All posts by jwatson

Comfort Women in China

In 2019, researchers identified yet another five survivors of sexual slavery within Japanese troops during World War II that are still alive. This has raised the total number of survivors in China to 18. Women that were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II were called “comfort women”. There were an estimated 40,000 comfort women during this time, and around 90 percent of them didn’t survive the war.  The stories of these so-called “comfort women” are so important, and because of Japan’s lack of responsibility for these events, some of the only information we can get is from the few women left that have survived it. 

The oldest victim recently discovered is Liu Nianzhen, 102. She was born in 1918, and abused by the Japanese army during the war. Because of this abuse, Liu became infertile. She has also suffered severe psychological trauma, and refuses to let anyone touch her. Today, women like Liu are still fighting to gain recognition for the horrible things they have gone through. 

Another survivor, Liu Mianhuan tells her story of being kidnapped by the military in a book of primary sources called  Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s sex slaves, written by Peipei Qui. She says, “The soldiers drove all the villagers to the meeting place where there were haystacks and, after forcing everyone to squat down, they began to pick out girls from the crowd. I wanted to die but that would have saddened my parents, so I told myself not to die but to endure.” These Japanese soldiers would pick women at random from villages, take them, and then brutally rape and torture them, indefinitely. “It was not a place for humans.” Lee Ok-seon told Deutsche Welle in 2013. These women experienced rapes that would increase in roughness and number before battles, horrible living conditions, STDs, physical abuse, and pregnancies. Most of these women claim that the only hope keeping them alive during this time was that they’d possibly see their loved ones again. 

Lee Ok-seon, 14 at the time of her kidnapping, was running an errand for her parents when it happened to her. She was taken to a “comfort station”, which is basically a brothel that serviced the Japanese military, and from there she was forced into sexual slavery for over 13 years.  

Though these brothels had existed before, Japan’s military expanded them in attempts to take over the Republic of China and parts of Asia. December 13, 1937, was the start of a six week long massacre throughout the Chinese city of Nanking. They called it The Rape of Nanking. Through this massacre, Japanese troops raped somewhere between 20,000 and 80,000 Chinese women. Though these women never got the justice they deserve, the powerful Emperor of the time, Emperor Hirohito, decided it would be best to build more of these “comfort stations” in order to prevent atrocities like the Rape of Nanking, and satisfy Japanese troops’ sexual appetites. 

One of the most important (things)/aspects about this era is Japan’s failure to recognize and take responsibility for these atrocities. For decades, Japanese officials had insisted that these “comfort stations” never existed. Once women began telling their stories, more and more began coming forward. Japan’s government finally gave slight acknowledgement in 1993, but South Korea was still asking for a stronger apology. With their mere offer of reparations to comfort women in 2015 when only dozens remained, Japan condemned South Korea’s requests proving that these issues are just as important today as they were during the war. “I never wanted to give comfort to those men,” said Lee “but I can never forgive what happened to me.”

Did Viktor Orban Sell His Soul for Power?

As nationalism creeps back into the modern world, Europe’s intense antisemitic, anti-immigration, and anti-LGBT history is finding its way back to the surface. The face of most Hungarian nationalism is the power-hungry Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban. Orban has been the prime minister of Hungary since 2010. He was also Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002. He has also been President of Fidesz, his ruling conservative political party, since 1993. Viktor Orban is known for turning Fidesz from a radical liberal party to a far-right conservative party. According to Orban, “In today’s Europe, it is forbidden to speak the truth. Immigration brings crime and terrorism and endangers our way of life, our culture, our customs, and our Christian traditions”. Viktor Orban has an increasingly nativist and authoritarian government, through which he shows his opposition to minority groups through his autocratic leadership style.

An example of this is his persistence in attacking George Soros. George Soros is a Jewish man born and raised in Hungary. He is an incredibly successful investor and philanthropist and is also the founder of Central European University. He is also sometimes referred to as the “Boogeyman” of the far-right movement. In his efforts to eliminate diversity and democracy from Hungary, Prime Minister Orban forced C.E.U. out of Hungary and into Vienna in late 2019. The university promoted democracy and liberal ideas in a region where those ideas are suppressed by fascism and communism. “Under Viktor Orban’s autocratic rule, no independent institutions are tolerated,” said Kim Lane Scheppele, a professor of international affairs and sociology at Princeton. “So it was only a matter of time before Orban’s attention turned to C.E.U.”. Mr. Orban is quick to protect his strict conservative values. 

Mr. Orban has recently restricted the independence of the courts and Hungary’s prosecution service. Now, almost all of the Hungarian media is now under the control of allies beholden to him. Under Orban’s rule, election laws have been written to favor Fidesz, a Hungarian socialist party (Orban’s ruling party), and opposition parties are constantly scrutinized by state authorities. As Mr. Orban has continued to gain control over Hungary, his government has stepped up attacks against critics. It has demonized immigrants, LGBTQ+ members, curbed academic freedom, and criticized international structures such as the European Union, posing them as threats to Hungarian sovereignty. Orban has also recently passed legislation that revokes the rights of LGBT citizens and allows him to use state money to benefit loyalists because of the relaxed oversight of the spending of government public funds. A family is now defined as having a man as the father and a woman as the mother, also making it more difficult for single parents to adopt. Mr. Orban, much like other leaders in Europe, has also begun more attacks on LGBT community members, generalizing them as an enemy of the good Christian values of the state. Orban’s influences have caused a rise in homophobia as well as anti-semitic values in Hungarian citizens. “Orban constantly changes the rules to the game,” said Akos Hadhazy, an opposition lawmaker. “Hungary is sure to receive massive subsidies from the E.U. over the next two years, which will make it easier for the prime minister to issue payouts to those who serve him.” 

In a survey done in November 2019, 42% of Hungarians were found to have antisemitic views, making Hungary one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe. According to the survey over 3 million Hungarians have anti-Semitic views. A lot of Hungarian respondents also said that “Jews think they are better than other people and that they don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind.”  71% of Hungarians answered that “Jews have too much power in the business world”, 67% that they have “too much power in international financial markets”, and 51% that they have “too much control over global affairs”. Most respondents also truly believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Hungary. 

One question often asked is how Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party have gained so much support towards their nationalist goals. Orban’s pride in his nation has allowed him to avoid accusations about his corruption. Also, the apprehensiveness of the opposing party has allowed Orban to gain domination. Hungary’s recent rise in discriminatory nationalism can be attributed not only to Orban’s tendency to continue to grasp for more power but his constant brainwashing and manipulation of the people into action.