It is well known that the ex-comfort woman Lee Yong-soo changes her story every time she testifies.
In this page, the author tries to investigate this matter and describe how she changed her testimonies from her first public appearance in 1993 to this day.
■Early Statements in 1990s
■Statement for Japan's Communist Party Diet Members, June 25, 2002
■Statwment at U.S. House of Representative, Feb.15, 2007
■Statement at Japan's House of Councilors, Feb.21,2007
■Statement at Kawasaki City, Japan, Sept.12, 2012
■[Author's Remarks] - Summary and Notes
Early Statements in 1990s
The following three books contain her statements she had made in 1990s. As original texts are all written in Japanese, I put translation of the book titles just for convenience.
Book No.1 Photo Records: “Broken Silence, Asian Comfort Women” Author Ito Takashi Publisher Fubai-sha Co., Ltd. Publication July, 1993 Remarks The applicable part of the original text is available by clicking here.
Book No.2 Testimonies: “Abducted Korean Comfort Women” Edited by Teishintai (Volunteer Corps) Study Association of Korea Publisher Akashi Shoten Co., Ltd. Publication November, 1993 Remarks The applicable part of the original text is available by clicking here.
Book No.3 Voice of Asia Volume No.10 :“We and War Responsibility" Edited by Association for Engraving the Stories of War Victims in Our Mind Publisher Toho Shoten Co., Ltd. Publication August, 1996 Remarks The applicable part of the original text is available by clicking here.
- As to the situation she went out of her home, the Book No.1 “Broken Silence” writes as follows. (The translation is by the author.)
I was born in the Korean city of Taegu. My family was poor. I entered an elementary school but soon I gave up the formal education and began to go to a night school.
One day in the summer of 1944, I visited the house of my friend whose parents run a liquor store.
Her mother said to me. “Look, you don’t need to endure a hard life such as this. Go to a place I tell you. If you go there, you’ll be better off, you can eat belly-full of food.”
I said “No!” and came out of the house.
A few days later, the friend came to my house and beckoned me with her hand.
I got outside and found a man wearing chothes that resemble army uniforms stood there. There were three girls with him. He gave me a parcel.
“There is a one-piece dress and a pair of red shoes in there,” my friend said to me. My little heart was filled with joy since this was the first time I was given such a brand-new thing.
The man said, “Come with me.” Then, the five girls including my friend and me followed him to a train station. As this was my first train ride, I suffered car sickness and sobbed inside the train.
We got off the train at Kyongju and put up in a hotel. […] After a couple of days while we stayed in the hotel the man brought two more girls to join us. Altogether, the number of girls has become seven now. We got on the train again and it began to run to the north. Then I could see my house from inside the train.
"Mama! Mama! Help me!” I cried. But the train did not stop and I could not find my mother. I squatted down on the spot. Then we arrived at Anju.
In Anju, we stayed in a small house for one or two months. I have not worn the new one-piece dress and a pair of new shoes yet. I was still in a worn-out cloth I wore at my home, because I thought they will let me go home if I return them. Then after a long train ride, we arrived at Dalian of Manchuria.
The Book No.2 “Abducted Korean Comfort Women” writes as follows. (The translation is by the author.)
Some Big Questions.
It happened in the autumn of 1944, when I was 16-years-old. My father’s job was a stevedore man bringing rice on the shoulder to a warehouse. One of my friends of the same age was a girl called Punsun. Her mother’s job was a manager of a pub.
One day when I visited the home of the friend, her mother said to me. “Look how miserable you are. Everybody has shoes but you don’ have any. You’d better to go to a place called something with Punsun. They say they will provide you everything you want. You can eat belly-full of food. They say they will take care of your family too.
In those days, I wore shabby miserable clothes of an incredible sort. A few days later, when Punsun and I were collecting shellfish at the riverside we noticed an elderly man and a Japanese man stood on the riverbank. They were strangers for us. The elderly man pointed at us with his finger and the man came down and walked toward us. The elderly man soon disappeared but the man beckoned to us to follow him. I was scared. Punsun pretended not to know of it and ran away in the opposite direction.
