Comfort woman, 72, quests for compensation
By Richard S. Ehrlich (japantoday)
Updated: 2005-11-03 11:46
BANGKOK, Thailand -- A kamikaze suicide pilot fell in love with imprisoned
"comfort woman" Lee Yong Soo, but that did nothing to stop the atrocity of her
being raped by hundreds of Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Up to 200,000 females -- mostly teenagers -- were enslaved for rape by
Japan's military in China, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia,
and Singapore, according to London-based Amnesty International.
The human rights organization recently brought Ms. Lee and another so-called
"comfort woman" to Bangkok, to emphasize the launch of Amnesty International's
new report titled, "Still Waiting After 60 Years: Justice for Survivors of
Japan's Military Sexual Slavery System".
Ms. Lee's one-and-a-half years as a sex slave is merely a haunting slice of
Japan's various war crimes.
But Tokyo continues to shrug off international demands for official
compensation to its rape victims.
"I was 15, in my home in southern Korea, when a Japanese man came behind me
at night, put his hand over my mouth and kidnapped me," said Ms. Lee, now a
70-year-old South Korean, recalling her ordeal in an interview.
In the autumn of 1944, the innocent girl was taken to Pyongyang, now in North
Korea, and put on a ship where she was tortured, threatened, and forced to
"There were five of us girls, with 300 soldiers, on the ship and we were
repeatedly raped on the journey which took maybe two months from North Korea to
Taiwan," she said, speaking in Korean language.
"There was a 'comfort station' in Taiwan where I then received pilots who
belonged to the kamikaze, a special suicide brigade."
One of Japanese kamikaze pilots, who repeatedly raped her in Taiwan, told Ms.
Lee that she was his first love.
"That Japanese soldier gave me a Japanese nick-name, 'Toshiko'. And the
kamikaze pilot taught me a song. He made up a song, because he was afraid he
would die when he finally had to fly.
"It's in Japanese," Ms. Lee said, and then she softly sang the lilting tune
which she never forgot.
"The song goes like this," she added, translating the Japanese into Korean,
which was then rendered into English by a translator during the interview:
"The fighting planes are taking off / Taiwan is disappearing far below /
Clouds appear / Nobody is saying goodbye to me / One person who can cry for me
is Toshiko / We will fight in Okinawa / If I die, I will guide you to your
mother / So please don't cry, because you will go back to your mother."
That shred of hope, amid their mutual doom and suffering, at least allowed
Ms. Lee to believe she might survive.
"I think he is my savior. I still thank him," she said, clarifying that she
felt no romance for him.
"He came to me many times. That soldier told me I was his first love."
Occasionally weeping while telling her tale, Ms. Lee said the kamikaze pilot
"gave me all his soap, and other things for taking care of myself, because he
said he was leaving tomorrow to die."
Ms. Lee never married.
"I returned home to Korea in May 1946, after more than one-and-a-half years"
of sexual abuse.
Today, she continues to demand justice from Tokyo, despite Japan's official
dismissal of any current legal responsibility for its military abusing "comfort
women" during the war.
Ms. Lee and other victims of sexual slavery under the Japanese during World
War II are demanding "a full package of reparations that requires
rehabilitation, compensation for the victims, restoration of lost homes,
property, and livelihood, and guarantee of non-repetition," said Dr. Purna Sen,
Amnesty International's director for the Asia-Pacific Program.
"Before and during World War II, up to 200,000 women were sexually enslaved
by the Japanese Imperial army, [some] as young as 12. They were held by the army
in so-called 'comfort stations' for months, and some for many years," said Dr.
Sen, who accompanied Ms. Lee in Bangkok.
"Some were shackled together for long periods of time. They were forced to
have sex with 40 to 50 men a day. The women and girls came from China, Taiwan,
Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Holland, East Timor and Japan.
"The 'comfort stations' were set up by the army in China, Taiwan, Borneo, the
Philippines, the Pacific islands, Singapore, Malaya, Burma and Indonesia," Dr.
"For 60 years, these women have waited for justice."