Wei Shaolan hadn’t moved out of the mountains for very long before the Japanese invaded Guangxi. A Yao minority from a village outside of Guilin, she had recently married a Han man when she was captured by Japanese troops in December 1944. She remembers a soldier piercing her bamboo backpack to prevent her from running away, and she saw half a dozen other captured women. They became some of the over 100,000 sex slaves imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II.
In 1993, Japan issued an apology to “comfort women” forced to serve Japanese soldiers in military brothels in World War II. On June 20, a Japanese government panel claimed that there is no corroboration of claims that those women were forced into brothels. The report sparked outrage from Korea, China, and elsewhere in Asia. The June 28th issue of Vista (看天下) reports the story of Wei Shaolan.
After having a physical examination, Wei Shaolan was forced into a bedroom and threatened with a bayonet.
“He held a bayonet and forced me to sleep with him,” she remembers. “I had no means to resist. I held back tears. I didn’t cry until after the Japanese left.” Her one-year-old daughter, who was with her when she was captured, was left to watch in the corner.
Early on, soldiers kept a close watch on her, even following her to the restroom, but after three months, their level of surveillance decreased, and she escaped while using the restroom. Shortly after arriving at home, she realized she was pregnant. After giving birth to Luo Shanxue, both she and Luo Shanxue were ostracized by the community. Luo Shanxue was called a Japanese person by her classmates.
Since 1992, Lin Boyao, a researcher on the issue of comfort women, has searched for living comfort women and encouraged them to come forward to document their lives. The country where the most have come forward is Korea. Some Chinese researchers, however, think that as many as half of the comfort women were from China. According to figures cited by Vista, there were 400,000 comfort women used by the Japanese during World War II, and 200,000 were Chinese. Researchers at the Research Center of the Chinese Comfort Women Issue of Shanghai Normal University report there were a total of between 360,000 and 410,000. More often, the total number of comfort women is cited at around 100,000 to 200,000 in Western media reports. Some Japanese scholars cite figures as low as 20,000.
Wei Shaolan and Luo Shanxue began telling their stories at forums in the 1990’s, and now they have been profiled in Vista.