From Chosun Ilbo: Korea ready to abandon term “comfort women”
The Korean government may fall in line with the U.S. State Department in abandoning the euphemism “comfort women” for women drafted as sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said last Friday.
Kim said the government “will consider using the term ‘sex slaves,” when asked about the matter by Democratic United Party lawmaker Shim Jae-kwon in the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.
“I understand that the term ‘comfort women’ was coined in the past by taking into account the victims’ opinions,” he added, “but the government is ready to change the term after consultation with the victims.”
Many “comfort women” do indeed meet the international and historic definition of “sex slaves” (for example under 1926 Slavery Convention), but I find it curious that the Foreign Minister says that the term “comfort women” was an euphemism “coined in the past by taking into account the victims’ opinions.” “Comfort women” (ianfu) is actually a historic term actually used by the Japanese military that refers to women of all nationalities and backgrounds who performed sexual labor (forced or otherwise) at its comfort facilities.
“Comfort facilities” (ianjo) refers to facilities Japanese military had set up to entertain its soldiers in its military campaigns, and does not exclusively refer to facilities that provided sexual “comfort”: there were facilities that provided other forms of entertainment, such as musical and theatre performances (which, by the way, is how former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone admits to having set up “comfort stations” during the war but continues to deny that he had anything to do with “military brothels”—not that I believe him). In other words: “Comfort facilities” provided a number of entertainment options for Japanese soldiers, including but exclusively sexual services, some (or most, depending on the era and area) of which were performed by women who can be described as “sex slaves.”
The term “comfort women” was not “coined” as an euphemism after the fact, but it is a historic term and it probably should only be used with the quotation marks to indicate it as such. Many (or most, depending on the era and area) “comfort women” can be described as “sex slaves,” but these terms are not mutually interchangeable as if one is just an euphemism for another.
Also: the last paragraph is kinda creepy, like the Korean government is treating the “comfort women” issue as a bargaining chip to gain concession from the Japanese government. I don’t know if that is the reporter’s personal bias, or his/her impression of the Minister’s comments, or possibly just an unfortunate editing disaster.