Wartime sex slaves seek Ottawa’s help for apology
Japanese soldiers’ abuse scarred victims for life
Nov 26, 2007 04:30 AM
It should be considered a miracle Jam-Dol Jang survived, considering what she was forced to endure during World War II. Soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army abducted her at 14 in Seoul, Korea, put her on a train for Manchuria and worked her as a sex slave or, in the benign euphemism of the emperor’s troops, a “comfort woman.”
Her life was abominable, as it was for an estimated 200,000 sex slaves from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries occupied by war-era Japan. She lived in a stall built for animals and soldiers lined up by day to rape her, as well as the women in adjoining stalls. Officers took their turns at night, with a privacy befitting their station.
Jang bore four children during eight years of captivity, three stillborn and a daughter who died of heart disease at 20. She was routinely tortured by soldiers who beat her, poured water into her nose and boxed her ears so badly her hearing was shot. Other women were beaten to death.
And for this, there has been no official apology from Japan, nor even official acknowledgement that such atrocities occurred.
Over the years, individual Japanese politicians have admitted Japan’s role in the use of sex slaves, but nothing has ever been approved by the Japanese government.
That is the reason Jang, 84, and other former “comfort women” – all in their 80s – have come to Canada with a message for our Parliament: Pass the “comfort” motion urging the Japanese government to offer a “formal, sincere and unequivocal apology to all these victims.”
They also want Japan to restore references to their military sexual slavery, which were removed from school textbooks and provide public education on the matter.
“We want justice,” said Jang yesterday, after telling her painful story to the Star through an interpreter. “There can be justice for us if Canada will help us.”
At a forum at U of T’s Convocation Hall, Jang, Ellen van der Pleog from Indonesia, Fedencia David from the Philippines and China’s Mian-Huan Liu said the world has remained silent for too long and asked for support for their motion.
Tomorrow, they are to give personal testimonials on Parliament Hill, at an event sponsored by an all-party group of MPs, and lobby for the “comfort” motion currently before the House of Commons. The U.S. House of Representatives and Dutch parliament have passed similar motions.
Their visit to Canada was organized by the Canadian Association for Learning & Preserving the History of World War II in Asia.
“I was never the same,” said van der Pleog, 84, of her years in an Indonesian brothel that began at age 17. “The worst thing of all is that it stays with you for your life. It took many, many months after the war for me to even convince myself it hadn’t all been my fault.”
David, 80, was taken away in handcuffs at 14, her entire body bruised from beatings. She recounted her story for an educational pamphlet: “I was put in a room with four other women. It was dark in the room with only a gas lamp burning. Then, the Japanese soldiers came into the room; one of them grabbed me and raped me. I tried to shout and struggle but then he put a cloth over my mouth and gagged me. After he was through, two more soldiers followed. After that, I lost sense of what was happening as I was completely weak.”
At one point in Liu’s captivity, she was held in a cave for 40 days and raped by a half dozen soldiers daily. She bled from her vagina and she could barely walk.
“They didn’t care,” she said. “The pain was not only physical, it was mental. To this day, I cannot use my left arm properly.”
After the war, she was considered damaged goods in her village west of Beijing. Eventually, though, she married a much older widower – she considered herself lucky.
These women say they may eventually win justice, but they will never be able to forget. Without an apology from Japan, however, the crime against their humanity remains unchallenged.