A South Korean academic accused of writing a book that defamed wartime sex slaves denied the charge in court on Wednesday, insisting her work was in the public interest. Park Yu-Ha, a professor at Seoul's Sejong University, was formally charged by prosecutors last November following an investigation prompted by complaints from a group of so-called "comfort women".
In "The Comfort Women of the Empire" published in 2013, Park challenged the dominant narrative in South Korea that all comfort women were dragged from their homes by Japanese soldiers. Park suggested the reality was more complex, with some of the women volunteering -- though without necessarily knowing what their eventual fate would be.
The book also suggested some women forged an emotional bond with the soldiers they served, sparking an angry reaction from some surviving comfort women. "Park provided a different approach to explore this issue that had remained unresolved for so long," her lawyer said in court. "She wrote the book only for interest of the public," the lawyer was quoted a saying by the Yonhap news agency.
On Tuesday, Park said she would release the full text of her book online for free. The book blames the plight of the comfort women on the entire "patriarchal social system" in both Japan and South Korea that exploited poor, uneducated women. Park said some passages had been taken out of context to build the case against her.
In a report to a United Nations panel, Japan said there is no evidence that the Imperial Japanese Army or wartime government forcibly seized women to work in military brothels as “comfort women.”
“(The) ‘forceful taking away’ of comfort women by the military and government authorities could not be confirmed in any way of the documents that the government of Japan was able to identify,” Tokyo told the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in Geneva.
The report was compiled in response to inquiries made in August by CEDAW regarding the status of women. In one of the questions, Japan was asked to comment on recent public statements that “there was no evidence that proved the forcible removal” of comfort women.
Tokyo’s conclusion that no such evidence exists is based on what the government described as a “full-scale fact-finding study” on the question since the early 1990s, when it emerged as a political issue between Tokyo and Seoul.
The study, the report said, involved research and investigations on related documents held by Japanese ministries and agencies, document searches at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, testimonies from relevant individuals, including former military parties and managers of military brothels, and analysis of testimonies collected by the South Korean side.
Guidelines for California educators on how to teach history students about the use of female sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II have prompted debate in Japanese and Korean communities here and abroad. The controversy concerns two sentences about so-called "comfort women" in the nearly 1,000-page "History/Social Science framework" released in December, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday (http://lat.ms/1Putkpu ).
The passage has been met with celebration among Korean American groups that have campaigned to bring attention to the issue in the U.S. Meanwhile some Japanese groups consider it an unfairly negative portrayal of their home country, the newspaper said. Historians believe that as many as 200,000 girls and women from Korea, China and other occupied nations were forced into Japanese military brothels. However, many Japanese and Japanese-Americans dispute the claims.
The guidelines recommend that the subject of "comfort women" be taught to high schoolers as an "example of institutionalized sexual slavery, and one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century." The passages were incorporated into the draft framework at the urging of Korean community groups, the newspaper said. Nancy McTygue and Bill Honig, co-chairs of the History-Social Science subject matter committee, said they consulted the latest historical research and survivors' testimony and concluded there was enough evidence for it to be taught in schools.
After the conservative Japanese newspaper Sankei reported on the new framework in December, under the tag "History Wars," an online petition on Change.org has collected signatures protesting the description. The petition asks that the passages be amended to also describe comfort women as "well-paid prostitutes" and that they also served Allied troops in Japan immediately after the war.
Professor Park Yu-ha's wages will be partly seized starting this month after a district court accepted a request from former sex slaves for compensation for defamation. On Tuesday, the Seoul Western District Court ordered Sejong University to partly seize her wages until she paid 90 million won ($74,000) to the victims in compensation for causing them emotional distress due to her controversial book "Comfort Women of the Empire."
At the first trial, the court found Park guilty of defaming the sex slavery victims. The university said it sent an e-mail notifying Park that more than half of her wages will be deducted by the court order. In February 2015, the court also ordered Park to delete some passages from the book, including one that describes some of the victims as "voluntary prostitutes," in order to continue sales. She is currently standing criminal trial on charges of defaming the victims.
"I think I have been too naive in responding (to the issue) so far," Park wrote on her social media after receiving the notice from the school. "I cannot help but change my attitude for myself, above all, but also to prevent them from bullying others." Park released a second version of the book after redacting 34 sections and has distributed the book free of charge on her website since February.
Japan has found no documents confirming that the “comfort women” were forcefully recruited by military or government authorities, a Japanese envoy told a U.N. panel Tuesday. Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama made that claim during a session in Geneva of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
The belief that women were forced into sexual servitude is based on the false accounts of the late Seiji Yoshida, Sugiyama said. Yoshida claimed to have forcibly taken women from the island of Jeju, then under Japanese colonial rule and now part of South Korea, and forced them into sexual labor for the Japanese military before and during World War II.
The Asahi Shimbun in 2014 retracted articles that reported Yoshida’s accounts, Sugiyama noted. He also briefed the U.N. committee on the historic Japan-South Korean accord reached in December to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the protracted dispute over Korean women who were procured for Japan’s wartime military brothels.
On August 5, 2014, Asahi Shimbun announced that they concluded the testimony of Yoshida as a fabrication. In April and May 2014, the Asahi Shimbun dispatched reporters to Jeju Island and interviewed about 40 elderly residents and concluded that Yoshida’s accounts “are false.” Asahi Shimbun retracted all 16 articles based on his testimony in the 1980s and 1990s. The President of Asahi Shimbun later made an apology for the errors and an editor was fired as a result.
At the outset of his statement at the U.N. panel, Sugiyama said Japan will have a leading role in making the 21st century a time when women’s human rights are not violated. The panel is tasked with monitoring nations’ compliance with the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is scheduled to issue its findings March 7 regarding Japan and other nations under review.