Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Japan's refusal to apologize for wartime brothels sparks furor

But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses. The government also has questioned the 200,000 figure.

Living proof

In South Korea, just 113 of the former sex slaves are still alive. A shelter has been set up for them in Gwangju, 50 kilometres south of Seoul, where Lee Ok-seon lives with eight other women.

The beatings Lee endured during three years of sexual enslavement to Japanese troops left her nearly deaf from blows to the head, with speech slurred from missing teeth and scars on various parts of her body.

She was shocked to hear the Japanese prime minister say last week there was no proof she and other so-called comfort women had been coerced into prostitution.

The proof, she said, is all over her body.

"They took away other people's young daughters only to beat them to death, make them sick to death and starve them to death," said Lee, now 79. "And now they say there was no coercion in taking us. How evil are they?"

© The Canadian Press, 2007

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