The second world war was tough on the world, as the developed superpowers of nations fought a war there was a voice unheard, a voice crying for support, recognition and above all: an apology. The pacific war that went on from the 1940s created an impact on every family, livelihood and child living in Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines.
Within the span of 13 years around 200,000 teenage girls and women were removed, sometimes stolen or abducted from their homes. Forcefully brought into Japanese-Government owned brothel houses to ‘serve’ the men in the military. These women ranged from the age of eleven to thirty and were kept away from their families, locked away in an unknown war-zone.
These women were called ‘comfort women’ a euphemism to hide the psychological and inhumane damage done to them. While looking through articles and interviews from these women we get to know about a history that Japan has blocked from its textbooks and refused to acknowledge.
Most of the young women, now old and still fighting for compensation, were taken away from the streets by troops of men without their parents or family knowing. While these girls fought every day to find a reason to be alive and hoped for the war to end somehow, their families back home believed they were lost or killed.
As the women were psychologically trampled the only advice given to them was to stay quiet and endure. The women who were there longer than the girls would try to take care of them, give them hope and when finally, the US government intervened, they saw the beacon flourish itself.
Upon defeat in Southeast Asia or forced retreats, the women were abandoned or left to perish; only some escaped under the protection of the United Forces. And after all this struggle, when they returned home, most of them hid the truth of what happened to them. In the 50s, the scared young women were not sure that society would understand the hurt and torment they went through.
Initially even after the post-war compensations were given to Korea and other countries, Japan denied its part in the injustice done to these young women but later due to public pressure they admitted their complicity and started AWF (Asian Women’s Fund). Even with multiple apologies and compensations issued none of them took the women and slavery into account properly. The women stated that it wasn’t money they sought, it was a heart-felt apology and presence in history they wanted. The young girls had waited years to finally speak their truth and all the Japanese government did was try to remove the incident and put it in the past.
The interviewees and organizations want the South-Asian history to recognize their struggle, their abuse and be aware of how they are yet to be valued. Multiple comfort women memorials have been taken down due to Japanese pressure and threat of international distress. But multiple more have been erected across the world to give everyone a transparent view of the war-time state of women.
Even though the history of Comfort Women has been completely eradicated from the textbooks, organizations and NGOs fight for them to be omnipresent. Kim Bok-Dong, a 92-year-old comfort woman, dedicated her whole life to helping wartime victims and passed away fighting for an official apology from the Japanese government.
The only thing given to everyone fairly is an unfair world, but one must fight for the justice that must be served and as the last of these women fight and represent the resentment to the atrocities, the least one can do is hold the accused accountable. To remember, respect and carry on the fight for human dignity.
- Hanna Maria Eldose