continued in every corner of the world into modern times.  It exerted profound influence especially over the Koreans as a legacy of the Yi Dynasty rule for five centuries.  It is not quite reasonable to blame Japan for patriarchy.  It goes without saying that the comfort women system did not originate in the peninsula; the system must be understood as having evolved around prostitution in Japan from the 17th century.

Having said that, I believe what Professor Chin meant above should be interpreted as a future agendum for the Korean Council.  Accordingly, his suggestion should not be identified with the pillar (1).

What about the pillar (2)?  As far as their well-being is concerned, it is not necessarily true that the Korean Council has satisfied those women’s psychological and material needs while they were in the retirement period.  It has controlled their behaviors and decision-making.  It has divided their personality by elevating them to a group icon.  In other words, those women have become a tool of the intellectuals without being provided any opportunity to pride themselves with their own insights into life.

Both a sincere person and an insincere person are remembered in history.  It is the former not the latter the public will appraise.  The Korean Council with a wrong judgement has left a major stain that cannot be wiped off.  It is anyone’s guess how this incident regarding accounting irregularities comes to an end.  The Korean Council must be back to square one and earnestly and seriously review the pillar (2) so that it can kickstart what needs to be done for those women.  Time is running short.

“The whole truth” sounds nice, however, “Covering the truth” is a shameful act.

A last note: Those who committed human rights violations must be held accountable. It is Japan’s expansion of the theater of operations that prompted the Korean women to take on prostitution business in warfront after the introduction of the licensed prostitution system by Japan to the Korean Peninsula in 1916. The system—that imposed a variety of duties upon comfort station managers to protect the comfort women’s right—was, none the less, something that tacitly gave an approval to human trade. It follows that the Japanese government was not faultless at the time. It is not appropriate, nevertheless, to criticize the system from today’s point of view. As for the “subhuman treatments” the self-proclaimed comfort women narrated, it is reasonable to blame greedy comfort station/brothel managers for business malpractices.


Note 1: “Discourses on Terminologies Related to the Comfort Women (Licensed Prostitutes)” of April 2019, “My Thoughts on Film Shusenjo” of March 2010, “Korean Puzzle” of April 2020, “Development of the Seigiren Clatter” of June 2020, and “Outcry of Lee Yong-soo, the Self-Proclaimed Comfort Woman” of June 2020.

Note 2: Miyamoto, Archie. (2017). Wartime Military Records on Comfort Women. 2d Edition. Amazon Fulfillment, pp. 37-39



June 15, 2020

Hidemi Nagao ( Former Civil and Media Liaison Officer of the Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, Novelist and Non-fiction Writer )



Lee Yong-soo, a self-proclaimed comfort woman, held a press conference in Tague, South Korea, on May 7.  She accused Seigiren by questioning its money management practices.  She added that she would not join the Wednesday demonstrations any longer.

Seigiren (the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan) gets not only private funding from individual and corporate donors but also government subsidies.  What is surprising is it obtained 1.343 billion won (approximately 116.7 million yen) from the South Korean government from 2016 to 2019.[1]  Another surprise is that Kim Eun-Sung, the sculptor who made the 1.3-meter-tall girl statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, made more than 100 replicas and cashed in at least 3.1 billion won (approximately 277 million yen) so far.  Kim is believed to have sold close to ten thousand smaller statues (10 to 50 centimeters tall). [2]  The replicas, large or small, are copyrighted.  He is one of the directors of Seigiren.

While the prosecutors are investigating Seigiren’s accounting irregularities, the intellectuals and media columnists are struggling to find out what the nation and the public can do or should do for the comfort women issue.

Lee’s accusations have not only uncovered personal greed of certain human rights advocates but also brought about an unprecedented change in public perceptions of the issue.

2. Why?

Why did Lee publicly criticize Seigiran at all?  I got intrigued to figure out what prompted her to do it.  Putting myself in her shoes, I try to make a guess below.

(1) Lee has not been happy with results of her commitments for the past 30 years.

(2) Though she has been one of the key players, she is getting afraid of being pulled out of center stage as things are going on now.

(3) She has not been duly paid for her commitments in places both domestic and foreign.

(4) Her act to give a hug at President Trump at a presidential banquet has not been properly recognized.

(5) The public is no longer paying any attention to her bold statement that “Yong-soo is the Dokdo and the Dokdo is Yong-soo.”

(6) Because she recently finds it hard to tell which is true, her personal experience of decades ago or what she has been narrating about it, she intended to divert the public attention to something else.

(7) She has, at long last, begun to have qualms of conscience about having practiced hypocrisy.  Or,

(8) She has lately been suffering from isolation.

3. Criticisms against Seigiren and its former leader Yoon Meehyang

Most of Lee’s criticisms are related to money as shown below.

