The comfort women issue has generated a lot of heat. There is endless argument about how many women worked as comfort women, whether they were sex slaves or prostitutes, whether they were “forcibly recruited” or contracted laborers. There are questions about who oversaw the comfort stations where they worked, what the conditions were like there, and on and on.
But for all of the rhetorical heat that the comfort women has produced, there has been very little light shed on the subject by most participants in the debate. Those who hurl accusations of “sex slavery,” “forced recruitment,” “dragooning,” “operating rape centers,” and so forth, appeal to the emotions, not the mind.
It is the wrong debate to have. What is badly needed is some historical fact, and not more overwrought pandering and rhetorical grandstanding.
In response to the highly-emotional and highly-loaded rhetorical flourishes by many in the comfort women debate, serious scholars and concerned lay researchers have tried to present the comfort women as history — and not as springboard for virtue signaling.
For example, the world’s foremost expert on the comfort women issue, Professor Ikuhiko Hata, wrote an exhaustively-researched volume on the topic more than 20 years ago. That book was finally translated into English in 2018.
Hata’s volume is filled with footnotes and references to archival materials — perfect for the serious student of the comfort women issue, but not quite as accessible to laypeople who may not have time to do a complete study of the topic.
Archie Miyamoto’s book, Wartime Military Records on Comfort Women (Amazon Digital Services, 2018), at 53 pages, is just a fraction of the length of the Hata tome. However, it is the must-read companion to the Hata text. Miyamoto’s work also stands alone as a first-rate work of scholarship. As its name suggests, it is largely a compilation of the pertinent documents, from multiple archives, on the much-contested comfort women issue.
Because Miyamoto’s book, like Hata’s, is entirely grounded in fact, it is a badly needed leaven to the sometimes wild, even unhinged, discourse about the comfort women.
And because Miyamoto’s book is easily read in one sitting, it is the perfect volume for any layperson interested in getting past the talking points and finding out what really happened in comfort women history before, during, and after World War II.
A Voice of Reason
Archie Miyamoto is not just any lay researcher. A retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, Miyamoto fought in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and spent much of his career working in other countries, such as Israel and Taiwan. Miyamoto knows the military inside and out. He has an insider’s perspective on how armies work, how logistics operations function, what is possible during war, and what — like the suggestion that there were comfort women working on the front lines during battles — simply defies logic and common sense.
Miyamoto also has extensive experience as a representative of the U.S. military in South Korea. Miyamoto is a friend of Korea, an advocate for protecting Korea (indeed, he risked his life to do just that), and an eyewitness to how militaries operate on the Korean Peninsula.
All of this taken together means that, unlike Japanese or Korean nationals who will always be accused of shaping their arguments to fit their national pride, and unlike many American professors who operate within an almost completely one-sided political environment, Miyamoto is an impartial outsider with no axe to grind one way or another. His interest is truth, not victory in an argument.
Just the Facts
The real strength of Miyamoto’s book is that it lets the facts do all the talking.
For example, Miyamoto has dug up reports and other documents produced by the U.S., other Allied forces, the Dutch, the Australians, contemporary records from the Japanese military and government, and also entities in Korea. There are POW interrogation reports from Burma, U.S. Navy files from Guam, interrogation reports from the Philippines, official reports on the notorious Semarang Incident in the Dutch East Indies, diaries by Korean comfort station managers, Japanese military regulations, and a whole host of other resources. In other words, there is no need to engage in heated rhetoric, because Miyamoto’s book gives the hard facts, calmly and dispassionately.
And the facts corroborate one another. From whatever perspective, it is clear, as Hata’s book lays out in greater detail, that except for rare exceptions — which were duly prosecuted by Japanese or Allied authorities as crimes — the comfort women were recruited by brokers (mainly Korean), were prostitutes (not “sex slaves”).
Some had long careers as prostitutes in other places before becoming comfort women, as working as a comfort woman could be much more lucrative than working as a prostitute, especially after men were mobilized from population centers to war zones. Moreover, they had contracts and rights and returned home after finishing their agreed-upon terms of labor.
The comfort stations were not “rape centers,” they were highly-regulated brothels. The soldiers who patronized the brothels did so rarely (and not several times every day, as some hard-left comfort women propagandists in the U.S. and elsewhere assert). The comfort women were not massacred by Japanese troops, they were protected. The Korean comfort women were even looked out for by the Japanese comfort women working in the same comfort stations.
Rape was, of course, viewed as a serious crime. Japan had a fully functioning civil code, as well as a strict military code, and rape was prosecuted as a grave offense under both systems.
Contrast Between Truth and Propaganda
There has been endless propaganda about the comfort women. Documentaries play on the emotions of the audience. Op-eds in major English-language newspapers deploy highly-charged rhetoric to whip up hatred for Japan.
Ikuhiko Hata’s book gives the reality of the comfort women. Archie Miyamoto’s Wartime Military Records on Comfort Women gives the foundational facts, documentary and objective, about what the comfort women did, who they were, what kind of lives they led at comfort stations abroad, and more.
It is not as emotionally thrilling to read Miyamoto’s work as to watch a lachrymose “documentary,” perhaps. But those who want to know the truth — those who don’t want to be emotionally manipulated by propaganda — will want to take an hour or two to read Wartime Military Records on Comfort Women.
This indispensable volume is one of the keys to returning the comfort women debate to sanity, fairness, and, finally, closure for all.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Title: Wartime Military Records on Comfort Women
Author: Archie Miyamoto
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, 2018
To Learn More: Click here for purchase and other information about the book on the publisher’s website.
Book Review By: Jason Morgan