But in my opinion, this document is in fact a valuable piece of evidence indicating that these crimes did indeed occur.
Thanks for this. I agree that some of the current South Korean political discourse regarding Japan is inappropriate and counterproductive. However, as I will explain, I think your reading of this US military document – which was in fact cited in the book that I mentioned on Twitter – is highly selective and wrong. I believe that the document does more to undermine your broader argument than to strengthen it. I'm sorry that I don't have time to write a fuller response, but I hope that the below will make clear where I stand on this subject and on many of the points that you raise.
Last year I met Kim Bok-dong, who says that she was among those made to provide sex to Japanese soldiers against their will. You can read the full account of the interview here. In brief, she claims to have been told that she was needed for the war effort; that this would involve working in a clothing factory abroad, for good money, and that her family could suffer negative consequences if she refused. Aged 14, she was clearly not qualified to consent to sex work even had she been invited to do this; as it happens, she says that she was never given any indication that she would be engaged in sex, of which she says she was ignorant in any case. She says she was forced to engage in sex with Japanese soldiers in locations including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Guangdong, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Singapore, and Bangkok.
To my knowledge Ms Kim never went to northeast India but I find her account, and others, consistent with the Ledo Stockade report.
The Ledo Stockade report, as you note, says that 'A "comfort girl" is nothing more than a prostitute or "professional camp follower" attached to the Japanese Army for the benefit of the soldiers.' It also says that she is "uneducated, childish and selfish...not pretty...egotistical...'knows the wiles of a woman'...claims to dislike her 'profession' and would rather not talk about either it or her family". These remarks sound more than a little chauvinistic to the modern ear, but that is not the substance of my argument.
In this context, I think it is reasonable to interpret "nothing more than a prostitute" as a dismissive remark indicating that the comfort woman is "simply a woman who is given money for sex", without passing conclusive judgment on whether she entered this life knowingly and willingly. Let us remember that the writer was tasked only with collecting intelligence of military value. Of course, we can never know what the author really meant by this remark - but you surely do not believe that it is really a slam-dunk vindication of your position.
I object much more strongly to what I consider your deliberately misleading account of what the Ledo Stockade report says about the recruitment process. "It details that the girls were recruited with large cash payments, and signed contracts," you say. That seems to be broadly correct, and may well have been the case for Ms Kim.
But didn't you notice the reference to "false representations"? Ms Kim says that she was told to expect work in a clothing factory; for the Ledo Stockade women,"the nature of this 'service' was not specified but it was assumed to be work connected with visiting the wounded in hospitals, rolling bandages, and generally making the soldiers happy".
This explicitly refutes your implication that the women knew they were signing up to become prostitutes.
Your reference to "gang rape units dragging off innocent Korean girls by their hair" is presumably a rhetorical flourish, since it accords with no account of "comfort women" recruitment that I have ever heard. The assertion of people such as Ms Kim, and scholars of this subject such as Yuki Tanaka, is that government officials and private sector "brokers" were engaged by the Japanese authorities to recruit women for sex work, in a great many cases without revealing to them that this was what they would be doing.
Here is a passage from Tanaka's Japan's Comfort Women, which I consider entirely consistent with the Ledo Stockade report:
The most common expedient used in Korea was deceit — false promises of employment in Japan or in other Japanese occupied territories. Typically, a daughter of a poor peasant family would be approached by a labor broker and promised employment as a factory worker, assistant nurse , laundry worker, kitchen helper, or the like. While staying at an inn and waiting to be transported out of Korea, she would be relatively well treated. She would get good food and not need to work , but her physical freedom would be restricted. She would not find out the real nature of the work until she was taken into a comfort station and raped by members of the Japanese armed forces. This system provided many women from rural Korea. Jong Jingsong conducted research on 175 Korean women who came forward in 1993 as former comfort women. Of these, 105 out of 170 women whose birth places were identified had been “recruited” from rural areas in Kyongsang and Cholla Provinces. In other words, sub-contractors had targeted young daughters of poor peasant families, knowing that it was relatively easy to trick them.
Once at the comfort station, the report states, the women amused themselves with picnics, dinners, sports events and shopping trips. This assertion I consider irrelevant to the question under discussion, since picnics and shopping trips cannot have redeemed the sexual violence against young women – or indeed, in many cases, children – who, if the scores of first-hand testimonies are accurate, were being raped on a daily basis.
More to the point is the question of whether the women had the option of not engaging in sex, or of returning home. You refer to the following passage:
"The girls were allowed the prerogative of refusing a customer. This was often done if the person were too drunk."
Again, I cannot see this as conclusive evidence that the women were engaging in sex voluntarily. The remark that "this was often done if the person were too drunk" suggests that the women might well have been entitled to exercise this "prerogative" only if the soldier in question was behaving in an unusually bad way. I don't have the confidence to infer from this that the "comfort women" had sex with countless men because they wanted to and had a meaningful choice to do otherwise. Do you?
