Former sex slaves sue Japanese government

Angry old ladies are stepping forward to testify about the horrors of their years as Japanese "comfort women."

By Hank Hyena

Published November 1, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Nov. 1, 1999

With wrath and
tears, former "comfort women" are demanding public apologies and financial
compensation for the brutalities they endured as sex slaves of the Japanese
military in World War II.

Six Chinese women are presently suing the Japanese government for 20
million yen each, the Japan Economic Newswire reports.
Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 Chinese, Korean, Filipino,
Indonesian and Dutch women were forced into "entertainment" brothels on
the front lines, where they were systematically raped and tortured by
Japanese soldiers from the 1930s through 1945.

Plaintiff Zhou Xixiang, 74, from Shanxi Province, broke down and
sobbed repeatedly as she described her carnal incarceration to a Tokyo
symposium audience Wednesday. She testified that after her abduction at age 19, four to seven Japanese soldiers raped her every night. They threatened to
slay her with swords if she refused to submit.

"I could not resist ... out of fear that they might kill me," Zhou was quoted as
telling her audience. "Even now when I recall those horrible memories, my head
starts to ache and I cannot sleep at night."

Will Zhou and her co-plaintiffs receive their request? Not likely, if
recent Japanese judicial actions offer any indication. On Oct. 1, a Tokyo court
rejected a similar demand for $1.1 million compensation from a Korean
plaintiff, Song Siin Do, 76, who alleged that she was a sex slave for seven
years, according to AP Online. Japan also rejected Song's request for an official
apology. Forty-six Filipino women who petitioned for $169,000 each in
October 1998 were also dismissed by the Japanese courts.

Japan's refusal to grant reparations to individuals is based on its
claim that all compensation issues were settled in national treaties when
World War II concluded. This callous attitude is popular with hard-liners such as Tokyo University professor Nobukatsu Fujioka, who insist that
comfort women "did not even exist."

Repentant Japanese citizens can voluntarily donate funds to a
non-governmental organization that has bequeathed $860,000 to former sex
slaves since its origination in 1993. Its generosity is largely refused
however, by victims who insist that the Japanese government itself pay the

Japan's refusal to give in to the former sex slaves' requests has strained
relations with its neighbors. In 1997, furious Korean women cursed and
tossed eggs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. If Zhou Xixiang and her six
courageous yet ancient co-plaintiffs are dismissed in the upcoming weeks,
look for angry words and ovum to fly again through the East Asian skies.

Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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