Taiwan has also had its `comfort women'

By Yao Chi 姚奇  / 

Tue, Feb 27, 2001 - Page 8

The comfort women issue has been in the news for quite a few years. But it has again become a hot topic after a row over On Taiwan (台灣論), by Japanese cartoonist Kobayashi Yoshinori (小林善紀), put a political gloss on the issue. The comfort women have been turned from a social issue into a political one (or perhaps a unification-independence or even an ethnic issue).

I believe this change will have a negative effect on Taiwan society because the Japanese army was not the only place Taiwanese women worked as comfort women. In fact, an even larger number did so in the ROC army. They could one day be incited to become the next wave in the comfort women issue.

After the KMT government and its 600,000-strong army retreated to Taiwan, the government set up "military paradises" to fulfill the sexual needs of its soldiers, who were mostly young lads, and to "stabilize the army's heart." In particular, paradises mushroomed in front-line areas like Kinmen, Little Kinmen, Matsu and Wuchiu. Some comfort women even travelled around carrying their belongings and providing "comfort" on the spot (that is, inside the fortifications) on small islands that had no paradises. Such operations gradually ended, as that generation of soldiers aged over the 1960s and 1970s. An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 women worked as comfort women at one point or another over two decades (authorities at the Combined Services Force headquarters may have the statistical details).

The paradises had several sources for women. The largest source was perhaps illegal prostitutes caught and sent to the military camps. When I was working as a guard at a paradise on Kinmen in those days, I met a 16-year-old, who had been caught while working as an illegal prostitute in Taipei's Paotou Borough (寶斗里). She once told me, crying, that she had to accommodate 70 to 80 soldiers a day -- too much for her to endure, with no chance even to put on her pants, she said. Her physical and mental agony never failed to arouse my compassion.

Today, most of the women who worked as comfort women in the Japanese military have died. Only a small number of them remain. By comparison, most of the women who worked in the Taiwan military are still alive. If one day a women's organization creates a media furor over these several tens of thousands of women, then the resulting explosion could shake the heavens and earth. For the sake of social harmony, I hope the people of Taiwan will stop harping on about the comfort women issue and instead let it pass on into history.

Yao Chi is a medical worker.

Translated by Francis Huang