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April 3, 2007 7:58 PM   Subscribe

The Story (Mp3 - first part of 51 Min broadcast) Audio interview with Ok Sun Kim, one of the Korean "Comfort Women" pressed into sexual slavery by Japan during WWII. She was 16 when kidnapped, and raped the first night.
posted by edgeways (19 comments total)

 
She recounts having to service up to 70 men during one day. And while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has offered a decidedly anemic apology, he has recently and repeatedly been on record with statements more inline with "while there was no evidence of coercion in the strict sense, there may be some evidence of independent brokers procuring women by force. ...it was not as though military police broke into peoples' homes and took them away like kidnappers,"

This is, in a broad sense, a story I've known about for awhile, but listening to a real live interview with someone involved is pretty powerful, and disturbing. And, hearing the Japanese equivocations remind me of Holocaust deniers, except while the German government has, more or less, come to terms with history it seems like the Japanese government has not.
posted by edgeways at 7:59 PM on April 3, 2007


Photo Gallery
posted by edgeways at 8:01 PM on April 3, 2007


I'm a bit wary of listening to the mp3 for fear of feeling awful. But whenever I see things like this it makes me wonder what kind of forces were acting upon the Japanese soldiers during WWII (and really, on all sides during that conflict). I've been to Japan and most everyone I came across was genuinely gentle-- in stark contrast to the routine institutionalized terrors they took part in.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:25 PM on April 3, 2007


>I've been to Japan and most everyone I came across was genuinely gentle

I don't mean to cover the obvious but are you speaking about visiting Japan post-WWII? If so, Japan is obviously a different nation post-WWII than it was pre-WWII.
posted by gen at 8:29 PM on April 3, 2007


Most everyone, except the ones you didn't come across.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:55 PM on April 3, 2007


yes the mp3 will make you feel awful, but, and I stress this, sometimes you need to feel awful. I've had quite a few years put in in academically studying war, effects of war and such like and there is a monumental difference between reading about something and listening to someone talk about it first hand. There is power in listening to it. Frankly I ascribe to the notion that people such as this, who survive, are much more heroic then those that start, or fight wars. No one is going to force you to listen, but as awful as it is there is real value to it, and there is a story of strength.

There is no real reason to wonder at what forces where acting upon them, Japan was, and to a certain extent is still a very isolate society, there is a strong national identity that leaves very little room for incorporating outsiders (see the ongoing issues surrounding the Ainu native population for example), you couple that with the militartictic mentality prevalent during that period and you have a very... driven population. This is not intended as a slam on Japan in general, but observations on how a given society worked
posted by edgeways at 9:03 PM on April 3, 2007


Previously on this topic.

There has been a recent resurgence of this issue in the Korean press after comments from some Japanese politicians on the matter.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:06 PM on April 3, 2007


If we're paying respect to the lady, by the way, her name is 김옥선. That is, Kim Ok Sun, family name Kim. Various ways to denote this are used for the benefit of foreign types when Korean names are written in western characters: you might see Kim, OK Sun or Kim Ok-Sun or just plain Kim Ok Sun, but basically never (in Korea) Ok Sun Kim. [/pet peeve]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:13 PM on April 3, 2007


I have enough rage already just thinking about this, and cannot actually listen to the MP3.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:40 PM on April 3, 2007


"while the German government has, more or less, come to terms with history..."
posted by edgeways at 1:59 PM on April 4

Please to be explaining the 'less' part of this statement.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:47 PM on April 3, 2007


Thanks stavrosthewonderchicken I was just following the format the program's website was using for her name, good to have the correct info in thread.
posted by edgeways at 9:50 PM on April 3, 2007


I wish somebody could explain to me the political currency that PM Shinzo Abe gains from denying these people an apology. Is it simply a question of proof? Is this a question of pride or honor, on the individual or ethnic level?

these days I wouldn't hold it against the american government if they made a 'poltical' decision solely based on the 'pr effect' it would generate - i mean, it happens all the time. so i extrapolate from the PM's actions that either a. he stands by his strong convictions because he really believes in them, or b. his view is popular - and at the very least, politically tenable - in japan. what is the case?
posted by phaedon at 10:04 PM on April 3, 2007


>>I'm a bit wary of listening to the mp3 for fear of feeling awful.

