‘Comfort Women’ Who Serviced US Soldiers Demand Justice

They are suing the South Korean government for allegedly encouraging the prostitution that ruined their lives.
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    UIJEONGBU, South Korea — Growing up in hardship in this once-poor Cold War outpost, the young Kim Kyeong-sun decades ago met a job recruiter who promised her housing and a paycheck to support her family.

    Her real job? A sex worker for American GIs.

    In a former neon-lit shantytown right outside an army base entrance, the hostess eked out a living flirting and trysting with soldiers who rotated in and out of South Korea. Descending into a life of hard drugs and debt, she sought a way out through marriage with a customer. Nuptials with American servicemen were a common escape from indentured sex servitude, she recalled.

    But her man later abandoned her and their child.

    This “keejichon” — the Korean term for a gray and grubby “army base town” — has closed shop. But the prostitutes who once lingered here continue to be treated as untouchables, derided as “Yankee whores” and “UN ladies.”

    “I have so many regrets. Life was so hard,” Kim said.

    Who’s to blame?

    It’s not entirely the fault of US soldiers, she argues, many of whom were young, fun-loving and surprisingly innocent men. Rather, Kim points the finger at another alleged culprit: the South Korean government, which she argues backhandedly encouraged this largely illegal trade.

    She joins 121 other “comfort women” in a $1.2 million lawsuit that’s expected to go to trial soon.

    Each former sex worker seeks close to $10,000 in damages, an apology, and an investigation into the government’s alleged encouragement of the activity. The compensation may be minimal, but more meaningful is the message that victory would send, potentially amounting to an admission of government responsibility for coerced prostitution that served the US military.

    No one is claiming that government agents literally pimped out young women to horny American soldiers. South Korea formally banned the sex trade in the early 1960s, but permitted activities in designated red-light districts at certain times, say scholars and activists.

    It wasn’t until 2004 that South Korea passed a law doling out harsher punishments for the procurement of prostitution, falling in line with international standards.

    The lawsuit alleges that, since 1957, poor and undereducated South Korean women were pressured into prostitution in those government-designated zones around American military bases. Authorities should be legally held responsible because they turned a blind eye and therefore promoted the trade, according to the filing.

    Former prostitutes say that the government rounded up bar workers — some of whom were girls in their mid-teens — and mandated that they undergo forced STD testing. The ones who tested positive for diseases were held against their will in quarantine and treatment centers, say the plaintiffs. “It was terrible. And we believe that the government was responsible for its negligence,” said Kim, the former sex worker, who was tested multiple times.

    The government also sponsored etiquette and English-language classes for these hostesses, where they were praised for contributing to economic development and national security.

    Scholars say the South Korean government, run by three dictators from the 1960s to 1980s, sought to please the US military out of fear that it would depart, while bringing in US dollars to buttress this struggling economy. In the past, the South Korean government has denied encouraging prostitution. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family would not comment on the litigation.

    In the early 1970s, the White House ordered a reduction of the American military presence in South Korea, pushing the sex trade into decline.

    So why bring a controversial and scorching lawsuit forward now, decades after these women left the sex industry?

    Previously, a history of stigma stopped them from going public, and the nation’s once-fledgling democracy movement didn’t pay attention to their plight until the late 1980s, say lawyers representing the case. “Only recently could they openly come out and talk about their experiences,” said Ha Ju-hee, a lawyer at the Justice and Peace Law Group, the nonprofit that represents the former prostitutes in court.

    “Women who were involved in prostitution around US military bases have largely been ignored by our society until now,” she said. Planning for the litigation, and getting the victims on board, has taken a few years.

    At first, many former “comfort women” were uneasy about coming forward, the attorney added. Later, “they realized that this issue isn’t strictly a personal problem, but rather a structural one that stemmed from a lack of governmental support for their basic rights.”

    But experts raise questions over the use of the term “comfort women” to describe these former sex workers, which they say is a way of raising public attention.

    The label “comfort women” usually refers to sex slaves exploited by Japanese soldiers during World War II, a heated and sensitive topic because those elderly women, too, seek compensation from the Japanese government.