Lee sobbingly said, “The fact that the Korean Council (Seigiren) has been making business of the former comfort women for the past 30 years came to light at last.  I will swear to construct a comfort women history museum.” [3]

Lee appealed, “The Wednesday demonstrations should be terminated.”[4]

Lee complained, “The bear trainer taught bears to do tricks and the trainer swindled all the money for the past 30 years.”[5]

Lee fumingly said, “Yoon Meehyang became a congressperson for her personal greed.  It is unforgivable.”[6]

Lee once asked Yoon to buy some food because she was hungry.  Yoon refused to do so by saying, “I don’t have money.”[7]

4. Proposal of exchanges of South Korean and Japanese students

Lee understands what righteous history is.  She is well aware, at the same time, the authenticity of the hateful Seigiren as well as all self-proclaimed comfort women would be denied if there comes a day when both South Korea and Japan can share common historical perceptions.

Lee preached, “Japan must apologize and pay reparations to the comfort women for the next one thousand years, even ten thousand years.  It is necessary, as a prerequisite, for the students both in South Korea and Japan to learn history from a proper perspective.  Both nations must become friendly to put the process on the right track.”[8]

5. Dilemma of the self-proclaimed former comfort woman

5.1.    Promotion of human rights activities

The comfort women issue made a big wave in South Korea in early 1990s when Seigiren was established.  Seigiren launched a policy to restore honor and respect and to secure stability and freedom of the victims of the licensed prostitution system and began a variety of protest activities against Japan.

Lee came forward as a former comfort woman in June 1992.  She became one of the victims of the system and took part in Seigiren activities.

Seigiren’s purpose was to denounce Japan by appeal violations of the women’s rights to the world.  It required funds to promote and continue its campaigns.  Its leaders decided to collect donations from the public.  As donations came in from students and people and from businesses, so Seigiren expanded its campaigns overseas and to the United Nations.  Once it succeeded in obtaining subsidies from the government, Seigiren became a government-endorsed entity.

Funds would never be sufficient.  So, Seigiren committed itself to raise money by selling girl statues and other comfort women related goods.

It was only recently when Lee got concerned about three things.  One is a long-standing criticism against her personality, the image of which Seigiren created.  The second is a question of who should be at center stage as far as the comfort women issue is concerned.  The third one is Yoon is no longer a civic leader but a congressperson.

Lee’s outcry derives from the three things above.

5.2.    Misgivings about stereotypical views

Lee reflected on her life for the past 30 years.  Some recollections were embarrassing but others were elating and pleasant.  She always narrated her sufferings at seminars and media availabilities, meeting with a variety of people.  She took a witness stand at the U.S. Congress and at a Harvard University hall in 2007.  She cried loudly at Palisades Park in New Jersey in 2011 when a comfort women cenotaph was unveiled, an inscription of which stated that the Japanese military abducted 200,000 women to warfront.

The knowledge of those people Lee met at various places is limited to the two years since 1944 when she was in China and Taiwan.  The timeframe—too short for anyone’s adolescent years—was, at best, a fragmentary phase of her long life.  And they regard her only as an accuser.

One goes through a life being a child, an adolescent, and an adult before becoming an aged.  Lee did so, too.  Being born and raised in Taegu, she had painful days because she had to work for four younger brothers.[9] She still remembers voices of her father, mother, and an aunt.  When she was 14, 15, or 16, a Japanese who put on a military cap gave her a dress and a pair of shoes and took her away though her memories are not so clear today.

After the war ended, Lee returned from Taiwan to Taegu.  Working as a waitress at taverns and grab-joints, she managed to live through such hard times as the Korean War.[10]  After her mother’s death, she worked as an insurance vender, too.[11]  She got married to an elderly man in 1989 but got divorced in two years as he was very suspicious and violent.[12]  In August

1991 when she was sick and tired of the personal trouble, Kim Hak-sun came to the fore as a former comfort woman.  Quite a few women followed her suit in response to Seigiren’s encouragement.  Lee decided to join them.  She viewed it as a godsend.

Those recollections did not help her overcome the three embarrassing questions.  Things are moving; Yoon would soon become a congress person.

Lee remains as a woman putting on a comfort woman mask, which is nothing but a symbol of depersonalization.

5.3.    Overcoming the depersonalization

One grows being told not to tell a lie.  Reality is the world is full of lies, which Lee also personally experienced.  Lee allows her to tell a lie for the purpose of convenience.  It is unforgivable, however, for others to tell her a lie.  Likewise, she does not mind using others for personal benefit, but she does not want to let others use her.

Lee gave a serious thought about the status quo for a while.  Her personality was a work-up of Seigiren and Yoon; an idolized creation for the two years since 1944.  It was a product intentionally defying her memory, reason, and conscience.

Lee made up her mind that she should create a new personality.  What should she do?

