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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Han

Former comfort women labeled a traitor when they receive aid money from Japan

Ms. A, a former comfort woman, described how she became a comfort woman in her letter made public through the JoongAng Ilbo on May 10, saying that she was “taken by a Japanese policeman on her way to the market.” According to the letter, after receiving harsh violence, she stayed at a comfort station in China. Ms. A also explained that her elder brother was captured by a Japanese policeman and died from the violence he received. Yoon Mee-hyang, who was elected as a proportional representative from the Citizen’s Party (then leader of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan), tried to convince Ms. A not to receive Japan’s financial support -100 million won- through the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation established based on 2015 Comfort Women Agreement, but Ms. A said, “I want to get the money because I am so frustrated.”

Yoon insisted that the Agreement, which did not reflect victims’ consensus, should be nullified, and opposed to acceptance of the financial support. However, having a position against the support is one thing, and convincing or urging victims who wish to receive the money to reject it is another. There were actually some victims who wanted to receive the money. In fact, 34 of the 46 surviving victims received the money. A person who is familiar with the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation said, “Some former comfort women visited the Foundation to receive the money without telling the Korean Council.” That is why Ms. A’s claim sounds realistic.

Especially regarding 1 billion yen (Japan’s contribution to the Foundation), Ms. Lee Yong-soo, a former comfort woman, asserted that Yoon knew about it beforehand. Yoon said that she “received the notification unilaterally”, but admitted that she knew about the 1 billion yen beforehand. If Lee’s story was true, Yoon had not told former comfort women about the facts. Yoon explained the truth only after Lee’s press conference held 4 years later. Ms. A’s testimony regarding Yoon and the 1 billion yen may remind some people of the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) in the 1990s. When Japan established the AWF to provide 5 million yen financial compensation to each Korean comfort women, the Korean Council opposed the Fund, saying that the compensation was not based on a legal responsibility of the Japanese Government. The Korean Government followed the Council paying each former comfort woman 43 million won as a replacement for the support from the AWF.

However, seven former comfort women received money from the AWF at that time, and Ms. A was one of them. It is said that they have endured a serious pain, as if being labeled as a traitor.

In fact, Cho Sei-young, 1st vice minister of Foreign Affairs of Korea, wrote in 2014 in his book “50 years of Korean-Japanese Relations, a History of Conflict and Collaboration” that there were many problems, such as friction between the victims who received the financial aid and the support organizations such as the Korean Council. Masatoshi Muto, former Japanese ambassador to Korea, met with Korean press in 2016 and said, “The Korean Council did not allow the Korean Government to give financial support to 7 people who had received money from the AWF, and maliciously criticized them. Did the Council really want to save comfort women?”

In her letter, Ms. A said, “We were told that we couldn’t receive the Korean Government’s support because we had already received money from Japan. All seven comfort women are so angry.” She asserted that it’s not too late to receive the financial aid from the Korean Government.


JoongAng Ilbo (May 11th, 2020) (Korean Original)

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