Q.How were the lives of military sex slaves in comfort stations?
A.Girls and women were deceptively recruited, often with the involvement by the police and governmental officials, sometimes tricked or kidnapped and deployed to “comfort stations”in battlefields. The victims are revealing how they were taken and forced to become sex slaves for the Japanese military.
Gunja Kim had her right eardrum ruptured after a Japanese solider hit her in the cheek, but she was hardly treated at a hospital and now she has a hearing loss in her right ear. One victim was violently beaten by her owner for attempting to run away. Oksun Lee’ owner called a military policeman who beat her with a leather belt and made her bleed at the nose. She lost hearing ability of one ear after being beaten by a Japanese policeman. Ilchool Kang was hit in the head by a Japanese officer for screaming during her first intercourse and she still has the scars. Once her arm was fractured after being twisted. Her right thumb was twisted so hard that bones cracked and pierced through skin. She was threatened to be burned alive by Japanese troops for contracting typhoid but barely managed to survive with the help of a Korean. Her hands are still trembling because of the beating. Doori Park witnessed that one woman’ mistake led to military-kind group punishment, troops forced every woman to keel and hit them in their thighs with a thick stick. One day, she was brutally beaten for not waking up an asleep visitor and she’ lost most of her hearing ability due to the beating. Wonok Gil was hit in the head by a Japanese sword for resisting and still has the scars. She claims that if one ran away, the rest was subject to punishment. Kumju Hwang refused to accept an officer’ demands and was savagely beaten. She passed out for 3 days. Yongsu Lee says she once passed out in electricity torture for not obeying the brothel managers.
II.Slaughter and suicide
Sex slaves deployed to battlefields followed Japanese troops. When the Allies intensified their offense and a military unit was about to collapse, higher ranking unit commanded lower ranking units to do Gyokusai(group suicide) and numerous troops followed the order. There’ a testimony that some soldiers slaughtered sex slaves around them. The picture taken in September 1944 featuring corpses abandoned around bordering areas between China and Myanmar vividly shows how brutally Korean “comfort women”of the day were killed. (Note the picture) Sex slaves who were unable to work any more because of disease or injuries were shot to death or abandoned with little treatment. According to Kumju Hwang women at the military brothels often got sick after 2 to 3 times of forced abortions and those seriously sick and unable to provide sexual services were taken by soldiers to unknown places and never came back. Soonduk Kim says many of Chinese sex slaves had run away or committed suicide.
III.Pregnancy and forced abortion
Gunja Kim got pregnant but was forced to have an abortion by her owner. Oksun Lee testified that there was a woman who was unaware of her pregnancy and had her baby taken away by a Japanese soldier right after the delivery. Tokkyong Kang learned that she was pregnant on her way back home after Korea was liberated from the Japanese colonial rule. She became pregnant right after her first period. Being aware of her pregnancy, she tried to commit a suicide by throwing herself into the sea. On her returning trip, she could not out her plan, though, due to watchful eyes around her that sensed her plan. She gave birth to a child in Korea, but she had to leave her baby to an orphanage being unable to bring her baby home. Kumju Hwang says officers got many sex slaves pregnant because they did not use condoms. After the women had insides of their uteruses scraped off three to four times at a hospital, they became barren for good.
Soran Kim had 2-3 tests for venereal diseases a month and once had malaria. Gunja Kim says she had Salvarsan 606 injection for syphilis. Oksun Lee also had syphilis and had salvarsan 606 injection and mercury treatment that made her unable to conceive a baby for the rest of her life. Ilchool Kang had blooded urination owing to sex slavery at a military brothel and once developed a venereal disease. Doori Park got a venereal disease called lymphogranuloma venereum in her groin. and had a surgery which left her 5cm scars. Wonok Gil also had a surgery for a venereal disease. Her trumpet was blocked, so she had ovary-cystoma. She had the tumor removed when she came back to Korea. Haksun Kim received salvarsan 606 injection from a military surgeon. Yongsu Lee as well had to serve soldiers while on 606 injection. Kumju Hwang says all of the 7 sex slaves including herself suffered swollen uterus and pus coming out of uterus. She was the only one among the 7 “comfort women”to come back home on foot when the Japanese colonial rule ended. Soonduk Kim did not get venereal diseases but suffered bleeding vagina and had trouble urinating, so she was treated at a hospital. She was diagnosed later in Korea after the war ended that she had tilted uterus.
Oksun Lee testfies that she was given only a small loaf of Chinese bread, so she always suffered from hunger and that many women died of hunger-related diseases. According to Doori Park, a small bowl of steamed rice, miso soup and anchovies were given only twice a day. Rice was hard to get, so the women often had to skip meals. Gunja Kim says she sometimes had nothing but strained bean lees to eat.
Rules regulating “comfort stations”required users to pay for services. In reality, however, the payment might have been gone to brothel operators and rarely to sex Soran Kim, they were not given any money or military payment certificate but only meals. Gunja Kim witnesses that she did not get any money either. Doori Park says the female manager kept the money for her, wrote it down on a book and gave the money to the brothel owner. She never got any money for about 5 years. Wonok Gil says she did receive military payment certificates but not actual money. The “comfort women”were virtually deprived of freedom, so military payment certificates were of no use to them. What’ more, these certificates became as good as wastepaper after the Japanese colonial rule ended. Haksun Kim heard that the ranks were supposed to pay 1.5 won and the officers 8 won but she was never paid. Soonduk Kim left all of her military payment certificates in the brothel manager's charge and was assured she’ get them all later but she ended up coming back to Korea empty handed. Soran Kim did receive the certificates from soldiers but they were useless because she could not go outside.
“comfort women”were closely monitored and movement was restricted. They were locked up and lived like slaves. As a result, some women got mentally ill after suffering homesickness and fear of war. As the situation in battlefields got worse, they became short of supplies including sanitary napkins not to mention clothes. Some women were given morphine injections by soldiers at the brothels and some fell into opium. Some sex slaves had to serve Japanese soldiers even during their periods. Haksun Kim says she had to serve soldiers during her periods so she put cotton wool inside her body to stop blood coming out. Oksun Lee claims the women at the brothel didn't have to serve soldiers during their periods according to the rules, but the brothel manager forced them to plug vagina with cotton wool and to serve soldiers, which was approved by military surgeons at the brothel. Many women killed themselves out of horrific conditions at military brothels. It was almost impossible for the comfort women to run away from the brothels due to the tight security and their lack of knowledges of local language and geography. All the living victims assert that their lives at military brothels of the day were out of question inhuman.