>yes the mp3 will make you feel awful, but, and I stress this, sometimes you need to feel awful.

Writing about the Rape of Nanking (and starting work on a book about the Bataan Death MArch) helped drive Iris Chang to suicide.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:56 PM on April 3, 2007


either a. he stands by his strong convictions because he really believes in them, or b. his view is popular - and at the very least, politically tenable - in japan. what is the case?

It's a huge, writhing political can o' worms, and given that no apology or lack thereof will ever be enough to appease the right-wing in either nation, Abe has no compelling reason to open it. That's it in a nutshell. If you want more detail, Google for my comments in other recent threads about this issue.
posted by vorfeed at 11:27 PM on April 3, 2007


Hmm, I don't see PM Abe's statements as a denial of comfort women at all.

Remember, we see these charged quotations out of context, without the actual questions/comments/history that prompted what was said. Plus the quotes you see have gone through a filter of a translator. Direct translations of words into close approximations doesn't always express the full, nuanced picture.

There is no denying that comfort women and other war crimes are an awful, atrocious, shameful part of Japan's past that they will always have to answer to. But not to dirty this thread, how many apologies would be enough? How much financial reparation should be given until all is forgiven? I doubt that PR campaign-style apologizing every few years would make things better.

** Thanks for the mp3. I feel gut-wrenchingly terrible, but I'm glad I heard it.
posted by QueSeraSera at 12:22 AM on April 4, 2007


Wow, funky, I didn't know that about Chang. So sad. Looking forward to listening to the interview.
posted by Brittanie at 1:11 AM on April 4, 2007


QueSeraSera, there is *no* context that could possibly excuse Abe's words. With all due respect, that strikes me as being sophistry on your part, and/or an overcommitment to relativism.

Yes, it is true that nationalists remain a potent force in Japanese political life. Yes, it is so that any comment taking responsibility for Japanese atrocities on the part of a prominent politician would likely be career (and just possibly even literal) suicide. But somebody has to be brave enough to stand up and speak the truth, to be a mensch and begin to set things to rights. Whatever the cost in pain, it's the only thing that can undergird better relations between Japan, Korea and China in the long term, and, of course, it's the only gesture that is anything like respectful of the torment these women have suffered for so long.

I don't believe it's about apologies, or even reparations - which have been refused in the past as being insincere, by the way - as a longterm process of national soul-searching and reevaluation that took place in Germany, and has yet to in Japan.

(I, too, had had no idea that Iris Chang had killed herself, and I can't express how awful that news makes me feel. The Rape of Nanking is absolutely mandatory reading for anybody who wants to understand the PTO and, well, the twentieth century. My feeling is that the imperialists responsible for Nanking - more than one or two of whom are still alive and living in abundant comfort - have claimed another victim.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:57 AM on April 4, 2007


I've been to Japan and most everyone I came across was genuinely gentle

I guess you didn't come across any rape clubs.

"Seiichi Ota, a senior MP from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and former minister, stunned Japan when he effectively condoned the gang rapists, saying they were 'virile' and 'almost normal'."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:47 AM on April 4, 2007


phaedon: I wish somebody could explain to me the political currency that PM Shinzo Abe gains from denying these people an apology. Is it simply a question of proof? Is this a question of pride or honor, on the individual or ethnic level?

It's a valuable a source of political power for both sides.

So long as Japan doesn't fully apologize, it has something that the other Asian nations want. Likewise, the issue of Japan's apology is a strong force that the other nations can use to pressure Japan on various issues.

The issue of a final, conclusive apology would destroy all that useful political power. Why do that when you could just drag it out until no one cares anymore (and hence, no longer politically useful)?
posted by PsychoKick at 3:45 PM on April 4, 2007


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