2. Problems of support groups
In May, 2020, a former comfort woman, Lee Yong-soo revealed the scandal of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (currently the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan), which is the most influential support group for the comfort women issue in South Korea. Even before that, Park Yu-ha had already pointed out the problem of the Korean Council.
First, Park said, “The victims that the Korean Council refers to are limited to those who share ideas and actions with support groups.” and, “The leading role is played by a female activist, and the women who were in the field are nothing but supporting actors and extras.” In addition, “‘The movement’ forced them to exist as ‘a daughter of oppressed people’ rather than to improve their own lives,” and “as long as the promoters of the movement ‘embezzle’ the memories of comfort women, victim-centered approach is not there,” Park criticized severely.
Regarding the Korean Council’s claim characterizing the comfort women issue as ‘violence against women in conflict’, “it was effective for the success of the movement. At the same time, however, the understanding that the Korean comfort women were the ‘women in the colony’, which had been clearly recognized at the starting point of the movement, has been forgotten,” the author said. “Identifying the Japanese army as the only perpetrator of comfort women brought about a fatal contradiction in the movement. By limiting the target for criticism by the movement, which was originally ‘nations’ based on feminism and the post-colonialism, to the proper noun of ‘Japan’, it made it impossible for the comfort women issue to be treated as a universal issue of ‘men, nations and empires’. That is why you have not been aware for a long time that countries other than Japan, such as South Korea and the United States, cannot be innocent of this issue,” the author pointed out.
Professor Park said, “After liberation, South Korea has lived for nearly 70 years, erasing memories of cooperation and subordination to the former colonizing nation. By the same logic, South Korea could not accept the fact that some ‘comfort women’ chose the profession voluntarily.” “As a result of appealing as ‘universal human rights of women’, there are no ‘Korean comfort women’ in the comfort women issue in the world now. Despite the claim that ‘most of the comfort women were Koreans’, no one could talk about ‘why there were so many Koreans’. It can be said that they have settled in the social trend on human rights that does not raise questions to ‘victims.’” “The current world movement, asking former empire (US, UK, or Europe) to judge a crime of another former empire (Japan) in cooperation with a third empire (Netherlands) is just an irony,” mentioned Park.
She said, “The exchanges between South Korea and North Korea over the comfort women issue have been deepened by the collapse of the Cold War and a 10-year continuation of the leftist government in South Korea from the latter half of the 1990s.” “North Korea’s militarism has not been criticized.” “North Korea’s human rights issue was not questioned.” The author criticized by saying, “The Korean Council was also more interested in ‘changing the world by the left wing’ than solving ‘the comfort women issue.’” She analyzed, “It should be said that changes in Japan after the war were not taken into consideration at all, and that the debate over the comfort women issue based on such thoughts enraged the people who have been considered as ‘right wing’ by the movement.”
“The goal of the movement ‘to change the world’ was to intensify the left-right conflict and deepen the conflict between nations involving ordinary people without understanding the background of left-right conflict,” Park said. And then, she added, “The alliance between Japanese supporters and South Korea, in spite of their sense of justice and strong will, ended up forcing the comfort women to continue street demonstrations for more than 20 years. And this increased the number of people who dislike, give up on and lose interest in South Korea among the bureaucrats and ‘ordinary people’ who have been sincere in solving the issue as well as those who have been criticized by supporters as right-wingers.”
Professor Park stresses the need for true victim-centered approach by saying, “It is comfort women who will suffer from the pain caused by the split and confrontation between Japan and South Korea as well as between left and right-wingers.