Comfort Women, Australian Guilt and Response

The issue of comfort women have come up again and this time even closer to home. No, I am not talking about my mind. I am talking about Australia, where I live. Jan Ruff-O’Herne, now 93, was a victim of the massive sexual slavery program now commonly known as comfort women. Jan’s brave fight for justice has seen little opposition with the Australian public, except for a few Japanese enthusiasts.  She has also inspired the local Chinese population into, once again, thinking about asking for the justice that thousands of living women in China have not received.

“The tears were streaming down my face as he raped me. It seemed as though he would never stop,”

Despite these harrowing images, there were still detractors. To paraphrase some comments, ‘who cares’ or ‘it’s been 70 years’ were bought up. The Wednesday protests of South Korea are still happening weekly and Jan has not given up,  showing that these matters are obviously still affecting society.

Now, firstly onto the arguments of the pro-Japanese side. An online user posted:

And in the centre of Bendigo there’s a large statue of Queen Victoria with the inscription ‘An Empire On Which the Sun Never Sets’ as well as another large one honouring the Boer War.

I’ll never understand the fascination that people from a country with something like ANZAC day or Australia Day have in telling others that their cultural celebration of their history is improper and wrong

Yes, it is true that Australia has a fascination with it’s militaristic past, as well as there being almost a religious worship of their servicemen. Yes, within our murky history, we have the murky history of racism, colonialism and genocide towards the Aboriginal people. The difference is though, this history is taught to the Australian of today, we admit it, we know were wrong and we are sorry for it.

While in Japanese, you still have the Japanese foreign minister challenging the use of the term ‘sex slaves’.  Then there’s Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, a man famous for his twisted view of history, as well as fervent nationalism. Japan knows they have the backing of the west and the US for this matter. In terms of foreign policy, it acts like the teacher’s pet, spouting out international law when it benefits them and falls crying to the floor when a comeback is given.

argues among others things that Japan should be applauded for its wartime role of “liberating” East Asia from Western imperialists.

Source: The Diplomat

This is one of those examples of Shinzo Abe’s nationalistic whitewashing. Abe wants to change the perception of a regime and war that killed 4 million more people than Nazi Germany. As well as committing war crimes in a similar matter such as human experimentation (Unit 731), death camps, spread of bubonic plague into cities, sexual slavery and the Rape of Nanking.

Now, can you really argue that there’s no nationalistic fervour in Japan, when such a man is in power? Yeah, even Western journalists who would be pro-Japan like Vice, are posting about Japan’s military resurgence but seem to focus on how cute it is, in order to spin a positive light.

The issue is though, that most Japanese of today are in the dark about their past due to Japan’s textbook revisionism and lack of education. The ones that do, advocate for peace and continued pacifism. For instance, 120 000 people turned up to anti-militarisation protests, and there’s also a John Oliver short, well really short and some attempts at humour that is. Perhaps if education about the matter was more widespread then the general Japanese public would be less likely to vote in right wing nutcases like Abe? who knows, this could be said about many countries.


Local Chinese media, as in Australian Chinese media sites like Melbourne Today even caught onto the story and decided to use her talk about China and Philippines. The heading of the article focuses on how the women in China have yet to receive any justice, with “What About China?”.

This really spurns the question of the US dabbling and forcing the earlier compensation plan done late last year between South Korea and Japan. That was a move obviously pushed more by international political pressure to affirm friendships between geopolitical allies than actual compassion. While victims from other nations, slowly lose pass away without any foreseeable justice, not even an insincere politically motivated fiscal apology.





3 thoughts on “Comfort Women, Australian Guilt and Response

  1. shiroyuni

    This is extremely sad especially considering that the real victims are nearing the end of their twilight days, and the possibility that they will never be given proper redress – as you said, even an official apology – becomes very real. Time is not on their side. ><

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Esposito

    Has Australia really changed that much? Aren’t Australian anti-immigrant/anti-asylum seeker policies just a new form of racism and discrimination, this time directed at new arrivals rather than Aborigines?

    With regard to the Japan-South Korea deal, I don’t think it came about entirely through US pressure, although that played a part. There was also a court case in South Korea in 2011, where the supreme court said that the South Korean government was violating the constitution by failing to raise the Comfort Women issue with Japan.

    Historically the comfort women issue in SK has been driven by pressure from NGOs. The SK government did very little for the victims of their own accord, and often tended to regard them as a sort of embarrassment.

    Maybe I’m wrong but I get the impression that the Chinese victims also get very little support from their own communities, in some cases even their families reject them when they go public.



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