Professor Park Yu-ha’s “Comfort Women of The Empire” was published in 2013 but her assertion predicted further deterioration of Korea and Japan relationship. Even though the “Final and Irreversible” comfort women agreement was concluded in 2015, a number of incidents has occurred such as the scandal of support groups for comfort women was revealed in 2020, and a judgement ordering the Japanese Government to pay reparations to former comfort women was rendered at a Korean court in 2021.
The book Park wrote continues to have contemporary significance even now. Here is the introduction for the essence of the book in five parts.
1. The reality of Korean Comfort Women
Ms. Park Yu-ha argues the critical difference between Korea governed as a part of Japan and China or the Japanese occupied former Netherlands East Indies which independent as Indonesia today is how women were treated during wartime, “The targets of ‘coercion’ and rape were women in occupied territories since they were ‘enemies’, which is decidedly different from the basic relationship between ‘Korean comfort women’ and the Japanese army.” She continued, “The role of Korean comfort women basically meant ‘patriotism’ to support the Empire of Japan.” “In fact, the comfort women issue includes a case where Japan forced Japanese women. The women in the colony were just a ‘replacement’ of the Japanese women,” the author added.”
Park criticized describing comfort women as ‘sex slaves’ by saying, “As long as ‘comfort women equaling to sex slaves’ means ‘the women captivated and exploited sexually by soldiers free of charge’, Korean comfort women were not ‘slaves’. The word ‘sex slaves’ conceals the experiences and memories other than sex abuse. This deprives comfort women of the right to become a master of their own memories.”
Park pointed out the existence of Korean middlemen by saying, “The deep involvement of Koreans in the mobilization of comfort women has long been overlooked.” and “We should have taken their voices seriously if former comfort women themselves felt ‘Japan is bad, but we hate the Koreans who were Japanese minions more.’ However, the voices were ignored by the support group.” She also said, “Some Koreans, as ‘second class Japanese’ in the Empire of Japan, hired Chinese and Indonesian men for subordinate work and employed Indonesian women to run comfort stations.” “The wages of Korean comfort women were the second highest next to Japanese comfort women”, the author pointed out.
In addition, she said, “Some comfort women had love affairs with Japanese soldiers. They had a role of watching over and encouraging the soldiers who left their family and hometown and might be killed the next day. Korean comfort women had love affairs because they were unmistakably members of ‘the Empire of Japan,’” and introduced various testimonies of former comfort women regarding their love affairs.
Having said that, the author criticized support groups by saying, “They did not face the complex structure surrounding Korean comfort women and simply blamed the Japanese army and Japan as a nation for comfort stations, which interfered with understanding the issue and made it difficult to solve it.”
Moreover, the author pointed out the existence of “Japanese army and Japanese comfort women who tried to save Korean comfort women’s life by putting them back to ‘Koreans’ immediately after Japan’s defeat in World War II”, and said, ‘The death of the comfort women on the battlefield’ happened, in principle, only in the battlefield where the soldiers fled on their own.”
Park characterized the comfort women issue as “not only a matter of political system such as nation or empire, but also a matter of capital more essentially”, and concluded, “The private recruiters including human traffickers and masters sold women’s bodies to consumers. In that sense, you would overlook the essence of the comfort women issue if you erase the existence of the private recruiters and masters who supposedly made the most profit.