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Possibly Not a Comfort Woman? Isn’t it Time for Historical Accuracy on the Comfort Women Issue?



Over the last few days, a feud has surfaced between former comfort women and their core support group called the "Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan". The two groups have been holding rallies in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul every Wednesday for the last 28 years asking for Japan’s apology and compensation.

Lee Yong-soo, a former comfort woman, held a press conference on May 8, 2020 saying that she would no longer participate in the Council’s rallies, and that the Wednesday rallies themselves must stop. Lee said, “Students spend their own precious money and time to attend these rallies, but the rallies only teach hatred and suffering. Korean and Japanese youths with historically accurate education must befriend each other and communicate with each other to solve problems.”

 Regarding the Council, she said, “The comfort women who belong to the Council are considered as victims and are cared for by the Council, but those who do not belong to the Council are not cared for. I have been deceived and exploited for the last 30 years.



Funds Collected Not Reaching Comfort Women

Lee also revealed that the Council mismanaged its funds. The Council did not distribute donations made by the public for the comfort women, and where they did, it was a significantly small portion of the donated funds.

According to Chosun Ilbo's analysis, the Council received approximately 5 billion KRW (more than $4 million USD) over the last 4 years. It received 1.3 billion KRW (over $1 million USD) starting in 2016 (September ~ December), and then 1.6 billion KRW ($1.3 million USD) in 2017, 1.2 billion KRW (about $980,000 USD) in 2018, and 825 million KRW ($673,000 USD) in 2019. Of the money received, the use of 2.7 billion KRW ($2.2 million USD) was accounted for. The Council apparently is currently holding the rest of money 2.3 billion KRW ($1.875 million USD) in cash. 

Of the 5 billion KRW the Council gathered in the last 4 years, a total of only 920 million KRW (18.5%, or $750,000 USD) was distributed to the comfort women.

The only time any comfort women received a large sum of money was in 2017 when each one was given 100 million KRW (about $81,500 USD)ー from President Park Geun-hye’s 2015 Comfort Women Agreement.

Yoon Mee Hyang, the president of the Council is the key figure in this feud. Prior to making the 2015 Comfort Women Agreement, President Park’s foreign ministry closely communicated with Yoon to make sure that the views of comfort women would be accurately reflected. However, Yoon has denied such an interaction occurred. She said that the Park administration unilaterally informed the group that the agreement was going to be made. 


In response to Lee’s allegations of financial mismanagement, Yoon wrote a lengthy rebuttal on her Facebook page. She said that her Council had been distributing money to comfort women properly, and that Lee was too old to remember. Lee’s memory could not be trusted.

It is ironic that Yoon’s rebuttal should be based on the credibility of Lee’s memory, since the memory forms the very basis of the contention between Japan and South Korea. 

Contradictory Motivations

Yoon is herself controversial. For the April 15, 2020 general election, Yoon had said that Lee endorsed her candidacy, which Lee said was fabricated.

Not only is Yoon anti-Japan, but she is also anti-U.S. She was a vocal opponent of the U.S. THAAD deployment in South Korea, saying that a “divided Korea is good for America’s arms business.”

Meanwhile, her daughter is currently studying at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). People have asked how she is paying for tuition, to which Yoon replied that her daughter went to a university that gives her a full scholarship. However, UCLA, a state university, does not give scholarships to international students. As for her husband, he was found guilty of violating South Korea's National Security Act by engaging in pro-North Korean activities.


'I am Not a Comfort Woman'

 However, the most important aspect of this controversy seems to have gone little noticed.

 On her facebook page, Yoon described how she first came to know Lee. Yoon said, "In 1992, I received a phone call from Lee. Lee's voice was so quiet that I could barely hear her, but she said trembling, 'I am not a victim, but my friend...' I remember this as though it was yesterday."

It is not clear why Yoon mentioned this. Perhaps Yoon was trying to warn Lee that she needed to keep quiet because she knew Lee’s true identity. However, what Yoon seems to have said in passing is at the core of the contention between Japan and South Korea.

Chosun Ilbo, Korea’s largest daily, noticed the significance of Yoon’s comment, and ran a story with the title “Yoon Mee Hyang says Lee Yong-soo called me saying ‘I am not a comfort woman victim but my friend…’”


In its editorial, Chosun Ilbo said, “Yoon sounded as though Lee was possibly not a comfort woman… If she is not a comfort woman, they (the left) have been exploiting her for their own purposes. This is unacceptable.”

Addressing historical accuracy in such a highly contentious issue is difficult for anyone, especially when it concerns your own fellow Koreans. However, such a claim must be based on truth, for without it, one loses moral rights to the claim in its entirety. I think this holds true for both South Korea and Japan.


Exploiting Anti-Japanism

Meanwhile, China, North Korea and the leftist forces in both South Korea and Japan have been conspiring to undermine freedom in South Korea, with the intention to target South Korea’s neighbors next. Domestically, they have been oppressing the rights of those who believe in individual sovereignty. 

There are enough South Koreans who believe that the common path of Korea and Japan lies in the future, not the past. We want to forge close ties with our allies, Japan and the U.S., in the face of totalitarian forces engulfing Northeast Asia.

We must work together to address anti-Japanism that is destabilizing Northeast Asian security. The first step is to address the issue of historical accuracy. If we want to get to the truth, then the foundation must also be based on the truth.


Author: Hanjin Lew

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  1. Taka Yuki

    May 23, 2020 at 1:29 am

    [Trick of comfort women fraud]
    In May 2020, Lee Yong-soo, the most famous former Korean comfort woman who made a fake testimony at the U.S. Congress, and succeeded in bashing Japan, finally fell out with a long-time comrade Yoon Mee-hyang (Yun Mi-Hyang), a former leader of the comfort women support group, "Korean Council".
    Then, Lee Yong-soo exposed the inside affairs of the Korean Council and Yoon Mee-hyang.
    The cause is an ugly fight over the distribution of donations over the years.
    Comfort women lie for pity, vanity, and money, and support groups lie for political purposes and money.
    They have no resistance to lying for the sake of their profits.
    As a result, Westerners who don't know that blindly believe what they say.
    See the following chronological process of the comfort women fraud.

