Japan and South Korea have removed the biggest obstacle to better bilateral ties after agreeing to “finally and irreversibly” resolve Tokyo’s use of tens of thousands of Korean women as sex slaves during the second world war.
In a breakthrough that barely seemed possible a few months ago, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, offered his “most sincere apologies” to the women in a statement issued in Seoul by his foreign minister, Fumio Kishida.
It was not immediately clear if Abe would send a letter of apology to each surviving “comfort woman”.
There was no immediate reaction from the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, who has described the sex slave row as “the biggest obstacle” to improved ties with Tokyo.
Japan also offered to set up a new 1bn yen ($8.3m) fund, with the money, paid directly by the government, divided among the 46 former comfort women still alive, most of whom are in their late 80s and early 90s.
Speaking after make-or-break talks with his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, Kishida heralded a new era of better relations between the two countries, whose strong trade ties and military alliances with the US have been overshadowed by the controversy.
“This marks the beginning of a new era of Japan-South Korea ties,” Kishida told reporters. “I think the agreement we reached is historic and is a groundbreaking achievement.
“[Shinzo Abe] expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”
The Japanese government also conceded that its military authorities played a role in the sexual enslavement of the women. While avoiding any admission of legal responsibility, Kishida’s statement said: “The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honour and dignity of large numbers of women, and the government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective.”
Abe and other conservative politicians in Japan had previously questioned whether the Japanese government and military played any role in coercing the women, arguing that they had been procured by private brokers.
Both countries said the agreement would resolve the issue “finally and irreversibly”, adding that they would refrain from making critical remarks on the subject at the United Nations and in other international forums.
Yun said Seoul would cooperate, as long as Japan followed through on its promises. He also suggested that South Korea was willing to negotiate the removal of a statue of a girl symbolising the comfort women that stands outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Although the statue belongs to privately run campaign groups, Yun said the South Korean government would “strive to solve this issue in an appropriate manner through taking measures such as consulting with related organisations”.
There is disagreement on the exact number of women forced into prostitution by Japan during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula. Campaigners say as many as 200,000 women – mostly Koreans, but also Chinese, south-east Asians and a small number of Japanese and Europeans – were forced or tricked into working in military brothels between 1932 and Japan’s defeat in 1945.
Most women took their secret to the grave. South Korean Kim Hak-soon became the first to testify about her experiences in public in 1991. “We must record these sins that were forced upon us,” she said.
South Korea has long called on Japan to issue an official apology, pay compensation to the surviving women and recognise its legal responsibility. Japan stopped short of admitting legal responsibility and stressed that the new fund was a humanitarian gesture.
The Japanese government initially denied the existence of wartime brothels. But in 1993, the then chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged and apologised for the first time for Japan’s use of sex slaves.
Over the years, Japan has refused to directly compensate the women, saying all claims were settled in a 1965 treaty that restored diplomatic ties and included more than $800m in grants and loans to South Korea.
In 1995, it set up the privately run Asian women’s fund, which drew on private donations. But many women refused money unless it came directly from the Japanese state. Only about 260 former sex slaves received cash – worth about 2m yen each – and the fund was disbanded in 2007.
The spread of frontline brothels coincided with Japan’s military campaigns in large parts of China and south-east Asia. As colonial ruler of the Korean peninsula, Japan was able to target poor and uneducated victims, typically aged between 13 and 19.
This is nice, but it is obviously not really about the women who were abused, but about trade and security ties between two countries; this is one group of men apologising to another group of men for damaging ‘their’ women.
There is certainly no real interest in dealing with modern sexual exploitation. According to Wikipedia, in 2006, the UN reported that Japan was one of the top nine destination countries for victims of human trafficking; also according to Wikipedia, as of 2013, child victims of commercial sexual exploitation in Southeast Asian countries were abused mainly by South Korean men, who outstrip Japanese and Chinese as the most numerous sex tourists in the region.
From the same Guardian article, we can see Amnesty International parasitizing this issue:
Hiroka Shoji, an east Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said: “Today’s agreement must not mark the end of the road in securing justice for the hundreds of thousands [of] women who suffered due to Japan’s military sexual slavery system.
“The women were missing from the negotiation table and they must not be sold short in a deal that is more about political expediency than justice.
“Until the women get the full and unreserved apology from the Japanese government for the crimes committed against them, the fight for justice goes on.”
If Imperial Japan’s system of military prostitution was operating today, Amnesty International would call it ‘sex work’; remember, AI claims that the exchange of money removes all coercion: “by definition, sex work means that sex workers who are engaging in commercial sex have consented to do so.”