One way is to appeal to the public the Han of a thousand years against Japan more loudly than ever before.  She knows it has already become a

cliché.   A proposal of historical reviews by students of both South Korea

and Japan—which Lee talked about a few years back somewhere—is superficial at best.  For, she is aware of its limitations.

There must be other means.  Lee wants to be a central player on stage again and leave the stage as one.  …  It dawned on Lee.  Exposing hidden malpractices would do.  The world would pay attention to her once again, which ushers in her new image.  Even if her exposure tactics fails, Seigiren and Yoon would not survive unscathed.

Lee finally decided to cry out loud.  She or Seigiren or the government could care less about an academic criticism that Pavlovian anti-Japanese campaigns alone would not solve the issue.

6. What I wrote above is my guess of Lee’s flow of thoughts. It is quite unfortunate for no one to have mentioned her what Tomoko Yamazaki, a Japanese historian on women, wrote in her book about Osaki-san in 1972 and what Ham Seok-heon, an avid Quaker and a pro-democracy movement leader throughout his life (1901-1989), stated in his book in 1962.

6.1.    Yamazaki wrote the following about Osaki-san.[13]

“Osaki-san was sold as ‘Karayuki-san’ by her brother Funazo for 300 yen when she was ten years old.  She was taken to Sandakan in Borneo, Indonesia and she became a prostitute at the age of 13 (*Karayuki-san are Japanese prostitutes who did business in foreign countries).  After the war, she fled from Manchuria with her husband and a son and lived in Kyoto; upon her husband’s passing, she alone came back to Kyushu; and she peacefully died there years later.”

“Osaki-san, despite her having been exposed to the villagers’

prejudice in Kyushu, elevated her personality to a noble level, without becoming cynical or anti-social.  She had a big heart not only toward other people but also toward nine stray cats living around her house.  Osaki-san gave them food while having barely enough food for herself.  She said to me, ‘They also have a life to live through.’”

6.2.    Ham Seok-heon wrote as follows in his book.[14]

“A human being is born to resist.  Resistance proves the existence of the human being.”

“Life experience derives from a mental process of understanding, scrutinizing, and demonstrating one’s existence as a unique and valuable personality.”

7. Lee Yong-soo’s attempt seems to have achieved an objective. She would not feel lonely for a while.  But the authorities’ investigations to the allegations against Seigiren’s fund management are irrelevant to public appraisal of Lee’s personality.  People always face a harsh reality, but the reality also sees many people being saved by a person(s) of integrity.
Lee Yong-soo will earn her place in history though it has nothing to do with historical perceptions.



[1] The Japanese language edition of the JoongAng Ilbo dispatch at 1017 on May 26, 2020

[2] The Japanese language edition of the Chosun Ilbo dispatch at 1140 on June 3, 2020

[3] The Japanese language edition of Wow!Korea dispatch at 1311 on June 6,2020

[4] Ditto

[5] The Japanese language edition of the Chosun Ilbo dispatch at 0540 on May 31, 2020

[6] The Japanese language edition of the Chosun Ilbo dispatch at 1040 on May 26, 2020

[7] The Japanese language edition of the Chosun Ilbo dispatch at 1010 on May 26, 2020

[8] The Yonhap News dispatch at 1647 of May 25, 2020

[9] The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and Teishintai Research Committee, Ed. (1993). Shogen–Kyosei Renko Sareta Chosenjin Ianfu Tachi [Testimonies – Korean Comfort Women Forcibly Recruited] (author translation). Tokyo. Akashi Shoten Publishing, pp. 131-132

[10] Ditto, p. 142

[11] Ditto, p. 143

[12] Lee Yong-soo and Michiko Takayanagi. (2009). Watashi wa Nihongun Ianfu Datta [I was a comfort woman for the Japanese military] (author translation). Tokyo. ShinNippon Shuppan Publishing, pp. 78-79

[13] Yamazaki, Tomoko. (1972). Sandakan Hachiban Shokan [Brothel Eight in Sandakan] (a/t). Tokyo. Chikuma-Shobo Publishing, p. 255

[14] Ham Seok-heon. (1980). Kunan no Kankoku Minshu-shi [History of hardships of the South Korean people] (a/t). (Kim Hak-hyon, Trans.) Tokyo. Shinkyosha Publishing, p. 399, p. 15



June 4, 2020

Hidemi Nagao ( Former Civil and Media Liaison Officer of the Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, Novelist and Non-fiction Writer )


Lee Yong-soo, a self-proclaimed comfort woman, accused Seigiren and its leader Yoon Meehyang in Tague, South Korea, on May 7.  Since then, her accusation has been rocking the entire South Korean society.  I would like to personally offer an observation about the situation which I call a clatter involving Seigiren (the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan).    Honorific titles are not used herein.

