[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 137 / Apr. 15 .2007 ]
On the evening of last March 2 a "Talk Concert" by Ms. Lee Yong Soo, former Japanese "military comfort woman," was held at a Protestant Church in Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Ms. Lee Yong Soo, a 15-year-old girl at the time, was abducted from Taegu by the Japanese army in autumn of 1944, and was brought to work in a brothel of Taiwan. When she was 63 years old, in 1992, she revealed her identity as a former "military comfort woman" and since then she has been openly critical giving testimonies not only in South Korea, but also in Taiwan, the Philippines, Canada, the United States and Japan. Ms. Lee Yong Soo continues her activities full of vitality. For instance, last February she appeared at a public hearing in the American Congress and in March met with Mr. Ueda, Saitama prefecture governor who had publicly denied that the Japanese "military comfort women" had been forcefully recruited.

Mr. Ban Zhongyi, author of the book Gai Shanxi and Her Sisters, was standing selling his book at the night concert. Mr. Ban was born in China in 1958 and after graduating from the university in 1982 came to Japan where he continued his postgraduate studies at Sophia University and at Tokyo University. At the end of 1992 in a public gathering on former "military comfort" Chinese women he was shocked after meeting, for the first time, with a Chinese "comfort woman." After that, he visited several times Shanxi province (China) and conducted a hearing inquiry of former "military comfort women." In 2006 he, simultaneously, published a book on the same theme in both countries, Japan and China, producing also a long documentary film. The film was first run as a road show and there is a movement to show it independently all over the country.
Mr. Ban got involved in the war in China and after returning to Japan met with former Japanese soldiers and recorded their war experiences. He never denounced Japan critically. He was very kind even towards those Japanese soldiers who declared themselves responsible for acts of rape and vivisections, recognizing that most probably the same as Gai Shanxi they themselves were victims of war.
With persevering tenacity, as a journalist, Mr. Ban looked after the truth and the book he wrote, full of painful facts and respect to each one for their living ways, gives the reader a pleasing taste.

With regard to the draft resolution of the American Congress that criticizes the Japanese government for its weak involvement in solving the issue of "military comfort women," Prime Minister Abe has continually repeated in public that those "comfort women" were not officially compelled. Such statement is not only the target of criticism from Japanese and Asian citizens' groups, but also from American officials. When it comes to an interpretation of historical facts, the discussions reach no end, as it happens with some theological controversial issues. Nevertheless, what is clear is that in front of victims, like Ms. Lee Yong Soo, morally shameful statements should be avoided. People should not render fruitless the courageous confessions of former Japanese soldiers that have confessed their responsibility in committing vivisections and rapes. What kind of "patriotic dignity" can be saved by turning one's faces away from the real facts?

(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)

*About the film, see the web site below:
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