Version of Record
日本における慰安婦認識 : 一九七〇年代以前の状況を中心に
Comfort Women Discourse before Escalation in Japan
Even after the diplomatic agreement between Japan and South Korea signed on December 28, 2015, the comfort women issue has continued to cast a long shadow on relations between the two countries. This, however, does not mean that the issue was always one of important historical concern between them following World War II. As is well-known today, the issue became a serious diplomatic concern in the region in the early 1990s, but this was not because people had not previously known about comfort women. In particular, in Japan, there were many available sources on the use of comfort women during the war, such as memoirs of retired soldiers and officers, accounts written by the women themselves, and literary works written by people who encountered the comfort women during the war. Based on these sources, the world became familiar with the tragedies inflicted on the comfort women, such as forced mobilizations or miserable treatment at the comfort stations. So, why did the Japanese people at the time fail to regard the issue as the source of a serious problem? This paper analyzes the discourse before the 1970s surrounding Japanese comfort women and finds that they had a different framework for understanding the issue, which was constructed soon after the end of the war. Within that framework, Japan’s wartime society was understood to be a confrontation between the strong and wealthy elite and weak and poor common people, and common people were seen as innocent victims forcibly mobilized to the war to serve the interests of the evil elite. In short, the common people bore no responsibility for the war. The tragedies of the comfort women were also explained in this context in the early Japanese discourse after the war. The women were regarded not as the victims who had been mobilized, but as the victims mobilized like them, hence they did not pay much attention to where the victims had come from. For them, the women were “poor people like us,” and they sometimes considered the soldiers and women to be “comrades” in the same miserable war. In short, in the early Japanese comfort women discourse, the issue was understood as a problem between the ruling class and the ruled, not between imperial power and colonial people. This is why the Japanese people did not regard the comfort women issue as a source of international dispute.
departmental bulletin paper