  1. Limits of the clatter

1.1.        I set aside the definition of the comfort women here.  The comfort women cenotaphs and statues being built in South Korea and foreign countries symbolize the use of comfort women by the Japanese military in warfront.  Their significance will not be called into question by the South Koreans even if Seigiren gets denied and disestablished.

1.2.        Seigiren, established in South Korea in 1990, became the first civic entity to support the self-proclaimed comfort women.  The South Koreans consider the existence of similar groups important.  Accordingly, anti-Japan campaigns will not come to an end as far as the comfort women issue is concerned.

1.3.        Most of the expenses for Seigiren campaigns is said to have been borne by donated funds from the public at large.  The prosecutors will investigate the case for misappropriation and breach of trust in bookkeeping. Investigations would probably be completed by making its leader Yoon Meehyang and her accountant and family members face the fire.

1.4.        It is said to be Etsuro Totsuka who first began to call comfort women sexual slaves.  He used the phrase at a United Nations committee in 1992.  Sexual slavery is used with specific reference to comfort women in Seigiren’s English name.  It is unknown who first used the phrase.  Its usage—to refer to licensed prostitutes—began to prevail by mid-1990s.  Things have made an abrupt turn backward on May 25 when Lee Yong-soo said at the media availability she had detested the naming as abominable.  The South Korean Foreign Ministry, in its English homepage, favors sexual slavery to refer to comfort women.  It is, therefore, inconceivable for Seoul to bother to retract the naming at the U.N. committees.  It is because there is no substitute phrase that can carry as much social impact as sexual slavery does even if the premise of the victim-centered approaches is being upheld.

1.5.        As mentioned above, the environment regarding the comfort women issue would not drastically change.  I would like to make a proposal here, despite such an observation.  Seigiren has been accusing Japan by making the comfort women issue a case of women’s rights violation.  If it seriously intends to advance the women’s rights, its name should reflect the existence of comfort women for the South Korean military and the U.N. command during the Korean War and the South Korean comfort stations and Lai Dai Han during the Vietnam War, too.  I would recommend the following name if volunteers are to establish a new coalition after the Seigiren clatter, which requires courage of the South Koreans.

The Korean Council for the Women (and Lai Dai Han Mothers) Abused by the Japanese Military, the South Korean Military, the U.N. Command

  1. Establishment of a public comfort women support organ

2.1.        Trying to turn the challenge into to opportunity, the South Korean government is believed to establish and manage a new support agency for the comfort women as public trust for Seigiren has reached its nadir.  The new organ would belong to either the ministry of foreign affairs, the ministry of health and welfare, or the ministry of gender equality and family, depending on what the Blue House prioritizes, i.e., diplomacy, social welfare, or promotion of women’s rights.

2.2.        This new organ must clearly understand what the comfort women want to accomplish.  If the women may merely ask for provision of consolation money, this organ would fulfill its role when it completes provision of the money to all comfort women and their bereaved families.

2.3.        If the women, on the other hand, calls on the government to negotiate with the Japanese government for the purpose of making the latter unequivocally acknowledge the national responsibility for having institutionalized the comfort women system in warfront.  Predicted at present are two situations below.

2.3.1.     The Japanese government would claim the issue to be settled domestically in South Korea by referencing the Kato statement, the Kono statement, the Asian Women’s Fund, and the recent bilateral agreement.  Because it is unrealistic for Japan to make concessions, the donation of one billion yen for the Foundation to Support Former Comfort Women would get out of hand now that the South Korean government already disestablished the foundation.  The comfort women issue would remain unresolved.

2.3.2.     The comfort women may propose a compromise.  They would accept the consolation money on condition that the South Korean government pledge to continue its efforts to call for Japan’s concession.

  1. South Korean “Han” against Japan

3.1.        The Japanese government should be aware of three things while observing events in South Korea.  All of them relate to “Han (see Note at the end)” the South Koreans have toward Japan as mentioned by Chun Yung-woo, former chief diplomatic adviser to President Lee Myung-bak.  He emphasized two points below in the Japanese language edition of the Chosun Ilbo of May 24.

“It is necessary for fellow citizens to continue to erect girl statues and reflect on the violence Japan inflicted upon us as a historical lesson, even after all comfort women pass away.

We would never be able to say enough is enough when it comes to revenge campaigns against Japan.  It is unwarranted, on the other hand, for our country to turn our attention solely to the past.  Our country has core values more important than the anti-Japan commitment.  We must remember that our goal of overtaking Japan shall slip away if we lose our moral superiority over Japan.”

3.2.        The Japanese government must also bear in mind the third point, which also relates to “Han” Chun narrated.  According to the Japanese language edition of the Chosun Ilbo of May 26, Yee Yong-soo said at the press conference of May 25 as follows.

“What I would like to say is not to quit the campaigns but to change the way they are carried out.  The pillar of our philosophy is Japan should continue to apologize for the comfort women issue for thousands of years to come.

