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Documents Show Wartime Prime Minister’s Role in Forced Prostitution

February 7, 1992

TOKYO (AP) _ World War II government documents obtained today show that Gen. Hideki Tojo, Japan’s wartime prime minister, was directly involved in forcing Asian women to work as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers.

Documents unearthed from military archives by an opposition legislator include a telegram addressed to Tojo, also then-war minister, reporting results of health examinations of Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Japanese women who were forced into virtual sex slavery.

The government recently was forced to acknowledge for the first time its direct involvement in forcing Korean women to work in brothels for Japanese soldiers during the nation’s wartime expansion through Asia. The latest evidence shows that women from other countries also fell victim to the forced wartime prostitution.

Following the disclosures, Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Kato told reporters today that Japan may expand its investigation to include Chinese and other Asian women as well as Koreans. He said the documents could not be ignored.

A copy of the March 12, 1942 telegram addressed to Tojo by the commander of the Japanese Imperial Army stationed in Taiwan, obtained by The Associated Press today reads:

″Regarding a request received from South Theater Headquarters to dispatch 50 native (Taiwanese) comfort women to Borneo, (I) ask your permission to send the following three selected by the military police as brothel managers.″

″Comfort women″ was the term used in official documents to describe the prostitutes.

Hideko Ito, a Socialist legislator, found the documents in the Defense Agency library and released them to journalists this week.

Ms. Ito said the documents she found show that military police overseas were involved in rounding up women to work as prostitutes, citing a report by a military doctor in Shanghai thanking the police, known as Kempeitai, for their efforts to find women who were free of venereal disease.

″Forcing the women to have sex with soldiers 20 to 30 times a day was same as torturing them to death over and over again,″ Ms. Ito said. ″It’s extremely cruel.″

A 1943 document issued in Nanking, China, reported that 1,098 Japanese, 198 Korean and 820 Chinese ″comfort women″ had received hygiene exams in four Chinese cities.

Another record addressed to the Kempeitai included names of about 20 Filipino women who received a similar examination. Individual names were blacked out to protect the women’s privacy.

Although the military brothels are common knowledge, the government only acknowledged the army’s involvement in forcing Korean women to work in the wartime prostitution rings last month, just before Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa visited South Korea. The government previously had claimed the brothels were run privately.

On Monday, Defense Agency officials admitted for the first time that Chinese women also were forced to work as sex slaves.

No official figures are available, but Korean and Japanese historians say between 70,000 and 200,000 women were forced to work as laborers and prostitutes for Japanese troops during the war.

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