South Korea prosecutors seek prison term for 'comfort women' academic

Sept. 27 (UPI) — South Korean prosecutors are seeking a three-year prison sentence for a local academic who triggered controversy after publishing a book on Korean “comfort women.”

Park Yu-ha, a professor of Japanese literature at Sejong University in Seoul, had lost a civil lawsuit in 2016 but won a criminal case in 2017, when a court in Seoul ruled in favor of protecting academic freedom and expressions even “when they are wrong.”

Prosecutors are now demanding a prison sentence in an appellate procedure, and the annulment of the past ruling, citing “the permanent scars to comfort women victims because of the deliberate distortion of historical facts” in Park’s book.

Park’s book Comfort Women of the Empire supports her view Korean women developed camaraderie with soldiers at military outposts and volunteered to have sex with multiple soldiers as prostitutes.

But on Wednesday Park’s legal counsel said his client never used the term “prostitute” to describe the victims.

Park’s lawyer also said the book “clearly states” the comfort women were forced into “sexual slavery” by the Japanese military.

Those statements, however, are at odds with Park’s own remarks.

The academic has said the Korean public is operating under the wrong assumption the women were sex slaves.

In her most recent public statement, Park said she is being “treated like a criminal” and “words about her are being made up, just as was the case during the Yusin (South Korean dictatorship) period.”

“My reputation will never be restored,” Park said.

Surviving South Korean comfort women had sued Park for defamation, because she had described their ordeal as “prostitution” and claimed the women “enjoyed their time with soldiers while smoking opium” in the barracks.

Comfort women activists are also seeking help from the international community in rejecting an offer of compensation from the Japanese government that was agreed upon without consultation during the term of former President Park Geun-hye.

Kim Bok-dong, 91, visited the U.S. embassy in Seoul Wednesday to request help with the issue, Yonhap reported.

Kim, a former comfort woman, called on the United States to pressure Japan’s Shinzo Abe to issue an official apology to the women, according to the report.

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