Key players in our history are students of both South Korea and Japan who are to solve the comfort women issue.  We must strive to lead them to develop righteous historical perceptions and encourage them to mutually exchange.”

3.3.        A Japanese would clearly see in the background of the thoughts Yee and Chun mentioned is the annexation of the Korean Empire by Japan in 1910.  It is meaningless here to mention to the South Koreans the present relationships between the former colonial power and the former colonized territory in the days of imperialism; Britain and India, France and Indochina, the Netherlands and Indonesia, and the U.S. and the Philippines, for example.  When it comes to matters involving South Korea and Japan, they are irrelevant, period.  It is, therefore, meaningless what the yangban, the ruling class since the Yi Dynasty in the Korean Peninsula, did or did not do when their homeland was annexed to Japan.

  1. What Japan is supposed to do?

4.1.        Pyon Jinil, editor-in-chief of the Korea Report, contributed on May 27 an opinion piece titled “Five reasons why a bombshell statement by a former comfort woman is good news for the Abe administration.”  The gist is as follows.

Merit 1:  Seigiren’s legitimacy is denied.

Merit 2:  The published comfort women statements are questioned.

Merit 3:  The Wednesday demonstrations are not encouraged.

Merit 4:  The phrase of sexual slaves is detested.

Merit 5:  Congressperson Yoon Meehyang’s political voice will decline.

4.2.        I hate to reiterate this, but the Japanese government issued the Kato statement in 1992, the Kono statement in 1993, established the Asian Women’s Fund in 1994, issued the Murayama statement in 1995, and reached an agreement with South Korea in 2015, regarding the comfort women issue.  Whatever the U.N. committees presented as conclusive observations/recommendations in the past and whatever they will issue in future, what Japan did in earnest has been carved in stone.

4.3.        On the other hand, what South Korea and the U.N. committees have done so far is to merely link the comfort women issue with women’s rights violation in today’s ethical standards.  They have never attempted to scrutinize the comfort women system—which the Japanese military used from 1932 to 1945—from the sociological or legal viewpoints.  They have not paid any attention to the geopolitical situations of the Far East up until the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910, either.  Any discussion without reviewing the how and why of the past events are irresponsible per se.  The mission of each U.N. committee is to issue a recommendation to the state party concerned in response to a presented claim.  It is, therefore, not appropriate to question the committee members’ wisdom.  They happen to be there for talking as writers till the day is done.  No one can expect more from them because they are no more than bystanders.

4.4.        Lastly, what Yee Yong-soo recommended must be reviewed.  She encouraged students of South Korea and Japan to be given righteous history education and to engage in cross-pollination of ideas.  Presenting historical materials to students of both countries would not usher in any solution to the comfort women issue.  For, it is not possible to ask them to reduce into writing contentious and divisive issues, to examine each, and to come up with a reasonable judgement.  It is, however, possible for such an interaction to become a means to inspire hope.  This hope will become realistic only on condition that no decisive conclusion is to be made by both students.  In other words, they are supposed to accept pros and cons of the issue as a result of historical consideration.

4.5.        The Japanese government has nothing to do but to wait and see till the clatter subsides.

Note:  Han in Japanese is an emotion of rage and hate against others.  Han is a concept of an emotion, variously described as some form of grief or resentment, among others, that has been said to be a characteristic of Korean culture.  Han is a modern phenomenon that did not exist in premodern Korea.  Han is not found in the first Korean–English dictionary, published by James S. Gale in 1897, according to Michael D. Shin of Robinson College.  Shin says almost any negative emotion can be called Han and argues that the central aspect of Han is loss of identity, in that the complex of emotions that result from the traumatic loss of collective identity, according to Wikipedia (browsed on May 30)  One seasoned journalist who is well-versed in Korean language and has years of professional experience in South Korea said, “Han is an emotion to be generated when one’s pursuit of an ideal gets undermined by a person or an organization, which, therefore, never goes away.”



Date:    April 15, 2020

From:  Hidemi Nagao, Chairman of the Association to Boost Credibility of United Nations Committees (ABC-UNC)

To:   Honorable Members of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)


Ref:  List of issues and questions prior to the submission of the ninth periodic report of Japan (CEDAW/C/JPN/QPR/9 of March 9, 2020, ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION)

Dear Sirs and Madams,

  1. Request

I, as Chairman of the Association to Boost Credibility of the United Nations Committees (ABC-UNC), request that your committee (CEDAW) to retract and rescind the following statement in paragraph 2 (Definition of discrimination and legislative framework) of the reference.

“Regarding the Imperial House Act, the provisions of which currently excludes women from succeeding to the royal throne, please provide details on the steps envisaged to enable female succession to the throne.”