Driver’s ed teachers in Holland can request payment in two forms. The first, as you might expect, is in the traditional form of money. The second, you might be surprised to learn, is in the form of sex. Both are equally legal, two cabinet ministers recently opined, although the latter might be considered “undesirable.”
According to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper, Dutch Transport Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen and Justice Minister Ard van der Steur, in response to a request for clarification on the issue, indicated that the deal only works in one direction. That is, driving instructors can offer lessons for sex, but students can’t propose sex for driving lessons. All consenting parties must be 18 years of age. The two ministers wrote in a letter to the country’s Parliament:
It’s not about offering sexual activities for remuneration, but offering a driving lesson. It is important that the initiative lies with the driving instructor, and focuses on offering a driving lesson, with the payment provided in sexual acts. When a sexual act offered in lieu of financial payment, that is prostitution.
The practice is referred to as “a ride for a ride” in slang. The Telegraph reports that Internet searches about sex as payment for driving lessons have been steadily climbing in number.
Prostitution is legal in Holland, and the country is generally known to have fairly open attitudes about sex. USA Today cites a Dutch News article noting that the ministers’ statement “will be a shot in the arm for the small legion of (mostly male) computer technicians, handymen, and driving instructors who offer their services online in exchange for personal services.”
If things weren’t already hopping on Amsterdam’s Craigslist, they’re likely to now more than ever.
Thanks Holland now women and teenage girls have to worry about being propositioned for sex by their driving instructors.
They said porn of this topic is rising, I wonder why. This is so sad to me.
Pornography is encouraging rape. Now Dutch women have to worry that if they want to learn how to drive they’ll to take precautions so they aren’t raped by their driving instructors. Now sexually predatory driving instructors have more leverage and a legal defense.
This is so saddening. Dutch people aren’t allowed to teach each other how to drive, you must learn with a certified instructor, and you are not allowed to drive without him/her until you receive your license.
In the Netherlands it’s quite common that your middle- or high class parents will give you the gift of driving lessons on your 18th birthday (probably your 17th birthday now, the legal age to start driving recently changed). Working class children who didn’t start their lessons at their birthday (because certified instructors are very expensive), were made fun of and often treated like they were weird, poor, pathetic, etc. I’m scared that this law will push young women over the edge to accept sexual abuse to get by, especially poor students.
It also makes me think of when my mother started her driving lessons. She was too poor when she was young, so she started once she had a more stable income. I was already born and about 10 years old. Every week when the instructor picked her up, my dad and I would stand on the balcony and wave her goodbye and good luck. The instructors waved back alongside her. Yet, she had to change instructor 2 or 3 times because they were pushing her to perform sexual acts. There were no female instructors in our area. Her anxiety grew so much and it took her years before she achieved her license.
This was almost 15 years ago, but I doubt the situation has changed a lot. Now these kind of instructors are given all the tools they need.
Like how the fuck does this even make sense. What else are they gonna let rapists start pressuring poor women for sex for? Oh, you need food? Clothes? Pads? An education? Well I think I’ve got a “need” too…”
The sex industry lobbyists have been trying to normalise ‘sex work‘ for decades. They have already been trying to coerce women so they can get an education (a degree) which will be worthless if they are known to have been prostituted which leaves them with a harder chance of steady employment and will push them back into prostitution.
taking “sex” (rape) as a form of payment if a woman cannot afford to pay for things she needs is violence against women. poor women’s bodies are literally being made in to a form of currency.
Victims of domestic violence will discuss their abuse face-to-face with the perpetrators under a scheme being piloted by a local authority that aims to “break the cycle”.
Harrow council in north-west London, which has funded the scheme to the tune of £200,000, hopes that by providing specialist counselling sessions for couples who are violent towards each other future incidents can be reduced. The council, which has just begun counselling sessions with the first couple participating in the scheme, believes it can tackle domestic violence by bringing couples together in a “supportive environment” to discuss its impact.
Traditional models of tackling domestic violence usually focus on the abuser and not the whole family. The Harrow experiment is based on a US model. Social workers from Harrow will undertake direct work with the children of families involved to assess the impact of the violence.
The programme will be run by psychotherapists and counsellors from the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships who will work with the families to find the triggers for the abuse. Susanna Abse, the centre’s chief executive, said: “We are really delighted to be delivering, in partnership with Harrow council, such a new and innovative way of helping with the major challenges faced when interpersonal violence occurs between couples.”
