South Korea and Japan signed a landmark agreement on December 28th of 2015 regarding the sexual exploitation of comfort women during the war. Japan compensated the survivors with 1 billion yen and a formal apology. South Korea agreed the issue was settled and the statue of a comfort woman would be removed from in front of the Japanese embassy. The public did not support the agreement and South Korean civic groups offered fierce resistance. New statues were installed by activists for the south Korean comfort women. Moon Jae-in is the President of South Korea and declared the agreement of January 4th of 2016 defective. He said it was against the principles of justice and truth and did not reflect the views of the comfort women stories.
South Koreans have been taught the regime of North Korea was nothing more than a puppet for Soviet communists. The media and schools in South Korea are disseminating the claims the Imperial Military of Japan abducted 200,000 Korean girls and women. An investigation in the 1990’s was conducted by the Japanese government. They failed to find evidence proving the Imperial military forcibly recruited women from the former colonies of Taiwan and Korea. They acknowledged some women from Indonesia and China were abducted by some units and soldiers. Park Yu-ha and Sarah Soh wrote award winning books including comfort women testimonies. The women spoke of working at comfort stations, escaping overbearing parents, supporting their families and being deceived by brokers. Some women experienced supportive conditions and others abusive.
The authors spoke of the complicity of neighbors and family in the mobilization of the women into brothels. The survivors have been pressured by activists to conform to the narrative of the Koreans being innocent and the Japanese being the villains. The first Korean comfort woman to model publicly for the statue in San Francisco was Kim Hak-sun. She originally stated she had been taken to China with another girl by her father. He managed one of the local comfort stations. This was omitted from her published testimony in 1993. Lee Yong-su also changed her original testimony. She said she escaped from home with her friend. She later stated Japanese soldiers abducted her during the night.
The narrative for the abductions is based on the testimonies of only a few Korean comfort women. Only 16 of the registered 238 survivors testified. Of the 46 living survivors, 34 accepted the compensation offered by the Japanese in 2015. Only the women who rejected the offer were publicized by the media. There were 61 women denied subsidies from the government of South Korea and vilified as traitors for accepting compensation from the Japanese twenty years ago. There were findings made that are rarely discussed by the media in South Korea. They revealed the government of South Korea supervised and encouraged brothels to be used by the American soldiers.
There were also allegations the local women in Vietnam were patronized by the troops from South Korea. The Korean language book written by Park was censored by the court in Seoul. She was fined 90 million for defamation of the survivors. A prison sentence of three years was requested by the prosecutors. The discussion of the Soh book by a Korean-American professor was sharply criticized. Activist charges were investigated by the university that he supported the war crimes of the Japanese. He was pressured into writing an apology letter. According to the liberal nationalist perspective, the citizenry required for democratic policies has been undermined by censorship. This perspective combines a thoughtful, nuanced analysis and a deep love of the country with the complexities of the past.