Skip to main content

"Immoral Leverage"

Immoral Leverage
by Casey J. Lartigue Jr.
March 10, 1998
The Korea Times

When Kim Hak-Sun stepped forward in August 1991 to acknowledge publicly that she had been a "comfort woman" for the Japanese army during World War II, it seemed that it was the beginning of the end of the contentious issue. After all, how could the Japanese government continue to deny that thousands of young women were used as sex slaves for its military when the former comfort women, led by Kim, were stepping forward to tell their painful stories?

Instead of resolving the dispute, Kim's emergence marked the start of a new phase of the bitter battle. The Japanese government, which had previously denied the "comfort girls" were forced into sexual labor, immediately denied official government complicity. After Japanese history professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki published government documents in 1992 refuting that claim, the Japanese government at last confessed government involvement. While several different Japanese prime ministers have personally apologized, Japan insists that the Japanese-South Korea Basic Treaty of 1965 settled all previous disputes. Instead, it launched a fund, Asian Peace and Friendship Fund for Women, known as the Asian Women's Fund (AWF) to raise  donations for the women.

The AWF was rejected by many Koreans as a "fraudulent play by the Japanese government to shirk its responsibilities for the war crimes." The Korean government and the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery (Chongdaehyop) have undercut AWF at every turn. After AWF gave seven former comfort women each a total of two million yen (about $17,000) in January 1997, the Korean government and Chongdaehyop howled. When AWF resumed its activities last year, promising a similar large payment to seven more comfort women, the Korean government denied AWF representative Usuki Keiko re-entry to South Korea.

Ironically, Usuki has been publicizing the comfort woman issue for more than 15 years. She first came to Korea in 1982 to do research about the comfort women, almost a decade before the South Korean  government showed any interest in the topic. She published Contemporary Comfort Woman in 1992 and was the leading figure in the Association for Clarifying Japan's Post-War Responsibility. The Korean  government and Chongdaehyop have slapped an ally who fought for the issue long before it became politically fashionable here.

While demonizing the Japanese government and AWF, the Korean government has offered the comfort women minimal aid. In 1994, the Korean government began to offer the former comfort women a monthly stipend of 500,000 won per month. The Korean Foreign Ministry recently announced it will start giving the former comfort women an additional unspecified amount of state money to help the women secure "moral leverage" for future negotiations with the Japanese government. In political doublespeak, securing "moral leverage" means "we need to do something because the other side is making us look like unprincipled pinheads." The Korean government will lack that "moral leverage" until Korean citizens voluntarily reach into their own pockets and start contributing to a fund to help the comfort women.

It is highly unlikely, however, that Koreans will dig very deep into their pockets. By making "nonnegotiable" demands for "official apologies" and "state-level compensation" directly from the Japanese government, Chongdaehyop has unwittingly undermined its own ability to aid the comfort women privately. They've offered cheap talk and angry slogans while the Japanese group has given money. Chongdaehyop, founded in 1990, admitted last year that it had raised "small" amounts of money for the former comfort women. That shouldn't be surprising. By focusing on embarrassing the Japanese politically (as the government seeks "moral leverage"), they've convinced many Koreans that the Japanese are solely responsible for aiding the elderly women.

The local women's groups openly advertise their moral bankruptcy every Wednesday when they haul the elderly comfort women out to protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. The comfort women have become little more than mascots paraded out to energize the home team at a sporting event. While Chongdaehyop has obtained statements of support from the United Nations Rights Commission (1993), the International Commission of Jurists (1994), the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, and 1995's 4th United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing, most of the remaining 157 former comfort women are reportedly living in abject poverty. Eight of them, who have no relatives and no means of livelihood reside in the government-provided "House Sharing" located in suburban Seoul.

Besides working with the AWF, Chongdaehyop could work with Japanese scholars and historians who first documented the Japanese government's role in abusing the comfort women. They could then start working with the nine Japanese female lawmakers who in 1996 demanded that Japan offer reparations to the former comfort women. Most of the revelations concerning the comfort women have been uncovered by Japanese and Korean individuals who did not wait for government action (which can be, to put it politely, "slow"). The Korean government did not publicly mention the comfort women issue until 1990, long after books and articles had been published in Japan in the 1970s and in Korea in the 1980s. Koreans should put their politics aside and try to help the elderly women first.

It has been almost seven years since Kim Hak-sun stepped forward. Little has changed from Chongdaehyop's original 1990 demands in an open letter to then-prime minister Kaifu Toshiki, which included: the Japanese must apologize, rewrite Japanese history books, offer state-level compensation.