Councillor Pamela Fitzpatrick, whose responsibilities include adult safeguarding and preventing domestic violence, said the council was hopeful the scheme would help it to address the issue head on. “If the abusers understand the impact their behaviour has on their family, we hope they can change. We are delighted we are the first place to tackle the causes of domestic abuse.”
She added that the initiative would coincide with a campaign encouraging victims of domestic violence to come forward: “Victims are sometimes too scared to come forward and report it, or don’t know how to.”
The scheme has been greeted with scepticism by some women’s groups. Sarah Green, acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “The assumption in such couple counselling approaches tends to be that both parties must be at fault and they simply need to learn better behaviours. Domestic violence is about bullying and control, not misunderstanding. It is a choice, and it is deeply related to power between men and women.”
Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of nia, a London-based charity that works with vulnerable women and girls, said the scheme should concentrate on challenging male violence rather than involving the family. “By framing this work as a ‘family issue’, not as a male violence issue, Harrow council show themselves to be completely ignorant of the dynamics of intimate-partner violence. The responsibility for men’s violence lies with themselves – not with their female partners,” she said.
On average in England and Wales, two women are killed every week by a current or former partner. Police revealed recently that they are on the verge of being “overwhelmed” by “staggering” increases in reports of domestic abuse.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said recorded cases rose by 31% between 2013 and 2015, an increase that influenced the quality and speed of investigations in some forces.
Domestic violence charities warn every year that Christmas will be ruined for many families as incidents of abuse escalate, often over issues such as financial strain, alcohol and being cooped up together for long periods.
For this paper I want to stick pretty close to an aspect of the Left debate commonly talked about—namely “therapy” vs. “therapy and politics.” Another name for it is “personal” vs. “political” and it has other names, I suspect, as it has developed across the country. I haven’t gotten over to visit the New Orleans group yet, but I have been participating in groups in New York and Gainesville for more than a year. Both of these groups have been called “therapy” and “personal” groups by women who consider themselves “more political.” So I must speak about so-called therapy groups from my own experience.
The very word “therapy” is obviously a misnomer if carried to its logical conclusion. Therapy assumes that someone is sick and that there is a cure, e.g., a personal solution. I am greatly offended that I or any other woman is thought to need therapy in the first place. Women are messed over, not messed up! We need to change the objective conditions, not adjust to them. Therapy is adjusting to your bad personal alternative.
We have not done much trying to solve immediate personal problems of women in the group. We’ve mostly picked topics by two methods: In a small group it is possible for us to take turns bringing questions to the meeting (like, Which do/did you prefer, a girl or a boy baby or no children, and why? What happens to your relationship if your man makes more money than you? Less than you?). Then we go around the room answering the questions from our personal experiences. Everybody talks that way. At the end of the meeting we try to sum up and generalize from what’s been said and make connections.
I believe at this point, and maybe for a long time to come, that these analytical sessions are a form of political action. I do not go to these sessions because I need or want to talk about my ”personal problems.” In fact, I would rather not. As a movement woman, I’ve been pressured to be strong, selfless, other-oriented, sacrificing, and in general pretty much in control of my own life. To admit to the problems in my life is to be deemed weak. So I want to be a strong woman, in movement terms, and not admit I have any real problems that I can’t find a personal solution to (except those directly related to the capitalist system). It is at this point a political action to tell it like it is, to say what I really believe about my life instead of what I’ve always been told to say.
So the reason I participate in these meetings is not to solve any personal problem. One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution. I went, and I continue to go to these meetings because I have gotten a political understanding which all my reading, all my “political discussions,” all my “political action,” all my four-odd years in the movement never gave me. I’ve been forced to take off the rose colored glasses and face the awful truth about how grim my life really is as a woman. I am getting a gut understanding of everything as opposed to the esoteric, intellectual understandings and noblesse oblige feelings I had in “other people’s” struggles.
QotD: “The important thing to examine is not what postmodernism says it does but how it actually functions”
The important thing to examine is not what postmodernism says it does but how it actually functions.
Mantilla, K. 1999 “Let them eat text: the real politics of postmodernism”, off our backs, Vol.29, No.8, p.7
“Unfortunately, without binarisms, we also cannot make a definitive statement. Making a statement, especially a political one, requires that we say one thing is better than (or worse than) in some way than another thing. If we avoid binarisms (a feat which some postmodernist writers do manage to approach in their flailingly uncertain prose), we cannot say, for example, liberation is better than oppression, being fed is better than starving, being healthy is better than being sick”
Mantilla, K. 1999 “Let them eat text: the real politics of postmodernism”, off our backs, Vol.29, No.8, p.7
(found at The Colour of Pomegranates)
Just a quick reminder that the documentary Love You to Death (see previous blog post here), is currently available on BBC iPlayer for the next 25 days.