    Japan committed a number of crimes against humanity during its occupation of the Korean peninsula before and during World War II, including the enslavement of Korean women to entertain its soldiers.

    “My guess is that they chose to frame the US military prostitution issue to ride the coattails of the Japanese ‘comfort women’ or ‘jeongsindae’ movement,” said Katharine Moon, the Korea studies chair at the Brookings Institution, and the author of “Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in Korea-US Relations.”

    “They could have assumed — I have no proof — that there might be public sympathy or understanding, since the Japanese ‘comfort women’ issue is well-known nationally and internationally,” she said. “But I think it was a mistake to choose that term. It undercuts the jeongsindae case and confuses the public.”

    In 1953, Korean War hostilities were halted, but military prostitution continues to rattle this nation, home to 28,500 American servicemen. Some left-wing South Korean lawmakers have found a cause celebre calling for a tougher stance on alleged crimes by US servicemen, and by accusing American bases of environmental degradation since the mid 1990s.

    The movement reached its zenith a decade ago, when South Korea was home to a series of passionate, widespread protests calling on the American military to clean up its act — fueled in part by a 2002 tragedy in which an armored vehicle ran over two schoolgirls. Even today, a handful of nightlife hangouts bar American soldiers from their premises.

    Over the past few years, the US Forces Korea, the official name of the military presence, has countered with an about-face, enforcing stronger curfews, the occasional alcohol ban, and harsher punishments for servicemen caught indulging in the sex trade.

    Filipina and occasionally Russian women now populate the majority of the hostess bars of Dongducheon, Uijeongbu and Pyeongtaek, three cities that are home to notorious red-light districts for American personnel. Upon arrival to their new jobs, a few of these grungy saloons seize the women’s passports — which according to some experts makes them trafficked.

    This article was published by Global Post.
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    • Slick Willy

      I’m sorry, now get back to work!

    • Pingback: Did U.S. Comfort Women Really Exist? | Micro News Agency()

    • ソウジ トトノイ

      Japan-Korea: Were Korean Men Cowards during World War II?

      A vexing question

      There are growing, unsubstantiated questions about whether the Japanese Imperial Army kidnapped 200,000 sex-slaves (Comfort Women) in World War II. Mostly from Korea.

      A $30 million US Government Study specifically searched for evidence on Comfort Women allegations.

      After nearly seven years with many dozens of staff pouring through US archives — and 30 million dollars down the drain — we found a grand total of nothing.

      The final IWG report to Congress was issued in 2007. (Linked below.)

      Nobody should be writing about Comfort Women issues without reading this report cover to cover.

      Many of the unsubstantiated claims are coming from Korea. Korean allegations have led to unexpected twists.

      At the time, Korea was actually part of Japan — roughly in the way that Puerto Rico is part of the USA.

      Many Koreans were members of the Japanese military. So any allegations that the Japanese military kidnapped 200,000 women implies that Koreans were involved in kidnapping Koreans. This is an uncomfortable reality. It gets even more uncomfortable.

      So today, South Korean President Park Geun-hye constantly accuses Japan of kidnapping these shiploads of women.

      Imagine how this boomerangs back. President Park is saying that Japan — and her daddy was an officer in the Japanese Army at the time — kidnapped uncounted tens of thousands of women from Korea as sex-slaves. Yet there is no evidence that Korean men fought back.

      During the war, Korea had a population of about 23 million. Today, Texas has a population of about 26 million.

      Imagine trying to kidnap 200,000 Texas women. There would be a bloodbath. The Army would lose thousands of soldiers, and thousands of civilians no doubt would have been slaughtered in return.

      Evidence would be everywhere. Photos. Films. Battle sites. Texans would never allow 200,000 women to be stolen and raped without making a river of blood. So President Park is essentially saying Korean men during World War II were a bunch of cowards.

      Also imagine this from the perspective of a Japanese military General or Admiral. He is at war with the USA, Australia, Britain, China, and more. His hands are full. The USA in particular is on the march with our Navy and Marines, and we are smashing Japan anywhere we can find Japanese.