  1. Reasons to call for retraction of the statement

I suspect some misunderstandings had contributed to the committee’s formulation of the statement above.  Please allow me to explain key matters related to the Imperial Household so that they can be duly allayed.  Brevity is essential and, therefore, I will try “not to keep you long” as British King Henry VIII said to his six wives.

2.1.  History about the Imperial Household

2.1.1.  The early days of the Imperial Household are written in both Kojiki (the Records of Ancient Matters, compiled in 712) and Nihonshoki (the Chronicle of Japan, compiled in 720).  Historians regard those days as belonging to myths; there is no argument among them.  According to the myths, three important deities came into existence after the islands of Japan were created.  They were allotted the heaven, the night, and the seas respectively.  Of note is two of them were women and one is a man.  In the myths is no sexual discrimination among the deities.

2.1.2.  There are, however, controversies about since when the Imperial Household (emperors) existed.  The first Emperor Jinmu ascended the throne in 660 BC, which makes Emperor Naruhito of today the 126th Emperor of Japan.  The 16th Emperor Nintoku who reigned in the 4th century is known to have existed.  In other words, the Imperial Household is blessed with more than 1800 years of history at least.

2.1.3.  The Imperial Household maintains until today the male succession policy.  History saw there were eight empresses in Japan, the first one being Empress Suiko from 592 to 628 and the last one being Empress Gosakuramachi from 1762-1770.  The empresses reigned for ten eras because two of them were enthroned twice.  They were exceptions.  For, eight empresses ascended the throne for the purpose of maintaining the imperial lineage.  Each of them reigned for a certain period till a male descendant got enthroned.

2.1.4.  There was a serious search to locate imperial descendants for the male succession policy.  Senator Hiroshi Yamada of the House of Councilors said at his speaking engagement on December 1, 2019 as follows.

“Before the 26th Emperor Keitai ascended the throne, the imperial court did an all-out search of ascendants up to several generations and found a descendant in Fukui (in the north of Kyoto).”

2.2.  A woman on the throne and the matrilineal imperial system

2.2.1.  As mentioned earlier, several empresses were in the Imperial Household history.  But they were exceptions.  The policy is to maintain the authentic imperial lineage, the emperor’s bloodline.  The bloodline which relates to DNA is briefly explained here.

“DNA is a chemical molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions.  It forms a chemical union with protein to produce chromosomes.  In a human cell are 23 pairs of chromosomes in which 22 pairs are autosomes and one pair are sex chromosomes.  A female has X+X chromosomes while a male has X+Y chromosomes.”

2.2.2.  The introduction of the matrilineal imperial system to the Imperial Household would mean, for example, the emperor’s daughters get married to males outside the imperial lineage, which translates to discontinuance of the imperial Y-chromosomes.  This system is not acceptable.

2.2.3.  If the Imperial Household happens to have no male descendants for the throne, it is possible for the Japanese parliament to pass a special law to ascend a daughter to the throne as a temporary measure.  CEDAW’s recommendation mentioned in paragraph 1 above does not clarify the issue of the authentic imperial lineage.

2.3.  Unwarranted intervention

2.3.1.  The recommendation to revise the Imperial Household Law to accommodate empresses seems to be without problem at first glance.  it would, however, be a case of “ultra vires” (beyond the powers).

2.3.2.  For, as mentioned in subparagraphs 2.1-2.2 above, the recommendation would deny the bloodline the Imperial Household has kept for a long time; it would amount to denying its history.  Once its history is denied, the Shinto rituals conducted by the household gets denied, too.

2.3.3.  There are many countries in the world that embrace Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, each of which has semi-mythical or mythical elements and conducts rituals in some form or another.  Even if some teachings in those religions are contrary to historical facts, would international organs and foreign governments call for correction of them?  Would they intervene those religions sovereign states embrace?  Such an act would become a case of “ultra vires.”

2.3.4.  Section 2 of the Additional Clause of the Imperial Household Law enacted in 1947 states “the present imperial family shall be the imperial family under this law.”  The clause is said to have seriously regarded the opinion of the General Headquarters, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.  That is, the Allied Powers intended to make the Imperial Family eventually become extinct.  Because of section 2, the imperial family was limited to the emperor, his two sons, his brother, the brother’s three sons, and his nephew’s son.  The act was nothing but an unwarranted intervention.  In October 1947, 11 former imperial families—according to the section and due partly to economic hardships anticipated—voluntarily separated from the imperial family.

  1. Conclusion

3.1.  No international organs or foreign governments have any vested right to call on Japan for discontinuing the Imperial Family.

3.2.  Such an intervention would be an act to retroactively deny rich cultural heritage the Imperial Household has nurtured until today.  Were it not for the Imperial Family, such great works as the Tale of Genji (the oldest and longest novel in the world, written by a woman) and the Pillow Talks (a collection of essays authored by another women) would not have been created at the turn of the 11th century.

