Nanjing plans to preserve WWII 'comfort station'
Updated: 2014-02-26 02:20
By CANG WEI and SONG WENWEI in Nanjing (China Daily)
Plans have been drawn up to transform a former "comfort station" in Nanjing into a historical monument to remind people of the Japanese army's use of women as sex slaves during World War II.
Plans to preserve the "comfort station" — a euphemism the Japanese occupation forces used to describe a military brothel — have met with mixed reactions. Some say it is a reminder of a humiliating time in Chinese history, while others say it must be preserved so the lessons of history are not forgotten.
The government of Qinhuai district of Nanjing, Jiangsu province, has drafted preliminary plans with architectural experts and historians to preserve the buildings where the military brothel, the largest in Asia, was located.
The L-shaped structure in Liji lane contains seven two-story buildings covering an area of about 3,500 square meters. The brothel was established by the Japanese army during World War II. Japanese troops occupied Nanjing in December 1937 and within days had killed 300,000 Chinese people and raped tens of thousands of women.
According to Jing Shenghong, a history professor at Nanjing Normal University, the "comfort station" will be restored to its former appearance this year and the reconstruction plans, still to be finalized, could include a museum.
The Qinhuai district government is cooperating with the architectural design institute of Nanjing University to submit proposals to carry out extensive repair work on the structure.
Reconstruction and repair work, if approved, will be financed by an insurance company in Nanjing, Jing said.
According to Wang Yongping, a professor at Nanjing University of Technology, it will cost at least 50 million yuan ($8.2 million) to restore the "comfort station".
"The high cost of repair is one reason that the station has been left in a dilapidated state for so long," Wang said.
Jing said property prices also played a role.
"Land prices in downtown Nanjing are very high. Some people would benefit financially if it was used for commercial real estate."
The residential buildings around Liji lane now sell for more than 25,000 yuan per square meter.
The plight of the "comfort station" has hit the headlines before.
Redevelopment plans in 2004 were drawn up shortly after it was confirmed as the site of a Japanese military brothel by a former captive. The plans envisaged knocking it down but were scrapped in the face of public opposition.
In 2008, two fires gutted the buildings and caused extensive damage to the roofs.
It was even used as a waste transfer station by a nearby community in 2013.
"Some local officials even said that the 'comfort station' symbolizes a miserable and shameful history and should be demolished," Jing said. "Actually, the 'comfort station' stands for a history that must be remembered."
It is important to remember history and what the "comfort women" — a euphemism for the sex slaves — went through, Jing said.
There were estimated to be more then 40 such military brothels in Nanjing alone. Most have been knocked down or their locations forgotten.
Even the location of the station in Liji lane was only confirmed in 2003 when an elderly Korean woman Pak Yong-sim, with the help of researchers, identified a room where she was held captive by the Japanese army.
Another "comfort station", where Chinese women were held captive, has been demolished to build a food market.
"There were more than 200 sex slaves in those three 'comfort stations'," Jing said. "More than 40 'comfort stations' were found in Nanjing. Most have already been demolished, but they should have been placed under legal protection for their historical and cultural value."
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