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Film clip is new proof of ‘comfort women’ fate

July 06,2017
이미지뷰
A professor describes video footage from 1944 showing seven Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II captured by a U.S. military photographer, revealed for the first time by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul National University on Wednesday. [YONHAP]
The first video footage of Korean victims of the Japanese military’s sexual slavery during World War II was revealed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul National University on Wednesday.

The 18-second black-and-white footage from U.S. archives shows seven barefoot young women leaning against the wall of a house in Songshan, Yunnan Province, China, and was shot on Sept. 8, 1944, according to the SNU Human Rights Center and city government.

U.S. and Chinese allied forces seized a Japanese military brothel in China’s Songshan the previous day near the border with Burma in a military campaign referred to as the Battle of Mount Song.

A Chinese soldier is shown speaking to one of the women in front of the house that served as temporary headquarters for the allied forces. Some of the captives look anxious, others are looking at the ground.

The footage was preserved for over 70 years by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). It was apparently shot by Sergeant Edwards C. Fay of the U.S. Army’s 164th Signal Photo Corps.

Though there has been ample testimonies, documents and photographs of the so-called comfort women, the city government said the footage was the first video evidence of the 200,000 Korean girls and young women who were forcibly recruited by the Imperial Japanese Army into sexual slavery during World War II.

A research team led by Professor Chung Chin-sung, an SNU sociology professor, searched through hundreds of reels of film archived by NARA to find footage of Japan’s wartime sexual slaves, a process that took two years.

Kang Sung-hyun, a professor at Sungkonghoe University who participated in this study, said in a press briefing Wednesday, “The footage shows much more than the existing documents or photographs. Much information can be gleaned through the footage through the comfort women victims’ actions and expressions.”

The professor noted that the women and the location captured in the footage match a collection of photographs released in 2000, including a famous picture of four women captured by allied forces in Songshan, including a pregnant woman, and a soldier.

That same year, Park Young-shim, a sex slave victim who died in 2006, confirmed that the pregnant woman in the photos was her.

Kang said, “While the process of finding the footage was not easy, there is a need for a systematic investigation and collection of documentation of the Japanese military’s sexual slavery, and we plan to continue to push for such studies in the future.”

The Seoul city government said it has been preparing since May 2016 to register records of comfort women victims with the Unesco Memory of the World and will include the footage.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other hawkish Japanese officials have claimed that no evidence exists of the forced recruitment of women into sexual slavery by its military.

In an interview with Georgia-based Reporter Newspapers on June 23, Takashi Shinozuka, the consul general of Japan in Atlanta, called the victims of wartime sexual slavery paid prostitutes and said that there is “no evidence” they were mobilized as sex slaves.

His remarks came as a statue of a girl symbolizing the victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery was unveiled in Brookhaven, Atlanta, last Friday, despite Tokyo’s attempts to block it.

The Korean foreign ministry lodged a protest with the Japanese government over the consul general’s remarks.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]