3.3.  Based on my background explanations, I humbly request the honorable CEDAW members to retract and rescind the recommendation concerning the Imperial Household, by making a philosophical judgement.

  1. Supplementary note

On April 6, 2020, British Queen Elizabeth II made a televised address to her people as follows amid corona virus pandemic (COVID 19).

“The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”

The queen’s intention is not to deny the past.  Observing tradition will make the Britons proud of their nation.  They and their nation, with the pride, can tackle with their present and their future.  The same is equally true of Japan, not to mention the continuity of the Imperial Household.

Very respectfully yours,

Hidemi Nagao

Chairman, the Association to Boost Credibility of United Nations Committees (ABC-UNC)

Did CED give serious thought to its recommendations to Japan?


April, 2020
Hidemi Nagao ( Former Civil and Media Liaison Officer of the Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, Novelist and Non-fiction Writer )

Did CED give serious thought to its recommendations to Japan?

1. Do the readers still remember conclusive observations the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) presented to Japan on November 19, 2018? It is documented as CED/C/JPN/CO/1.

2.  Nadeshiko Action homepage posted them on November 21, 2018 with the following additional information.

“It is the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), the Women’s Active Museum of War and Peace (WAM), and the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan that tabled the comfort women issue to the committee. CED is believed to have made conclusive observations in response to an opinion brief the three organizations jointly submitted.”

3.  The brief dated July 12, 2018 contained the following recommendations regarding the comfort women issue.

“(1) The State party (*Japan) should ensure that public officials and leaders will desist from making thoughtless remarks regarding responsibility of the Government of Japan for violations committed against ‘comfort women.

(2) The State party should humbly face the conclusive observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in which the Committee regrets that the announcement of the bilateral agreement with the Republic of Korea in December 2015 ‘did not fully adopt a victim-centered approach’ and urges to recognize ‘the right of the victims to a remedy, and accordingly provide full and effective redress and reparation, including compensation, satisfaction, official apologies and rehabilitative services,’ and work on this issue faithfully with consideration given to the feelings of the victims.”

4.  The finalized CED recommendations to Japan deal with the comfort women issue in paragraphs 25- 26. Paragraph 26 states, in part, as follows.

“(b) Ensure that all cases of so-called “comfort women” who may have been subjected to enforced disappearance, including removal of children born to these women, are investigated thoroughly and impartially without delay, regardless of the time that has elapsed since they took place and even if there has been no formal complaints;

(c) Ensure that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished in accordance with the gravity of their acts;”

5.  The recommendations are based on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which was adopted at the 61st United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2006. The convention took effect from December 23, 2010. Japan acceded to the convention since its onset. The United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand as well as China, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, or Iran has not.

6.  It is unreasonable, in the first place, for the Korean Council to be cited as one of the report originators, isn’t it?  For, South Korea is not yet a signatory country to the convention. It is like saying, “We are not bound by the convention. But you must execute what the committee recommends because you are supposed to uphold it.”

7.  If the Japanese government sincerely commits itself to execute the recommendations above, i.e., to reveal facts and prosecute and punish the perpetrators, something extremely troublesome would come to the fore between South Korea and Japan; more so for the former than for the latter.

7.1.  Lt. Col. Archie Miyamoto (U.S. Army Retired) published in 2017 “Wartime Military Records on Comfort Women,” 2d Edition, from Amazon Fulfillment. After having read Japanese Foreign Ministry documents (consul general reports), he gives the following comments (pp. 37-39).

“(1) These reports provide concrete evidence many comfort stations were operated by Koreans, a fact not widely known outside Korea and Japan.

(2) They (*comfort stations) were not operated by the military or by military employees. Prostitution was legal and operating a brothel was not considered an illegal activity. Types of business operated by Koreans, in addition to comfort stations, include photo shops, retails stores, restaurants, transportation business, trading companies, …, and hotels.

(3) Korean operators of special comfort stations in many cases had women and children, in other words, families. This is evidence that they were not single men who were part of the Japanese Army. The same applied to Japanese operated comfort stations.

(4) In all reports, special comfort stations operated by Japanese had Japanese comfort women, and those operated by Koreans had Korean comfort women. There is not a single report that lists any Korean comfort women in a Japanese operated comfort station. There were many reports on the same city at different time but showed no significant changes.”

