Former comfort woman, Lee Yong-Soo
Recently there have been hearings in the US house of representatives to condemn Japan for its involvement in the comfort women system. A Korean woman that claims to be a former comfort woman appeared before the house of representatives to give testimony. The woman, Lee Yong-soo, gave testimony that in the house of representatives that contradicts her earlier testimony.
In the autumn of 1944, when I was 16 years old, my friend, Kim Punsun, and I were collecting shellfish at the riverside when we noticed an elderly man and a Japanese man looking down at us form the hillside. The older man pointed at us with his finger, and the Japanese man started to walk towards us. The older man disappeared, and the Japanese beckoned to us to follow him. I was scared and ran away, not caring about what happened to my friend. A few days later, Punsun knocked on my window early in the morning, and whispered to me to follow her quietly. I tip-toed out of the house after her. I lift without telling my mother. I was wearing a dark skirt, a long cotton blouse buttoned up at the front and slippers on my feet. I followed my friend until we met the same man who had tried to approach us on the riverbank. He looked as if he was in his late thirties and he wore a sort of People’s Army uniform with a combat cap. Altogether, there were five girls with him, including myself.
Lee Yong-soo, 78, a South Korean who was interviewed during a recent trip to Tokyo, said she was 14 when Japanese soldiers took her from her home in 1944 to work as a sex slave in Taiwan.
“The Japanese government must not run from its responsibilities,” said Lee, who has long campaigned for Japanese compensation. “I want them to apologize. To admit that they took me away, when I was a little girl, to be a sex slave. To admit that history.”
“I was so young. I did not understand what had happened to me,” she said. “My cries then still ring in my years. Even now, I can’t sleep.”
Obviously these testimonies contradict each other, and in normal circumstances would call into doubt the validity of the claim of being forced to be a sex slave. However, in the comfort woman controversy, anyone that even dares to doubt the testimony of a self described former comfort woman is an evil beast that supports the sexual slavery of women. Truly examining the testimonies the comfort woman has reached level of an untouchable taboo.
Lee Yong-soo is not the only person claiming to be a former comfort woman to give contradictory testimony. There are many. From what I have read from comfort woman supporters, the contradictory testimonies can be accounted for by –
*The interviewers of the comfort women are injecting their own words into the testimony
*The women suffer from a “fragmentation” of memory, and thus unable to give a consistent chronological account of their experiences
Which testimony are we supposed to believe? Since questioning the factual validity of womens testimonies is taboo, we are expected to believe every single testimony, even those that contradict each other. I think there is some truth to some of the testimony, but I do not think that testimony should be the only way of determining what happened. Testimony should be cross referenced with existing documents to determine what really happened.