Liberal Feminists: If we had more women in positions of power, men would be nicer.
Neoliberal Feminists: If more men check their privilege and identify as feminists, and we revalue femininity, men will be nicer.
Marxist Feminists: After the revolution, men will be nicer.
Sex-positive Feminists: If everyone fucks more, men will be nicer.
Postfeminists: If women’s agency and the inherently problematic nature of the category ‘woman’ were acknowledged, men would be nicer somehow.
Queer Feminists: If men could express their femininity outside of the rigid gender binary, men would be nicer.
Radical Feminists: In a patriarchal system of structural oppression, men have a class interest that prevents recognition of women’s humanity. Piecemeal reform of patriarchal structures will not change male supremacy. Men as a class will not change unless they are forced to. Women must seize power and overthrow the sex-class system.
QotD: “A feminist analysis of pornography must include a content analysis and a representational analysis”
A feminist analysis of pornography must include a content analysis and a representational analysis. While there is rightful outrage at the ever-increasing violence depicted in pornography, few have examined what pornography itself is trying to say. Experts might argue that real life violence is not pornography, but this is a lie. As Kappeler (1986) points out, the law deals in fact and representation related to fact and the arts deal with (almost) exclusively fiction; however, when the subject is pornography both parties claim to be experts while distancing themselves from it. When it becomes ‘real’ violence, the arts proclaim that it is not theirs and the law proclaims it is not real violence/not real pornography. But as Dworkin (1981) articulates, pornography is real and it happens to women.
Liberals are for it because it is ‘liberating’ and conservatives are against it out of concern for public morality, and feminists are forced to fit into this dichotomy (Kappeler, 1986). And so the rights of men (read: human rights) are pitted against the rights of women. Some fauxminists may claim that they are against the censorship of pornography out of concern for ‘free speech’. Some conservatives may claim they are against pornography, they use it in secret out of their allegiance to patriarchy.
QotD: “If reality, truth and meaning are socially constructed then it makes sense that the reality that pornography is detrimental can be obscured”
According to Lyotard (1984), post-modernity is the throwing out of experimentation and functionalism. Post-modernity makes the claim that modernism has failed and fostered an overreliance on rationality; it is an incredulity towards metanarratives (Lyotard, 1984). But what does this mean in plain English? Post-modernity has its origins in the works of French theorist Jean-Francois Lyotard – representing a break from conventional, materialist thought; a concern for the voice of the Other; a favouring of the perspective of the Other; a celebration of irony; resistance towards certainty and resolution and acceptance towards pluralism and multiple discourses (Bainbridge, 2011; Cole, 2009).
Bainbridge (2011) and McKee (2005) assert that post-modernity coexists with modernity, with “post” in this instance not meaning after, but as in a break from. That it exists as a social force and post-modernism it’s aesthetic/artistic movement (Bainbridge, 2011). Post-modernity represents contradictory viewpoints and the belief that all perspectives should get equal time – especially minority and dissenting opinions (Bainbridge, 2011). Post-modernity pretends to show us what history has attempted to hide or omit (van Zon, 2013).
In post-modernity, pornography is just another “text” representing another narrative that no competing narrative can claim superiority over (van Zon, 2013). Pornography can be elevated to the status of “art” because there is no longer a distinction between high, low, mass and popular culture (van Zon, 2013). If reality, truth and meaning are socially constructed (van Zon, 2013) then it makes sense that the reality that pornography is detrimental can be obscured. It makes sense that the truth that women are harmed by pornography can be denied, and, it makes sense that the meaning of pornography – the graphic depiction of the lowest whores (Dworkin, 1981), the objectification of women (Kappeler, 1986) can be altered to one about expressing one’s sexuality (Weeks, 2014).
The feminist philosopher Sandra Bartky shows a sensitive awareness of why it can be difficult for women in general to criticize western beauty practices. She explains that women become locked into dependence on what she calls ‘the fashion-beauty complex’ because it instills in them a sense of their own deficiencies, like ‘the church in previous times’ and then ‘presents itself as the only instrument able, through expiation, to take away the very guilt and shame it has itself produced’. It offers ‘body care rituals’ which are like sacraments. The effect is that women so locked into the fashion-beauty complex see feminism as both threatening ‘profound sources of gratification and self-esteem’ and attacking ‘those rituals, procedures, and institutions upon which many women depend to lessen their sense of bodily deficiency’.
Sheila Jeffreys, Beauty and Misogyny