      All generals always want more troops and supplies. That is a fact of life. Just ask any General. Ask any business leader what he or she needs to expand or defend against competition: They always want more resources.

      What kind of fool General would dedicate the resources to kidnap, guard, transport, and feed 200,000 women, knowing that he is creating yet another war to fight?

      The Japanese were highly advanced military thinkers. They made their own submarines, airplanes, and aircraft carriers. These were serious people, and super smart.

      There is no way that Generals would dedicate those resources to kidnapping women when the US military and allies were marching down their throats. They had a war to fight — this was not Spring Break.

      Any serious military or business person can see the folly in common sense of kidnapping 200,000 women. It does not make sense, and would have created a new war in Korea — which was a base for Japanese recruitment. Koreans were fighting Americans. Koreans were our enemy.

      And back to Korean men. It would be horrific to see the US Army try to kidnap 200,000 Texas women — especially so considering that many US military members are Texans, just as many Koreans were Japanese Soldiers.

      Texas would rise up and start smashing the Army. Bridges would blow up. Soldiers would be shot every day. Bases would burn. The Army would fight back and there would be total war.

      So are we to believe that Korean men are such cowards that nobody lifted a hand to defend their women? Because if they allowed these many women to be kidnapped, they are cowards, and their sons today had cowards for fathers.

      The reality is that we know that Koreans are no cowards. Koreans are a courageous people. So what really happened? It is clear from source documents, and the common sense that every water buffalo possesses, that there was no mass kidnapping.

      It’s all a lie, and no matter how much someone hates Japan, it will always be a lie.

      Please read the IWG report that practically nobody seems to know exists. If you do not have time for the whole report, do a search inside the report for Comfort Women, and carefully read those parts:”

      • Christine

        A thorough discussion from you that should convince anyone to doubt the claims of South Korea. True, their comfort women existed, but why put all the blame on the Japanese? And what about this?
        http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1196572

        • ソウジ トトノイ

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggQaYD37Jm4
          why put all the blame on the Japanese? you say?
          coz they are fucking Koreans that’s why

        • ソウジ トトノイ

          many Koreans believe that the independence gate was made as the independence monument from japan lol
          coz most Koreans have been brainwashed by their government to hate Japanese and hide true their history
          but the truth is it was made as the independence monument from chine in 1897
          Korea belonged to chine till 1895 after that they made it in 1897

          i was told korean that Simple question!
          To commemorate the independence from Japan
          and not to forget the invasion by Japan.

          it’s bullshit at all but they think that way coz as i said most of Koreans have been brainwashed by their government

          this is only the tip of the iceberg
          despite the fact their history saying that “Korea has been an independent country for over 5,000 years without any invaders coming on to their land.”and they believe that bullshit
          it makes me laugh

          The Independence Gate (독립문;獨立門) is a memorial gate located in Seoul, South Korea. The gate was built following the first Sino-Japanese war to inspire a spirit of independence away from previous Korean arrangement as a Chinesetributary state.[1] design of Seo Jae-pil.

    • Christine

      I agree with Wada. The mention of Japanese using comfort women is not relevant to this article, so why mention it at all? It’s only right that these Koreans come out. Now the ROK government won’t be so smug.
      Read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/12/korean-comfort-women_n_5577120.html

      • ソウジ トトノイ

        Japan-Korea: Were Korean Men Cowards during World War II?

        A vexing question

        There are growing, unsubstantiated questions about whether the Japanese Imperial Army kidnapped 200,000 sex-slaves (Comfort Women) in World War II. Mostly from Korea.

        A $30 million US Government Study specifically searched for evidence on Comfort Women allegations.

        After nearly seven years with many dozens of staff pouring through US archives — and 30 million dollars down the drain — we found a grand total of nothing.

        The final IWG report to Congress was issued in 2007. (Linked below.)

        Nobody should be writing about Comfort Women issues without reading this report cover to cover.

        Many of the unsubstantiated claims are coming from Korea. Korean allegations have led to unexpected twists.

