The long and tumultuous history of Asian occupations of other Asian nations during wartime is never pretty. War itself is never pretty. During World War II, Japan occupied much of Asia and practiced a large and regrettable system using Comfort Women to sexually satisfy Imperial military personnel.
Years after the fall of the Japanese empire, the Korean invasion of Vietnam during the Vietnam War produced children of mixed race ancestry called Lai Dai Han. In recent years, the Korean Comfort Women have demanded and received justice for their role in World War II, but the mothers of the Lai Dai Han have yet to receive recognition of their existence.
Apologies for Korean Comfort Women
Although there have been several apologies for the wartime use of Korean Comfort Women, the most recent might be the most well-known. In 2015, a joint agreement between former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to fruition after years of diplomatic tensions between the two.
The bilateral treaty, dubbed the “2015 Comfort Women Agreement” made sure that each of the surviving Korean Comfort Women was recognized, individually apologized to, and given monetary reparations for their role in World War II.
Criticism of the agreement from many in the South Korean public was swift, although many see the perpetuated and seemingly intractable disagreement between the two as a way for South Korea to gain political traction against Japan.
The Korean Comfort Women issue has been used for years by the public to bash the country of Japan despite numerous attempts to resolve the issue finally and irreversibly.
Current President Moon Jae-in ran on a platform of scrapping the legally binding international agreement and has recently come under criticism for dissolving the “Fund for Healing and Reconciliation” set by the Japanese government as part of the 2015 deal.
Who are the Lai Dai Han?
The issue of the Lai Dai Han has recently gained international awareness. In a January, a speech to the British Parliament detailed an excruciating life of pain and isolation. Lai Dai Han is the name given to offspring of mixed Korean and Vietnamese ancestry, born to mothers raped by Korean soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Both the mothers and the children faced harsh conditions after the Wars’ end, citing entire lifetimes of stigma based on societal parameters that considered unwed single mothers to be ashamed of their life choices, although mothering Lai Dai Han was most certainly not a consenting choice for the Vietnamese women.
Although the exact number of Lai Dai Han is unclear, estimates suggest that there are up to 30,000. South Korea rebukes this, stating that the number was inflated to increase international aid to the Lai Dai Han. By 2015, there were only an estimated 800 surviving mothers of Lai Dai Han still in the world.
As the numbers will certainly dwindle in the coming years at an unprecedented rate, it is time for the world – and more importantly South Korea – to take action in providing the women (and their offspring) with the respect and dignity they have so long sought.
Women Deserve Justice
In light of the recent surge of outspoken support for the unfair use of women during wartime throughout the world, more and more groups have been seeking recognition, justice and apologies.
A Yazidi survivor of wartime sexual slavery perpetrated by ISIS spoke at the British Parliament through a translator to bring light to the issue of recognizing victims of the Vietnam war with a focus on the Lai Dai Han and their mothers. For decades, South Korean has refused to acknowledge their participation or guilt in the matter.
… how can we restore dignity to the victims of everyone turns a blind eye to the prosecution of perpetrators and allow them to enjoy impunity?”
Just as Korean Comfort Women received recognition and reparations from the country of Japan after the end of the Second World War, the Lai Dai Han deserve recognition and justice for all of their years of suffering at the hands of the Koreans.