During that time, many Korean comfort women have died, waiting for the Japanese government's response. Even Kim Hak-sun's death last December 16 was not enough to cause the Korean government or civic groups to rethink their strategy. Her funeral procession was routed so that it would pass by the Japanese embassy. Even her death was used to score cheap political points against the Japanese. Kim Hak-sun was a fiery protestor, so she may have preferred it that way.

Somehow, it isn't surprising considering that Chongdaehyop has alienated potential allies in Japan; has worked tirelessly to obtain meaningless statements of support from international bodies; and unwittingly convinced Korean citizens that they don't need to help the former comfort women until the Japanese have done so. Chongdaehyop and the Korean government should drop the moral political games and focus on how they can help the comfort women while they're still alive.

Popular posts from this blog

Forgery or conspiracy? Memorandum 46

Here's an article I co-wrote that will appear in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post . We'll be updating this page over the coming days. So check back for updates. Memorandum 46 timeline , as compiled by us. Audio from our last show on XM 169 before we got fired. That audio is divided into segments, this one is one large MP3 . Who says Memorandum46 is true? Former rep. Cynthia McKinney presents Memo 46 to the United Nations and defends it in a speech . Joe Madison presents Memo 46 at the annual Congressional Black Caucus gathering. Former D.C. delegate Walter Fauntroy, on the Joe Madison show on XM 169 (audio available, upon request) and on Michael Fauntroy's site Boyd Graves (see Exhibit 10 of his lawsuit against the government) The Final Call, with Brzezinski's name misspelled . Len Horowitz Millions for Reparations Various discussion forums or discussants, such as: Greekchat , Jahness , Who says Memorandum 46 is a forgery? Brzezi

Park Jin welcoming remarks to FSI (and Casey Lartigue)

  National Assembly member Park Jin makes the welcoming remarks at FSI's conference featuring North Korean diplomats. Park Jin | Greeting message to FSI and Casey Lartigue mention - YouTube

2016-11-03 Who is Andrei Lankov?

Disclaimer: NK experts, please don't read this, there will be no rabbits pulled out of a hat. * * * Every couple of months, I meet up with Andrei Lankov to discuss various things. I first met him back in 2011, shortly before he spoke at an event I organized with the Center for Free Enterprise. I have read his articles for years, he has spoken at about four TNKR events over the years. When it comes to analyzing NK, he is one of the leading experts in the field. Last March, I was one of the organizers of the first (and perhaps last) International Volunteers Workshop, we had 227 RSVP in advance. I asked them all as part of the RSVP: "The keynote speaker will be Andrei Lankov. Had you heard of him before hearing about this event?" No: 133 Yes: 94 Even within those 94 "Yes" responses, I am sure there were various levels of awareness--such as some may have seen his name, others may have read some articles, and a few experts may have the Andrei La

Songmi’s first book signing (2022-09-27)

Songmi Han escaped from North Korea in March 2011 and was released into freedom in South Korea in October 2011. For the first decade, she was silent. She was struggling with settling down and was also a survival of several different traumas. After she went through counseling and joined Freedom Speakers International as a Special Assistant in early 2021, she finally began to open up. I suggested that she might want to write a book. that her healing process might also be able to help others. After some discussions, she decided to try, although she recruited me as her co-author (that was NOT part of my suggestion). As we worked on the book, I told her that the would come that she would have a book signing. She didn’t believe it. Eighteen months later, she had her first in-person book signing. I organized a trip to the USA, with the first event being held on her birthday. Below are many of the photos I took of her as she signed books with attendees in Nashville. Finally, after signing many

2014-07-01 Happy Birthday, Joo Yeon Cho!

Can it be true? I have known Joo Yeon Cho for less than 9 months? Incredible! But I guess that's the way it is with Joo Yeon. I'm not surprised to see so many birthday messages coming from all over Korea and the world. She works for a company that could crush me and everyone I know, but she still calls me "Boss."^^ I checked my emails, she first emailed me back on October 14, and I was surprise d to see it was 2013, not 2012 or even earlier. She wanted to join as a volunteer at the Mulmangcho School. I quickly recognized she was a special lady. She didn't know it, but I had already decided that she would help me with a special project I had planned with Praise Ju that I was going to launch two days later. They hit it off, and the project took off! We are collaborating again--she started off as the first Academic Adviser in the Teach North Korean Refugees Project, and she is now our first External Coordinator. As I posted a few days ago, she regularly blows u