A few days later, Punsun knocked on my window early in the morning, and whispered to me to follow her quietly. I tip-toed out of the house as she told me. I left my home to follow after her without telling my mother anything. I was wearing a dark Tonchima (a short cylindrical skirt) and a chossam (a long cotton blouse) buttoned up at the front and Geta (wooden clogs). We walked for a while and found the Japanese man we saw at the riverside. He seemed to be in his late thirties. He wore a People’s Army uniform with a combat cap. He gave me a parcel and said to me, “There is a one-piece dress and leather shoes in there.” I gently opened the parcel and found a red one-piece dress and a pair of leather shoes. You never know how my little heart soared with joy. I made up my mind to follow after him right away without thinking anything else anymore. There were five girls there, including me.
We went to the station and took a train to Kyongju. At Kyongju we stayed in a hotel for about two days, during which time two more girls joined us. Altogether, the number of girls has become seven.
The train we rode on passed through Taegu. Through the broken glass-window of the running train, I could see my house. The thought of my home came to my mind and I wanted to see my mother. I began to cry. I cried and cried saying “I want to go back home. I want to see my mother.” Pushing the parcel away, I cried, “I don’t need this. Let me go back!” I continued to cry until I exhausted and fell asleep. As I was asleep, I don’t know how long we were on the train. Maybe several days had passed by the time we arrived at Anju where we stayed in a house.
The Book No.3 “We and War Responsibility” writes as follows. (The translation is by the author.)
It happened when I was a 14-years-old little girl. I went to a riverside for fishing with my friend. When we were playing, we saw two men in army uniforms on the embankment pointing at us with their fingers. I don’t know if they were Japanese or not. One man wore a white clothe. I don’t know if they were military officers or not, but I was so scared by the two men pointing at us with fingers, I ran away alone yelling “Papa! Para!”
I do not remember how long had passed since then, but one day in early morning I wake up by the sound of someone knocking on my glass window. It was still dark outside but I saw a woman outside of my house. “Come. Don’t say a word,” she said to me.
As the house did not have a door at the entrance, she entered into the corridor of my house and yanked me away to the outside. I happened so sudden that I had no time to wear wooden clogs. I needed to walk barefoot.
When I asked her what’s happening in the Korean language, she said, “Do not speak in Korean.” She took me to the embankment where a man I saw previously stood there. The man wore a cap. I followed them to a rail crossing.
Trains run on top of the embankment and the cars go underneath, and the people walk alongside the road. We walked on the steps to the top and found three girls were already there. One of the three girls, who was my close friend, gave me a parcel of red furoshiki (cloth wrapper). I felt shoes were inside the parcel.
We four girls were taken to the train station. This was my first time of coming to the train station. We got on a train, which had no windows. By this time the man disappeared before we know it. Since the train had no windows, I did not know where the train was running.
We finally arrived at Kyongju and stayed in a hotel.
In that hotel, I was severely beaten as if I would die when I spoke in the Korean language. We five girls were quite often beaten. Saying “Why did you speak in the Korean language?” and using a thick stick, we were severely beaten until it became difficult to walk. […] In that hotel, two more girls joined us and there were seven girls altogether.
We got on a train again. As this train had no windows either, I suffered from car sickness. I had a headache and my stomach ached too.
When I saw my house from the fissure of the train, I cried “Mama! Mama! Help me. Where do they take me to?” I collapsed in tears. Then the man got angry and grabbed my hair from the back and hit my head against the wall again and again.
Why did the Japanese kidnap me? I was still a child back then. Because I was a tall girl? I am now 68 but back then I was a 14-years-old pretty little girl. Not only kidnapping, they also had beaten us as if they intended to kill us. Why do the Japanese do such terrible thing?
The statements contained in these three books are contradictory to each other, and contradictory to her statements made at the hearing of the U.S. House of Representative in 2007.
However, these three books have one thing in common. It is the statement that Lee Yong-soo and the rest of the girls celebrated the new year of 1945 on board the ship sailing from Dalian to Taiwan. The typed-out script of the hearing at U.S. Congress also states that “New Year’s Day 1945 was spent on board.” (p.20)
Again, however, this is contradictory to her profile presented for the meetings of Kyoto University and Doshisha University.
Her profile used for the testimony meeting at Kyoto University, held on December 4, 2004, and another testimony meeting at Doshisha University, held on April 21, 2005, clearly states that she spent the life of a comfort women at Taiwan for three years. Since the Imperial Japanese Army was defeated in August and dismantled by September 1945, the experience of Lee Yong-soo as a comfort woman should have been 8 and 1/2 months at most. If she tells the truth, where did she spend the remaining 2 years and 4 months as a comfort woman?
