Friday, March 02, 2007

"Under the black umbrella"

I introduced the book Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea before on this blog it is a very interesting book. A blogger wrote,
Under the Black Umbrella struck me as even handed, and a review I read suggested that one reason many of the Koreans interviewed aren’t so bitter is that they were living in the US, where they were relatively free of the anti-Japanese bias of the media and education found in South Korea, and where they might even have ethnic Japanese neighbours.bulgasari

I agree. I will write some comments on it in weeks so the reader can share a bit of the their perspective free from anti-Japanese bias of nationalism in Korea.
But we should also note that. as the author warns, memories are memories.

My own knowledge of the Imperial Japanese colony originally came from two genres---the systematic detail in history books and the passionate stories of martyrs----and neither of these had prepared me for the gentle humor as my father -in -law recounted his early life page xi

The reader will notice that some lives are presented as full chapters and some are reflected in vignettes on a topic. This system developed because many people, it turned out, lived ordinary lives. Interview after interview began with sentences such as, "Nothing much happened to me. The Japanese people were not bad. We got along. It was the police that bothered us. I just stayed out of their way. ." However, these same people had small bits of salts and pepper tucked away in their interviews that, when gathered together, added dimension to the larger picture.pare 5

This is a largely different picture of Korea from the perspective we get from Korea as of now. Many people suppose that there is deep hostility between Japanese and Koreans esp with the older generation who remembers the occupation. And Koreans were supposed to live under severe oppression, and many were independent fighters. and pro-Japanese were exception. But the truth is that "nothing much happened" was the average response. I guess anti-Japanism as we know it now was largely made up in Korea after 1945

comfort women
(*I'll pick up the topic that interested me.)

Thousands of young, unmarried Korean women were mobilized into the Voluntary Service Brigade and told they would help the war effort as nurses or factory workers. Instead, they found themselves taken to "comfort stations" at the war front and expected to provide sexual services for the soldiers. if they refused, they were beaten and denied food. After the war, the shame of being a "comfort women" kept those women silent and only recently have they begun to tell their stories.
Most of the women who talked with us said they never heard of "comfort women" when they were young. "I guess it was because I lived in such an urban area" one said."They didn't collect girls in big towns " Others said they were too young to hear about it, or too removed from the mainstream. Our women hinted at another possibility---the girls simply never learned the truth until it was too late page 133

Note that most of the women interviewed didn't know it. And there are only two person s in the book that mentioned the comfort women. There must be also villagers among those interviewed. but there is no testimony who witnessed an woman abducted into the brothels. T
And it seems many Korean and this author are confused about comfort women with Teishintai.

The woman Service Brigade is the voluntary service association set up in 1943 incorporation with mayors, town managers, and village headmen, a neighborhood association, village society, consisting of women from 14 to 25. The government promulgated the decree for the woman work force ( the decree 519)but the decree was absorbed in the national mobilization act in March 1945 and Teshintai was restructured into a nation voluntary army. In Korea, it is sometimes confused with comfort women, but they are completely different and have nothing to do with each other.

for further detail see this article(in Japanese)
This is clear if we read the following testimony.
Kim P[ANONYMOUS}....My aunt was only seventeen , but she had to hurry up and get married to avoid being drafted. It wasn't the "comfort women," but some sort of war effort group. If you were married, you didn't have to go.

So in her aunt's village it was not voluntary. It depends on when it happened.
But it is possible there were cases where woman "voluntary" brigade was forced in substance. But the point is their job is not sexual service but to work in factories.

The following also confuses Teishintai with comfort women.
Kim PONGSUK...When I was twenty, the local Neighborhood Association.....came to verify my age and marital status.
I had no choice but to acknowledge that I was young, single, and living at home. The next thing I knew, the local police came and summoned me to appear at the elementary school yard on a certain date......They told us that the pay would be very good and we would be well taken care of....I hated this! I wouldn't want to go. My parents decided I should get married and then I wouldn't have to go. So I obeyed my parents and got married. ....Mush later I found out that the women who went overseas to the front were forced into being comfort women. Japanese called these Teishintai, meaning "Voluntary Corps."

This is the story about Teshintai. But she said she found out they were forced into being comfort women. How much later did she find it out? About 50 years later when the media picked it up? or does she mistakenly relate the following episode to Teshinatai above?
She continues.
I also know about them because my husband met many Korean woman serving the soldiers i Manchuria when he was drafted into the Japanese army and sent to the front line. ......My husband, having just married me and missing me, and also seeing that these comfort women were Korean women of the same age as me, when his turn came to go in to them, his physical desire was there, but he kept thinking of me, and he didn't do it.
The men lined up outside barracks doors where the women were, and took their turn. The girl just lay there inside. Each man had a given amount of time, about seven minutes. If he wasn't out in time, the next man went right in and yanked him out. Each door had a long line of men waiting their turns. But when my husband's turn came,
he just couldn't go in and do it.
The woman, on the wall near her head, used chalk or a pencil to make a mark for each
solders she serviced. She thought she would be paid that way, but it turned out they were not paid anything at all. page 135

There was a comfort station, and Korean women worked there. The point is whether they were systematically abducted by Japanese troop as often alleged. So far, there is no evidence to support it;on the contrary, there is an evidence that Japanese troop regulated illegal pimps.
Other than that, there are three points to note in this recollection.
1 Korean men used the comfort station, though her husband might not have used it.
2 Comfort women were expecting that they would be paid.
3 If the comfort station was as described, the situation was horrible for the women.
It means not all the comfort stations are like the one described in the US report
about it in 1944.

That's all for today, I am planning to pick up the following topics from the book. but I might change the plan.

name changing
after the liberation