Are comfort women lying?

By Maija Rhee Devine

Korea Times, 2016.06.04

Are comfort women lying? Chunghee Sarah Soh, a Korean professor at San Francisco State University, cites examples of women who gave contradictory testimonies or told “lies.”

“In an interview, Kim Sun-ok said that she was sold by her parents four times,” Soh writes. “Yet, Kim testified in front of U.N. interrogator Radhika Coomaraswamy that she was abducted by the Japanese military.”

Likewise, Professor Park Yu-ha of Sejong University in Korea recounts that the late Bae Chun-hee told her she “hated her father who sold her. Yet, Bae later testified she was abducted by the Japanese military.”

Their lists continue.

These inconsistencies were recorded by members of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

The council members, who interviewed former Korean comfort women in the 1990s and early 2000s, attributed the inconsistencies to the women’s failing memories.

They also noted that, as public appearances increased, some comfort women became audience-savvy. When addressing Japanese visitors, a woman might mention the kindness of a Japanese soldier. Facing Koreans, the same person would describe being mutilated by Japanese soldiers.

The late comfort woman Kim Soon-duk testified, “Japan was and is bad. But those I am angrier with are my people. They acted as agents of the Japanese.” (Testimonies, Vol. 1, p.57ĺĺllĺ

Lee Ok-seon, 90, who was forced into sexual slavery at the age of 16 after being abducted by two Korean men, testified that at age 12 she received a sound beating from her own father for asking to be sent to school. (Introduction to The Museum of Comfort Women, p. 152).

Such narratives do not exonerate Korea and its patriarchal system of oppressing their own women and girls long before the Japanese drafted them into the women’s volunteer labor corps to “support efforts in aircraft manufacturing and other essential industries.”

Whatever may have been the motives of some activists to demonize Japan, the women’s own aged bodies remembered the blows Japan ― and Korea ― dealt them, and the women spoke from their wounds.

Maija Rhee Devine wrote an autobiographical novel about Korea, “The Voices of Heaven”, and a book of poetry, “Long Walks on Short Days”.

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