Statements for Japanese Communist Party Diet Members, June 25, 2002
She met several Japanese Communist Party Diet Members on June 25, 2002 and said as follows. It was reported by the party newspaper “Akahata (Red Flag)” the next day. (Translation is by the author.)
“I was taken to [the comfort station] at point of bayonet. When I refused [to have sex with men], I was beaten and tortured by electrocution. I almost died of the torture”
Statements at U.S. House of Representatives, Feb.15, 2007
The most authoritative statement of Lee Yong-soo as the experience of coercion into the comfort women system would be the testimony she made at the hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 15, 2007. This is also a milestone event that triggered the passing of “United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121." The Resolution requires Japan to "formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as comfort women.”
The passing of the Resolution 121 stunned many Japanese people, including the author. Many thought this was blatant betrayal by the U.S., erroneous point-fingering based on conjured-up fake stories, fabrication and hoax of every kind. We wondered how the U.S. congressmen can take this unilateral action without giving Japan any chance of making an explanation. We felt we were slapped in the face by a friend without any justifiable reason. This was sheer arrogance, gross injustice and insult.
The typed-out text of the statement is available at the following website: http://archives.republicans.foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/33317.pdf
Regarding the situation how she went out of her home, you will notice there are two different types of stories.
Story No.1 on page 17 goes like this:
"Ms.LEE. Chair of the committee, Chairman Faleomavaega, members of the subcommittee, I thank you for giving me this opportunity to come all the way to United States of America to share my anger, my rancor. This is a true and live testimony from history. So I will share my story with you but I am so ashamed but this is something that I cannot keep just to myself. So I will start telling you my story.
I live in Taegu, South Korea. My name is Lee Yong Soo, and sometimes I am a 14-year-old girl, and I look outside my window, and there is a girl, and there is a Japanese man, and they are saying something each other, and they are gesturing me to come out. I did not know anything. I did not know what was going on but they gestured me to come out so I came out, and as you seen her dress, the girl and the Japanese soldier put their hand on my shoulder, and covered my mouth, and the soldier put something against my back, and that in the middle of the night I was taken away."
Story No.2 on page 20 goes like this:
"I was born in 1928 in the Korean city of Taegu. My family was poor and nine of us lived in a single, small house: my parents, my grandmother, my five brothers, and myself. (…) In the autumn of 1944, when I was 16 years old, my friend, Kim Punsun, and I were collecting shellfish at the riverside when we noticed an elderly man and a Japanese man looking down at us from the hillside. The older man pointed at us with his finger, and the Japanese man started to walk towards us. The older man disappeared and the Japanese beckoned to us to follow him. I was scared and ran away, not caring about what happened to my friend. A few days later, Punsun knocked on my window early in the morning, and whispered to me to follow her quietly. I tip-toed out of the house after her. I left without telling my mother. I was wearing a dark skirt, a long cotton blouse buttoned up at the front and slippers on my feet. I followed my friend until we met the same man who had tried to approach us on the riverbank. He looked as if he was in his late thirties and wore a sort of People’s Army uniform with a combat cap. Altogether, there were five girls with him, including myself. We went to the station and took a train to Kyongju. It was the first time I had been on a train. In Kyongju we were put up in a guest-house. We stayed in the guest-house for two days, during which time two more girls joined us. Now there were seven of us. We boarded the train and passed through Taegu where I could just see my home through the broken window. I suddenly missed my mother. I began to weep, saying I wanted to go home. I pushed the bundle away and continued to cry, asking the man to let me get off. He refused. Exhausted, I finally fell asleep as the train just kept on going. We must have traveled for several days."
The author marked impartant part in red color.
Story No.2 on Page 20 is a “Prepared Statement.” Clearly, she told a different story from this one before Chairman Faleomavaega and the subcommittee members. The Story No.1 on page 17 is an abduction case. However, she went out of her home quietly and voluntarily in the Story No.2 on Page 20. You may wonder which is true.
Statements at Japan’s House of Councilors, Feb. 21, 2007
On February 21, 2007, one week after her testimony at the hearing of U.S. House of Representatives, Lee Yong-soo appeared at Japan’s House of Councilors in order to present her testimony. The Japan Times reported this event the following day and described the situation under which she was “abducted” as follows.
