Taiwan’s comfort women had best possible job: Chen adviser

By Annie Huang, Associated Press, Hong Kong Mail 24 February 2001

TAIPEI: Angry lawmakers demanded yesterday that Taiwan’s president dismiss an adviser who reportedly said that working as World War II sex slaves for Japan’s military was the best possible thing for many Taiwanese women.

Hsu Wen-lung allegedly made the comment during an interview with Yoshinori Kobayashi, whose new best-selling cartoon book about the island’s history includes interviews with prominent Taiwanese figures deemed sympathetic to Japan.

The chairman of the Chi Mei plastics company was quoted in the book Taiwan Discourse as saying some of the sex slaves or comfort women chose the job to escape poverty and, unlike other prostitutes, they could save money and work under strict hygiene standards.

It was the best possible thing to happen to them, Mr Hsu was quoted as saying.

The book features a picture of smiling Taiwanese women eagerly lining up in front of a Japanese officer who is recruiting sex slaves.

Each person was full of hope while enlisting in the Japanese army. Who was forced to join? a caption beside the picture says.

Taiwan newspapers quoted Kobayashi, who is also a social commentator, as saying he taped the conversation with Mr Hsu and could verify it. Mr Hsu’s office said he was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The book does not quote the hundreds of former comfort women who have said their lives were ruined because they were forced to work as sex slaves.

Many elderly Taiwanese have fond memories of Japan, recalling the social order and economic well-being when the island was a Japanese colony between 1896 and 1945.

But legislators demanded the Taiwanese publisher of the local version of Taiwan Discourse recall the book from shops, saying it distorted history and was full of Japanese militarist theories.

Lee Ching-hua, from the opposition People First Party, tore the book in half at a news conference and demanded that President Chen Shui-bian dismiss Mr Hsu as his adviser.

Wang Ching-feng, a lawyer who has led a campaign to demand an official Japanese apology to the sex slaves, said most of the Asian women were forced into taking the job or were first offered work as nurses.

A sex slave was forced to sleep with 29 soldiers a day on average, with some 360,000 women drafted to serve the three million soldiers fighting on the mainland and in Southeast Asia, Ms Wang said.

After the war ended, when the sex slaves returned home, many were too ashamed to get married or were incapable of giving birth, she said.

In the book, Mr Hsu was also quoted as saying he believed Japan launched the war against China in 1937 as a retaliatory move because the Chinese had killed many Japanese in northeastern China.