Thu, Jan 02, 2014 - Page 8 News List


Comfort women maligned

While there may be a treatise on aesthetics somewhere by some philosopher or art theorist that justifies turning a war crime into a work of art, there can be no justification, other than complete ignorance, for calling “comfort women” prostitutes.

In the article (“The comfort women speak,” Dec. 29, 2013, page 12) about artist Lee Chang-jin’s exhibition Comfort Women Wanted, reporter Ho Yi wrote that “comfort women” is “a euphemism for prostitutes enslaved to service members of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.”

However, the comfort women were not prostitutes. They were young women kidnapped by the Japanese and sent to “comfort stations” where the Japanese turned them into sex slaves.

They did not provide a “service” for Japanese soldiers — the soldiers raped them.

Ho Yi also wrote that one victim “was lured into prostitution” and that the Japanese have yet to “acknowledge that forced prostitution occurred.”

A prostitute is a person who has sex for money, and prostitution is sex for money. A woman forced into prostitution is making money for someone else.

Comfort women did not make any money, and no one made money off them because they were slaves, not prostitutes.

The Japanese military captured the women off the streets or lured them from their homes or schools and forced them into sexual slavery, not prostitution.

It would be wrong for the Japanese to acknowledge them as victims of forced prostitution because they should acknowledge them as prisoners of war and sex slaves.

Furthermore, the headline for Ho Yi’s article said that “comfort women had to have sex with 50 or even 100 soldiers a day.”

The women did not have to have sex. They did not desire it. The soldiers raped them, often brutally.

To write that the comfort women “had to have sex” with the soldiers says the exact opposite of what Lee’s art exhibition probably means to portray, that the Japanese soldiers were committing violent, government-sanctioned rapes.

Ho Yi referred to the “comfort stations” as “brothels.”

A brothel is a place of prostitution. The “comfort stations” were not brothels. They were not businesses that sold sex and served cigarettes, tea and coffee to the soldiers. They were prison camps just like any other prisoner of war camp — at best, crude barracks built to confine the women in horrid, inhumane conditions.

Thousands of women died in the camps of disease and starvation.

Ho Yi’s article may mean well, but its rhetoric is vile and insulting because, intentionally or otherwise, it stifles and diminishes our feelings of outrage over the evil of a horrendous war crime.

In so doing, the article implies that Lee’s exhibition does the same vile and insulting thing, which is the great danger of turning a war crime into an art exhibition.

Xue Meng-ren

Banciao, New Taipei City

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