It is clear from the Ledo Stockade report that these women were dependent on their "house master". Their food was "prepared by and purchased from" him, even though many of these men "made life very difficult for the girls by charging them high prices for food and other articles". Even those who defy the evidence to claim that the women entered this situation voluntarily must accept that they were at best indentured labourers, as shown by the following:
"The "house master" received fifty to sixty per cent of the girls' gross earnings depending on how much of a debt each girl had incurred when she signed her contract... In the latter part of 1943 the Army issued orders that certain girls who had paid their debt could return home. Some of the girls were thus allowed to return to Korea."
So the women could not go home until they had paid off their debt. The report does not explicitly say whether they were forced to pay off the debt by their "work" at the comfort station, although it is unclear how else they could have survived. The following helped me to understand why many women stayed despite the agonies that they described:
After about a year in Shanghai, I ran away from the comfort station on a snowy winter’s day. I ran as far as the rickshaw terminal. It was late at night. But there was nowhere for me to go. I couldn’t communicate with anyone, because I didn’t know Chinese. I crouched in the corner of the terminal and tried to sleep, waking frequently. I was frightened. In the morning, I still didn’t have anywhere to go, so I returned to the comfort station. I crept back to the kitchen. I cooked breakfast, as usual, and sat down to have my own meal. But the proprietor knew. He came in and beat me all over, saying that he would teach me a lesson once and for all. (Ha Sunnyo, quoted in True Story of the Korean Comfort Women, ed. Keith Howard)
I do not pretend to be a serious scholar of this subject, having researched it – among many other subjects – as part of my job covering Korea since July 2012. But the evidence I have seen and heard to date suggests to me that a terrible wrong was committed against thousands of women at the behest of the Japanese military authorities, who must take ultimate responsibility for this.
Kim Bok-dong has never claimed to have been dragged off by her hair. I do not believe that these women – at least certainly not the majority of them – were "systematically abducted" by the Japanese government. Rather, I believe the evidence – including this document – shows that a great many of them were lied to, and had no means of suspecting that they would find themselves spending years in prostitution on a basis of debt bondage.
This is what the Ledo Stockade report says. Do you doubt it?
PS: I also wondered why the US did not make efforts to publicise these crimes. Below is Tanaka's take on it, citing the Ledo Stockade report. Again, I really do recommend that you read his book, since you clearly have a keen interest in this subject, and it is the most thorough analysis that I have come across. You can find it here.
Why did a Psychological Warfare Team interrogate these comfort women? US Psychological Warfare Teams were formed for the purpose of gathering as much information as possible concerning the psychological conditions of Japanese soldiers in the battlefield. A particular function was to conduct thorough interrogations of Japanese POWs, to find out how they perceived the ongoing war and under what conditions they would decide to surrender. Such information was forwarded to the Foreign Morale Analysis Division in the Office of War Information, to be analyzed by such prominent psychologists and anthropologists as Ruth Benedict, Clyde Kluckhohn, and John Embree. These specialist opinions were taken into account in producing various propaganda leaflets designed to persuade Japanese soldiers and civilians to surrender rather than fight to the death. Tens of thousands of these leaflets were printed and scattered from the air throughout the Pacific region, in particular during the fiercest battle of World War II in the Okinawa Islands.
It is presumed, therefore , that the interrogation of comfort women was not regarded as an important task for the US Psychological Warfare Teams. Such interrogation could provide only secondary information on the psychology of members of Japanese military forces. A few years ago I interviewed Grant Hirabayashi, one of the former nisei interpreters attached to the Psychological Warfare Team mentioned above that interrogated the 20 Korean women captured in Burma. He explained that only a brief interrogation was conducted, simply because these women had unexpectedly fallen into the hands of US forces. According to Hirabayashi , only a summary memorandum was recorded in this case, in contrast to normal POW interrogation procedures in which every question and answer was precisely recorded. 5 In other words, information obtained from these women was not highly valued by the Americans.
Interrogation Report No. 49 [THIS IS THE LEDO STOCKADE REPORT - SIMON] prepared by the Psychological Warfare Team in the India– Burma theater clearly refers to the violation of these Korean women’s human rights by the Japanese forces. It claims that most of these women were deceived into becoming prostitutes for the Japanese forces. However, it seems that the American interrogators did not regard it as a serious war crime against humanity, and had no intention of prosecuting the Japanese officers of the 114th Infantry Regiment for sexual exploitation of these women.
Why was awareness of the comfort women issue as a serious war crime clearly lacking in the mind of the leaders of the Allied forces? One reason probably lies in the fact that the majority of the women victims of this enforced military prostitution were Asians and were therefore neither white women nor civilians of the Allied nations. As we have seen in the previous chapter, the Dutch forces, who prosecuted Japanese officers for the crime of forcing Dutch girls and women into prostitution, did not even bother to investigate most cases in which Indonesian women were victimized. Some historians have pointed to the “absence of Asia” in the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. 13 Probably the comfort women issue was also ignored for the same reason. It took almost half a century for the enslavement of the comfort women to be considered one of the most serious and unprecedented war crimes in history.