    • aw_jpusa

      May 27, 2020 at 2:36 pm

      Because westerners are clearly going to believe a nonsensical, anonymous, machine-translated blog. Work harder if you want to convince anyone, buddy. By the way, Lee Yong-soo has not changed her story whatsoever, she is just criticizing the organization. But if you want to accept her criticism of the organization, then you would have to stop smearing her as a liar. Tough.

      • TiMeFoRaChAnGe

        May 31, 2020 at 1:06 pm

        So let’s assume Ms. Lee has been truthful all this time, a person who cannot lie about her past.
        At the press conference on May 25, Ms. Lee rejected being called a ‘sex slave’:

        She considers ‘sex slave’ as a dirty word that she couldn’t accept, yet she went along with the organization for the greater cause. Such revelation shatters the comfort women narrative that’s been fed to the world since day one. Even if she couldn’t be trusted, apparently there are others who feel the same way but are being silenced. It’s the beginning of the end.

      • ScholarsView

        June 1, 2020 at 12:58 am

        aw_jpusa, have you read Professor C. Sarah Soh's well-researched book* on comfort women? Lee[Yi] Yong-soo has changed her story.

        Lee originally stated: "Without letting my mother know, I simply left home by following my friend." (see p. 99-100)

        Lee later changed her story to being "dragged away" by the military (p. 100).

        Many other published documents confirm that certain former comfort women have changed their stories over time.

        aw_jpusa, you have lost credibility by making inaccurate claims. Please read the research of Korean-born scholars who have interviewed former comfort women.** To have justice, we must present all the facts honestly.

        * "The Comfort Women," 2008, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

        ** Prof. Soh personally interviewed former comfort women. Her research is generally consistent with the findings of Prof. Park Yuha, Prof. Ahn Byungjik, and many other Korean-born scholars.

        • aw_jpusa

          June 4, 2020 at 10:37 pm

          You have clearly misunderstood what I was saying. Yes, there have been inconsistencies in Lee's statements. This is true in almost all oral histories.

          What I said is that her current accusations have nothing to do with changing her story. For instance "TiMeFoRaChAnGe" said that she said in her conference she does not like the term "sex slave." That is true. And it was ALREADY TRUE when she spoke before congress in 2007. Her statements this year are have nothing to do with historical facts, they are about the Korean Council. Using them to advance your own narrative is deeply disingenuous.

          I see your username is "ScholarsView." Are you associated with HARC? You have failed to respond to the fact that most members of that so called "scholars committee" are not historians and release no peer-reviewed research in that field; instead spending most of their time publishing in pulp magazines like WiLL and Seiron. That is not the act of a scholar, it is the act of people like Takahashi Shiro who are actually ideologues following the cultish ideology of Taniguchi Masaharu.

          • TiMeFoRaChAnGe

            June 8, 2020 at 9:50 am

            It just doesn’t sound like you understand the gravity of Ms. Lee rejecting the ‘sexual slavery’ characterization in public.
            The narrative of Japan’s comfort women system centered around the military’s organized sexual slavery for the last three decades. Every major MSM establishment kept calling it ‘sexual Slavery’, and for someone who’s been the most visible and vocal of all activists for many years to refute it in such a manner is devastating. It also once again exposes these groups for having exploited old women as pawns as they peddled a false narrative to the world.

            Your feeble excuse for ‘oral history’ having inconsistencies is ridiculous. The inconsistencies come from the women’s handlers attempting to fit the abducted or coerced sexual slavery narrative. But Ms. Lee’s inconsistencies go way beyond that: she’s been giving a new account just about every occasion she appeared before the press. Perhaps her handlers simply couldn’t control her, and this time, it’s apparent that she’s had enough with them. The damage she’s caused has even led to this: https://www.sankei.com/world/news/200602/wor2006020036-n1.html

            But what’s more apparent is that your posts are about attacking the writers of the articles and ridiculing the rightwing in Japan. You have little interest in the article's content, and instead resort to smear the messenger. Anyone can see that.

  2. TheQuietStorm

    May 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

    For a long time, this Lee Yong-soo (or Yi Yong-su) didn't seem credible to say the least. Her dramatic accounts mired with major inconsistencies including how she became a comfort woman (via abduction, running away with a friend, etc.) cannot be discounted as memory loss or confusion: https://bit.ly/2WzKmA5

    But what's truly revolting is the fact that she along with others who have participated in the comfort women redress movement were simply being used as pawns, and organizations like Chong Dae Hyup (now calling itself Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan) basically kept the compensation/reparation money to enrich themselves. Furthermore, the South Korean gov't has also failed, for many people still believe Japan has neither apologized nor paid anything all these years. Can any nation take another seriously if details of an international accord/agreement are not properly disseminated to its people?

  3. aw_jpusa

    May 13, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    If Sankei really wishes to present this writer as a representative of any kind of mainstream South Korean opinion it shouldnot misrepresent him as an "opinion leader" but rather a member of the fringe Pro-Park Party which supports convicted criminal and former President Park Geun-Hye despite her corruption and slavish obedience to a shaman. This does not mean his opinions are automatically wrong, but Sankei is lying to its readers when it hides this fact.

    Similarly, when Sankei publishes cult-associated authors like Takahashi Shiro and Nishioka Tsutomu (members of the Moralogy nationalist religion) without mentioning these ties, it lies to its readers.

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