Japan's former comfort women demand justice
April 17, 1997
Web posted at: 5:50 p.m. EDT (2150 GMT)
From Correspondent May Lee
HONG KONG (CNN) -- From the streets of Seoul to the streets
of Manila, and even in the heart of Tokyo, Asian women are
angrily demanding justice for crimes committed against them
50 years ago. They say they were taken by invading Japanese
soldiers during World War II and made the sexual slaves of
Japan's Imperial Army.
In 1993, Japan officially admitted that thousands of women
were forced to be prostitutes, or "comfort women" during
World War II. The government apologized for the war crimes,
and vowed to include the comfort women issue in new junior
high school textbooks for the first time.
The new books came out in April, to the dismay of
nationalists like Nobukatsu Fujioka, a man who says all women
who say they were sex slaves are liars.
Fujioka is leading the Society for New History Textbooks, a
group pushing to abolish any mention of comfort women and
other war crimes in schoolbooks.
"The comfort women issue is basically a massive deception,"
Fujioka said. "It's true that there were comfort women, but
they weren't recruited by force, or held as sex slaves. They
were prostitutes, and as prostitutes, they made money. They
were hired by brokers and when their contracts were up, they
were able to go back to their own countries."
Teacher Kenji Watanabe has a very different point of view
about history, which he shares with his students every day at
a private high school. He says that if textbooks omit the
issue of comfort women, "Japan's history education in schools
will be distorted."
Judging from his students' independent views, Watanabe's
maverick ways seem to be influential. "Some say learning the
dark side of history strips your pride for your country,"
said one of his students, "but I think hiding the truth and
showing only the positives is much more embarrassing."
Another said "history might be repeated" if Japan tries to
cover up ugly events in its past. "War should never happen
again. Those things should be recorded and exposed," he
Most Japanese do believe that exposing what happened is the
right thing to do. But for the former comfort women all
across Asia, the pain isn't likely to subside, as long as
there are memories to share and people who try to keep their
story from being told.
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