The Comfort Women System and the Fight for Recognition
The History of Comfort Women and Japanese Military Involvement
An overview of the Japanese military's involvement in sexual slavery during World War II and the experiences of comfort women. The term "comfort women" refers to women and girls, primarily from Korea, China, and other occupied territories in Asia, who were forcibly recruited by the Japanese military to serve in brothels during World War II. These women were subjected to horrific conditions, with many suffering from physical and psychological trauma that lasted long after the war.
Japanese soldiers taking a break from duty with Chinese civilians, China, circa late 1937 to early 1938
The ongoing fight for recognition, apologies, and reparations for former comfort women through various legal avenues and the resistance they have faced. Comfort women survivors have long demanded official apologies, acknowledgment of responsibility, and reparations from the Japanese government. However, their struggle for justice has been met with denial, revisionism, and resistance from various Japanese political factions. This has led to tensions between Japan and the countries where comfort women originated.
Comfort Women, rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, August 2011
Denial: Quick Look of History of Comfort Women and Present Days’ Complication - Guide
Approximately 200,000 women and girls were forced into sexual slavery during World War 2. They were also known as comfort women, a translation of Ianfu(慰安婦), the Japanese term for "comforting, consoling woman." Although most of the women came from Korea, women from other occupied regions such as Burma, China, Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Manchukuo, Taiwan, New Guinea, Portuguese Timor, and the Dutch East Indies were also taken into the military sexual slavery.
The women suffered beatings, torture, forced pregnancies, and rape throughout the war. Even after the war, they suffered from medical complications as survivors of sexual violence. In addition, some former comfort women lived in shame and were ostracised by their community after the war. It was not until nearly 50 years after the end of WW2 that former comfort woman Kim Hak-Sun shared her testimony, inspiring other women to come out and share their stories. This work describes the system of military sexual slavery that had been erased from historical memory, and it traces Japan's alternating acknowledgment and denial of its comfort women system from the 1990s to the present.