Modern-Day Comfort Women Face a Hell on Earth

Lee Ok-sun was 16 years old in July 1941 when she was grabbed off a dark street, tied up by two men and thrown into a truck with five other girls. Lee was taken to China, where she was forced to have sex with up to 40 men a day. Like countless other Korean women, she was forced into bondage by the Japanese, abducted in the black of night.

The Japanese also used deception. In April 1942 Park Kum-joo was 17 when she was recruited by a Korean official for what she thought would be factory work. He handed her over to the Japanese, who took Park to China where she suffered in the same way as Lee.

Here is a third story – a girl called Lola, who was 17 when she accepted a job as a teacher. Her recruiter took her to a house where she was forced to have sex with as many as 30 men per day. The first day at the house she was "broken" in a "drive," in which six men raped her.

The difference between Lee, Park and Lola is that Lola was forced to become a sex slave last year, working in Israel, according to Victor Malarek in his book "The Natashas." Malarek also identified women who had been trafficked into Korea.

Let no one underestimate the atrocity that was perpetrated by Japan during its occupation of this country. Thousands of women were forced to serve as "comfort women," a euphemism which is only rivaled by phrases like "collateral damage" in its degree of repellent obfuscation. Sadly, Japanese Prime Minister Kenzo Abe missed yet another opportunity to give a proper apology for Japan's conduct during his recent trip to the United States.

Nonetheless, Korea might command more respect in its quest for apologies and reparations to comfort women if it were more active in assisting their modern-day equivalents.

Comfort women or, rather, sex slaves, live among us. There are hundreds of women in Korea who live in sexual servitude, serving thousands of men, in brothels and room salons. According to Dr June Lee of the International Organization for Migration in Seoul, the leading inter-governmental organization in this field, women from the Philippines and the former Soviet Union are still being lured into Korea daily despite tougher laws against prostitution, sex tourism and improvements in policing and prevention.

In other words, the human trafficking of sex slaves is not just an issue of historical interest, involving the comfort women of a past era. Parents in Korea, the Philippines, Russia and a host of other countries are shedding tears for young girls who are currently being abused in Korea and elsewhere, in ways that are distressingly similar to those endured by the comfort women of the 1940s.

In 2001 the US State Department in a report classified Korea as one of 23 countries that did not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Korea has since been removed from the list but that decision is currently under review.

And there is another aspect of this issue. Modern day comfort women are now enslaved in cyberspace, as well as in dingy brothels. According to the National Police Agency there is huge demand for Internet pornography in Korea. Those who use these porn sites and pay for them with their credit cards are often putting money into the pockets of those who enslave women and force them to perform brutal sex acts in front of a video camera.

There have also been reports that Korean-Americans based in the US, often associated with organized crime, have lured young Korean girls to Los Angeles and New York where they are forced to become prostitutes in American brothels.

The global problem of "comfort women" is growing. According to the US State Department, between 800,000 and 1 million women are forced into sexual servitude every year. Korea may represent only a small part of this problem but its hands are not clean.

If Korea wants a full apology for Japan's abuse of Korean women in the past it could do much to gain international support for its cause if it took the lead role in Asia in the fight against sexual slavery.

This is down to men. It is men who use sex slaves, it is overwhelmingly men and the sexist attitudes that so many retain who objectify women through internet pornography and support a whole new industry devoted to their servitude.

Maybe every male politician here who has sought to gain favor among the nationalist constituency, by whipping up fervor against Japan over the comfort women issue, could now take a pledge to work one hour per week to bring an end to sexual slavery.

In his poem "Parting creates beauty," the Korean poet Han Young-un wrote "There is no beauty of parting in the ephemeral gold of the morning; nor in the seamless black silk of the night." For many Korean women forced into sexual bondage, their parting from family and friends, had all the beauty of Dante's Inferno

So long as sexual slavery persists, until we live in a world where no woman need fear abduction in the "seamless black silk of the night," nobody can claim that the issue of sexual slavery has been truly resolved.