Look into the faces of the thousands of women who are grandmothers and great-grandmothers now. Their eyes still shine brightly with anger and bitterness or cloud over with untold sorrow and humiliation when their past is told. 1.jpgThey were somebody’s sister, mother, aunt, or girlfriend and had been living a perfectly decent life when they were captured in the thousands to service the Japanese army during World War II. They were forced to serve countless Japanese soldiers as sexual slaves or comfort women in army brothels; they must have been tortured, shamed, abused and degraded by the enemy at a time of war. Their loved ones might have been killed by the very people they were forced to have sex with. And some of these women survive to this day to tell the tale, but carrying with them a lifetime of physical and emotional scars as well as a history of shame and outrage.

Their stories have been told to the world but the Japanese government, to this day, refuses to acknowledge the suffering and wrong inflicted on these women, mainly in China and Korea. The Japanese government even wiped the slate clean in its history books and hid its shameful acts of terror and crime from its younger generations. Japanese history textbooks made no mention of comfort women in times of war, as if with a stroke of ink, they could banish the existence of thee women. But the women’s strong voices of protest are testimony of their undying anger and bitterness and that the ghosts from the past still haunt them. There is fear that these voices will be permanently silenced when the last surviving comfort woman is buried in her grave. Will the women’s stories die with them and along with it a slice of history or truth? Will the coming generations be ignorant and apathetic to the tragedy of our common history, the history of mankind? The Japanese government steadfastly refuses to offer apology or compensation to the victimised women or their families though it admitted that the sexual crime had been committed. It clings to the adage that all is fair in love and war. But while China grows from strength to strength in its economy and looks set to replace Japan as the economic giant in Asia (if it hasn’t already), Japan is reluctantly forced into a corner. The country of the rising sun now faces a dilemma.

3.jpgJapan had bounced back with a fast-growing economy and high standards of living after World War II; this was possible due to the high discipline and nationalism of the Japanese people. Thus, Japan is loathed to rock the foundation of loyalty and patriotism that underlie its success. Admitting its war crime also means using its dwindling wealth to pay compensation to the women and their families. Yet China is putting pressure on Japan to admit its past mistake and apologise to the thousands of wronged comfort women. China has powerful allies eager to get a slice of business and investment opportunities in the biggest market of the world. Even USA which helped rebuilt post-war Japan and kept its military force under its leash appears to have switched loyalty under Chinese pressure. The US congressional committee is considering passing a bill demanding that Japan apologised to World War II sex slaves despite intensive lobbying against the bill by Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. With this new turn of events, the premier can’t apologise and can’t afford not to. Has the past finally caught up with Japan? Will Japan now pay for its crime? If it is too late now for the thousands of women and their families, at least history will record the truth and become a lesson for posterity.