“On an evening in 1944, Japanese soldiers forced their way into 14 year-old Lee’s home and dragged her out by the neck. She was forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers.”
Statement at Kawasaki City, Japan, September 12, 2012
Choson Sinbo Online reported this on September 27 and described her abduction case as follows (The translation is by the author.):
One day when she was a 15-year-old girl and sleeping in bed, she was awakened by the sound coming from the window. When she approached to the window, she found Japanese soldiers standing outside, Not knowing what is happening, she was carried away and put in a train.
“I said, ‘I do not go. I go back to my mother’s place.’ Then, I was beaten by fists and kicked by shoes, which I thought were harder than stones. Using a broad stick they beat me on the sole of my feet and at the back of my hands. They did this so my hands and feet swell and prevent me from escaping. When I spoke Korean, they beat me harder.”
Statement at Saitama City, Japan, June 8, 2014
This is the most recent testimony she made in a public meeting.
Saitama Shinbun Online reported on June 10 her abduction case as follows (The translation is by the author.):
"I was abducted while sleeping at home. I was 15-years old at that tiime. I don't konw what had happened to me."
[Author’s Remarks] - Summary and Notes
Lee Yong-soo went out of her home in various ways. One time she followed a man who gave her a new one-piece dress and a pair of shoes joyfully, the other time she was dragged by the neck, walked outside at bayonet point, yanked by a lady out of her home, or tip-toed out quietly with her friend Punsun. The age when abduction happened also varies. Those circumstances can be summarized in a table as follows.
Printed Source Date Age Circumstace of Abduction Book 1 Broken Silence 1993 Unknown “My friend” and “a man wearing clothes that resemble army uniforms with three girls” appeared outside of her home, and LEE followed the man joyfully when he gave her a one-piece dress and a pair of red shoes. Book 2 Abducted Korean Comfort Women 1993 16 “Punsun” appeared outside, and LEE tip-toed out of her home and followed after “Punsun” to meet a man she had seen at the riverside, who gave her a one-piece dress and a pair of red shoes. Book 3 We and War Responsibility 1996 14 “A woman” appeared outside, and LEE was yanked out of her home by the woman. Japan Communist Party Newspaper “Akahata (Red Flag)” June 26, 2002 Unknown LEE was taken away (to the comfort station in Taiwan) at bayonet point. Hearing at U.S. House of Reps Feb 15, 2007 14 (1) Statement at the Sub-committee:
“A girl” and “a Japanese man” appeared outside, and LEE was taken away by “the Japanese soldier”while her mouth was covered by a hand.
16 (2) Prepared Statement:
“Punsun” appeared outside, and LEE tip-toed out of her home and followed after “Punsun” to meet the man who had tried to approach them on the riverbank.
Japan Times Feb,22, 2007 14 Japanese soldiers dragged LEE out by the neck. Choson Sinbo June 18, 2013 15 Japanese soldiers appeared outside, and LEE was taken away, not knowing what was happening.
One important thing to note is that the Japanese and the Koreans look almost the same and are not identifiable only by appearance. Pronunciation is the decisive factor because there are no dull sounds in the Korean language. For example, “Say Juugo-En (15 Yen) “ was the prevalent method of identifying the Japanese from the Koreans at that time. If the answer is “Chuu-ko En,” he is a Korean. However, she often says “The Japanese man was there. The Japanese soldiers were outside the home.” This sounds odd to me.
The other important point to note is the following statement is contained in the Book No. 2 “Abducted Korean Comfort Women":
“The man who took us from Taegue to the Hsinchu Comfort Station in Taiwan has turned out to be the proprietor of the comfort station.”
You can find the same in the typed-out script of the hearing at U.S. Congress, which is as follows:
“The man who had accompanied us from Taegu turned out to be the proprietor of the comfort station we were taken to.” (p.21)
Back in 1945, no Japanese soldier could go to Korea or Taiwan without explicit military orders, nor the soldier could privately run a comfort station to earn money. So the man should be the civilian, possibly a Korean (due to the language barrier to go to several places in Korea). This strongly suggests that brokers and overseers were working in-between the pub manager, her parents, and the comfort station owner in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
Now , there are
1) Does her statement prove that the Japanese Army kidnapped her?
2) Is she telling the truth or lies?
3) If she claims she is a "living evidence", the evidence of what?
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