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2007/11/30 08:00 KST
Comfort women used to prevent military revolt during war: historian

   SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- The Japanese military used sex slaves to satisfy disgruntled frontline soldiers during World War II and discourage military revolt, a Japanese historian claimed Friday.

   Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of modern Japanese history at Chuo University in Tokyo, made the remark at a forum here organized by the Association for Korean Modern and Contemporary History and Northeast Asian History Foundation.

   The remark comes as criticism mounts over the Japanese government's failure to properly apologize for the atrocities committed against sex slaves and compensate the surviving victims.

   Canada's parliament unanimously passed a motion Wednesday demanding that Japan sincerely apologize to those forced into military brothels during World War II. The U.S. Congress and Dutch Parliament adopted similar resolutions earlier this year.

   The term comfort women is a euphemism for sex slaves. Historians say hundreds of thousands of women from Korea and other countries were forced to serve frontline Japanese soldiers during the war.

   Yoshimi found documents dealing with comfort women at a library of the Defense Agency in Tokyo in early 1990s, proving for the first time that the Japanese Army ran "comfort stations" to provide sexual services to frontline soldiers.

   The Japanese Army established the comfort stations to prevent venereal diseases and rape by Japanese soldiers, to provide comfort to soldiers and head off espionage, Yoshimi said.

   "The comfort stations were not actual solutions to the first two problems. Rather, they aggravated the problems," he said, adding providing comfort to soldiers was the most important thing for the military.

   "They (the Japanese soldiers) were in a war of aggression with no promising future in sight. They never knew when they would return home. They were not taken care of well and their basic human rights were trampled on," he said.

   "The Japanese Imperial Army feared most that the simmering discontentment of the soldiers could explode into a riot and revolt. That is why it provided women," he said.

   Yoshimi stressed the need for further studies to explore in depth why the comfort women became indispensable for the Japanese Imperial Army.

   "Many issues are involved here, including the modern expeditionary force, imperialism and the oppression of other peoples, the Japanese Emperor, male dominance and sexual emancipation," he said.

   Citing a Japanese military report in 1941 dealing with the venereal diseases of soldiers, Yoshimi said most of the victims of sexual slavery were women from countries under Japanese colonial rule, including Korea and China. More than 50 percent of the women are estimated to be Korean, he added.

   ygkim@yna.co.kr
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