        At the time, Korea was actually part of Japan — roughly in the way that Puerto Rico is part of the USA.

        Many Koreans were members of the Japanese military. So any allegations that the Japanese military kidnapped 200,000 women implies that Koreans were involved in kidnapping Koreans. This is an uncomfortable reality. It gets even more uncomfortable.

        So today, South Korean President Park Geun-hye constantly accuses Japan of kidnapping these shiploads of women.

        Imagine how this boomerangs back. President Park is saying that Japan — and her daddy was an officer in the Japanese Army at the time — kidnapped uncounted tens of thousands of women from Korea as sex-slaves. Yet there is no evidence that Korean men fought back.

        During the war, Korea had a population of about 23 million. Today, Texas has a population of about 26 million.

        Imagine trying to kidnap 200,000 Texas women. There would be a bloodbath. The Army would lose thousands of soldiers, and thousands of civilians no doubt would have been slaughtered in return.

        Evidence would be everywhere. Photos. Films. Battle sites. Texans would never allow 200,000 women to be stolen and raped without making a river of blood. So President Park is essentially saying Korean men during World War II were a bunch of cowards.

        Also imagine this from the perspective of a Japanese military General or Admiral. He is at war with the USA, Australia, Britain, China, and more. His hands are full. The USA in particular is on the march with our Navy and Marines, and we are smashing Japan anywhere we can find Japanese.

        All generals always want more troops and supplies. That is a fact of life. Just ask any General. Ask any business leader what he or she needs to expand or defend against competition: They always want more resources.

        What kind of fool General would dedicate the resources to kidnap, guard, transport, and feed 200,000 women, knowing that he is creating yet another war to fight?

        The Japanese were highly advanced military thinkers. They made their own submarines, airplanes, and aircraft carriers. These were serious people, and super smart.

        There is no way that Generals would dedicate those resources to kidnapping women when the US military and allies were marching down their throats. They had a war to fight — this was not Spring Break.

        Any serious military or business person can see the folly in common sense of kidnapping 200,000 women. It does not make sense, and would have created a new war in Korea — which was a base for Japanese recruitment. Koreans were fighting Americans. Koreans were our enemy.

        And back to Korean men. It would be horrific to see the US Army try to kidnap 200,000 Texas women — especially so considering that many US military members are Texans, just as many Koreans were Japanese Soldiers.

        Texas would rise up and start smashing the Army. Bridges would blow up. Soldiers would be shot every day. Bases would burn. The Army would fight back and there would be total war.

        So are we to believe that Korean men are such cowards that nobody lifted a hand to defend their women? Because if they allowed these many women to be kidnapped, they are cowards, and their sons today had cowards for fathers.

        The reality is that we know that Koreans are no cowards. Koreans are a courageous people. So what really happened? It is clear from source documents, and the common sense that every water buffalo possesses, that there was no mass kidnapping.

        It’s all a lie, and no matter how much someone hates Japan, it will always be a lie.

        Please read the IWG report that practically nobody seems to know exists. If you do not have time for the whole report, do a search inside the report for Comfort Women, and carefully read those parts:

    • G Rose

      Add this as another argument against war. War = bad for EVERYONE involved. Okay, maybe not the politicians. The point is that these Korean comfort women are simply another casualty of a war these women didn’t sign up for, and didn’t want.

      • benjamink82598

        would gladly cut your face to ribbons.

    • wada

      There is no proof of coercion. After reading at least the investigation report of the Japanese government(Details of Exchanges Between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Regarding the Comfort Women Issue), I want you to read a newspaper article.

      Anyhow, this is a problem of South Korea and the U.S. Don’t involve Japan in a South Korean domestic issue.

      • benjamink82598

        die painfully waste of space.

    • JS

      “Upon arrival to their new jobs, a few of these grungy saloons seize the women’s passports — which according to some experts makes them trafficked.” This sentence is factually incorrect and misleading. De facto, seizing the women’s passports is part of trafficking them. No “expert” input is needed to know that this is trafficking.