Japanese broaden blame for WWII sex slaves

Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The entire Japanese government, not just the military, was involved in the decision to provide sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women," for soldiers before and during World War II, Japanese researchers said Thursday at an international conference in Los Angeles on Japan’s war crimes.

"The establishment and development of the military ‘comfort women’ system … was not only carried out by the total involvement of every section of the military but also by administrative machinery at every level of the Japanese state," historian Hirofumi Hayashi, of Kanto-Gakuin University in Yokohama, told the conference on "Japanese Crimes Against Humanity: Sexual Slavery and Forced Labor." "In addition, we should not overlook that Japanese companies were their accomplices."

The Japanese military’s use of sexual slaves was rumored after the end of the war but did not become widely known to the public until 1991. The research disclosed at the conference provided new, higher estimates of the number of women who were exploited, as well as details not previously released in the United States about involvement of broad sectors of the Japanese government and private businesses in the system.

For example, scholars from the Center for Research and Documentation of Japan’s War Responsibilities in Yokohama presented research showing that major rubber companies were enlisted by the Japanese government to supply 20 million condoms a year to the armed forces once the decision had been made to provide women to the soldiers.

Because of the military’s demand for condoms, the supply for civilians became "almost nil," researcher Rumiko Nishino wrote. The distribution of condoms within the military was implemented by "high-ranking adjutants" commissioned by Cabinet and sub-Cabinet level officials, she wrote.

The research center, established in 1993, is the first nongovernmental organization dedicated to research into war-victimization in Asia and by Japan.

After Japan invaded Manchuria in 1937, the government created the Imperial Conference, composed of the emperor, the military and the leading Cabinet ministers. This body made all important decisions for the state, including approving the policy on comfort women, Hayashi said.

In Shanghai alone, the Japanese military set up 90 comfort stations, with about 500 women serving soldiers at each station, the researchers said.

Based on the research, they said, Chinese women comprised the largest number conscripted by the Japanese, followed by Koreans, then other Asian and Dutch women from countries that Japan occupied during the war.

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