7.2.  Miyamoto cited three reports dispatched to the ministry from consul generals stationed in China as examples of the Japanese comfort women employed by the Japanese and the Korean comfort women employed by the Koreans:

(1) Jiujiang, Central China, Consulate Report No. 561, 11/8/38.
Japanese Operated Businesses:

Special Comfort Stations      15
Japanese operators               42 men, 25 women, 1 child
Japanese Comfort Women   107

Korean Operated Businesses:

Special Comfort Stations      9
Korean Operators                   26 men, 8 women, 3 children
Korean Comfort Women       143

(2) Nanchang, Central China, Consulate Report No. 217, dated August 9, 1929.
Japanese Operated Businesses:

Japanese Comfort Stations  3
Japanese Operators               5 men, 3 women
Japanese Comfort Women   8

Korean Operated Businesses:

Korean Comfort Stations      8
Korean Operators                   19 men, 9 women
Korean Comfort Women       94

(3) Chiaohu, Central China, Consulate Report No. 170, dated August 2, 1939.
Japanese Operated Businesses:

Japanese Comfort Stations  4
Japanese Operators and Japanese Comfort Women 10 men, 31 women, 2 Children

Korean Operated Businesses:

Korean Comfort Stations      2
Korean Operators/comfort    2 men, 30 women, 1 child

7.3.  The records above show 64 or so Korean operators and their families ran 19 Korean comfort stations with more than 260 Korean comfort women in three cities. If some of the Korean women were victims of the enforced disappearance, who should be the perpetrators of it? Can the Japanese government duly prosecute and punish them? Can South Korea cooperate with Japan to bring justice?

8. The McDougall Report of 1998 states, “Between 1932 and the end of the Second World War, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial Army forced over 200,000 women into sexual slavery in rape centres throughout Asia. … The majority of those ‘comfort women’ were from Korea, …. It is now clear that both the Japanese Government and military were directly involved in the establishment of rape centres throughout Asia during the Second World War. The women who were enslaved by the Japanese military in these centres – many of whom were between the ages of 11 and 20 – were housed in locations throughout Japanese-controlled Asia, where they were forcibly raped multiple times on a daily basis and subjected to severe physical abuse and exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. Only about 25 per cent of these women are said to have survived these daily abuses. To obtain these “comfort women,” the Japanese military employed physical violence, kidnapping, coercion and deception.”

9.  Had there been 200,000 Korean women who were forced to become comfort women, and had only 50,000 women, 25% of them, survived the ordeal until the end of the war as South Korea alleges, 150,000 of them would have disappeared in the meantime. Whatever the causes of their disappearance may have been, i.e., fatal illness, murder by torture, running away from the house, it was the Korean house masters who employed the Korean comfort women. Professor Park Yu-ha who authored “Comfort Women of the Empire” says, “The psychological and physical scar those women have borne is not solely attributable to the violence the troops inflicted upon them. It was the house masters who were also to be blamed for confinement, forced labor, and violence imposed upon the women (p. 113).”

10. This is a supplemental note. Professor Hiroshi Hashiya who authored “Teikoku Nihon to Shokuminchi Toshi” [Imperial Japan and colonized cities] (author translation) in 2004 mentioned brothels in Taipei as follows (p. 95). It is hard to believe Japanese or Taiwanese house masters ran the three Korean brothels mentioned below.

“When Taiwan was ceded to Japan by China, there were no brothels inside the Taipei City Walls. The Japanese began to arrive in Taipei and went to the Wanhua District where local brothels were. Since then, Wanhua became a center of brothels in the region. 1940 saw 25 brothels with 220 Shogi. Among them were 42 Koreans, 20% of the prostitutes in the district. Though its background is unknown, their names were Joseon (*Korean) House, New Joseon House, and Peninsula House.”

11.  I loudly wonder if the CED committee that received an opinion brief seriously wanted to make Japan commit herself to punish the perpetrators. I also wonder if the committee adopted the conclusive observations, being fully aware that South Korea was not yet a member state to the convention.

12.  I will not mention herein the propriety of the conclusive observations regarding the statute of limitation because it requires more space. A layman would understand Article 35 of the convention as it states. Then, you may reasonably conclude that the conclusive observations seem like a stretch because the article states as follows.

“Paragraph 1. The Committee shall have competence solely in respect of enforced disappearances which commenced after the entry into force of this Convention.

Paragraph 2. If a State becomes a party to this Convention after its entry into force, the obligations of that State vis-à-vis the Committee shall relate only to enforced disappearances which commenced after the entry into force of this Convention for the State concerned.”

13. Lastly, I hope no Korean comfort women—who were called the fifth logistic items or western princesses—had gone missing during the Korean War and no Vietnamese comfort women—who worked at South Korean comfort stations—had gone missing during the Vietnam War. By the way, Professor Choe Kilsung, who authored “Chosen Senso de Umareta Beigun Ianfu no Shinjitsu” [Truth on the birth of comfort women for the U.S. military during the Korean War] (author translation) in 2018, wrote that he had personally experienced the Korean War in his village and that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops had not raped local women whereas the United Nations Command troops had raped women till the comfort stations were established in the village (pp. 47-86).

“The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future,” said Queen Elizabeth II on April 6, 2020 when she addressed the nation.