Comfort women

Comfort women
Comfort women
Japanese name
Kanji 慰安婦
Rōmaji ianfu
Alternate Japanese name
Kanji 従軍慰安婦
Rōmaji jūgun-ianfu
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 慰安婦
Simplified Chinese 慰安妇
Hanyu Pinyin Wèiān Fù
Wade-Giles Wei-An Fu
Korean name
Hangul 위안부
Hanja 慰安婦
Revised Romanization wianbu
McCune-Reischauer wianbu
Alternate Korean name
Hangul 일본군 성노예
Hanja 日本軍 性奴隸
Revised Romanization ilbongun seongnoye
McCune-Reischauer ilbon'gun sŏngnoye

The term "comfort women" was a euphemism used to describe women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.[1][2]

Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 from some Japanese scholars[3] to as high as 410,000 from some Chinese scholars,[4] but the exact numbers are still being researched and debated. A majority of the women were from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines,[5] although women from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Japanese-occupied territories were used for military "comfort stations". Stations were located in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, then Malaya, Thailand, then Burma, then New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, and what was then French Indochina.[6]

Young women from countries under Japanese Imperial control were abducted from their homes. In many cases, women were also lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants. Once recruited, the women were incarcerated in "comfort stations" in foreign lands. Other women were rounded up at gunpoint, some being raped before being herded into "comfort stations".[2] [7] It has been documented that the Japanese military itself recruited women by force.[8] Some "comfort stations" were run by private agents supervised by the Japanese Army or run directly by the Japanese Army.[1][2]

Some Japanese, such as historian Ikuhiko Hata, deny that there was organized forced recruitment of comfort women by the Japanese government or military.[9] Other Japanese historians, using the testimony of ex-comfort women and surviving Japanese soldiers have argued that the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were either directly or indirectly involved in coercing, deceiving, luring, and sometimes kidnapping young women throughout Japan's occupied territories.[10]


Establishment of the Comfort Women System

Japanese military prostitution

Military correspondence of the Japanese Imperial Army shows that the aim of facilitating comfort stations was the prevention of rape crimes committed by Japanese army personnel and thus preventing the rise of hostility among people in occupied areas.[3]

Given the well-organized and open nature of prostitution in Japan, it was seen as logical that there should be organized prostitution to serve the Japanese Armed Forces.[11] The Japanese Army established the comfort stations to prevent venereal diseases and rape by Japanese soldiers, to provide comfort to soldiers and head off espionage. The comfort stations were not actual solutions to the first two problems, however. According to Japanese historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, they aggravated the problems. Yoshimi has asserted, "The Japanese Imperial Army feared most that the simmering discontentment of the soldiers could explode into a riot and revolt. That is why it provided women."[12]


Fig.1. Recruitment advertisements for comfort women[13][14]


The first "comfort station" was established in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1932. Earlier comfort women were Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for such service. However, as Japan continued military expansion, the military found itself short of Japanese volunteers, and turned to the local population to coerce women into serving in these stations.[15] Many women responded to calls for work as factory workers or nurses, and did not know that they were being pressed into sexual slavery.[16]

In the early stages of the war, Japanese authorities recruited prostitutes through conventional means. In urban areas, conventional advertising through middlemen was used alongside kidnapping. Middlemen advertised in newspapers circulating in Japan and the Japanese colonies of Korea, Taiwan, Manchukuo, and China. These sources soon dried up, especially from Japan.[17] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs resisted further issuance of travel visas for Japanese prostitutes, feeling it tarnished the image of the Japanese Empire.[18] The military turned to acquiring comfort women outside mainland Japan, especially from Korea and occupied China. Many women were tricked or defrauded into joining the military brothels.[19]

The situation became worse as the war progressed. Under the strain of the war effort, the military became unable to provide enough supplies to Japanese units; in response, the units made up the difference by demanding or looting supplies from the locals. Along the front lines, especially in the countryside where middlemen were rare, the military often directly demanded that local leaders procure women for the brothels. When the locals, especially Chinese, were considered hostile, Japanese soldiers carried out the "Three Alls Policy", which included indiscriminately kidnapping and raping local civilians.[20]

The United States Office of War Information report of interviews with 20 comfort women in Burma found that the girls were induced by the offer of plenty of money, an opportunity to pay off family debts, easy work, and the prospect of a new life in a new land, Singapore. On the basis of these false representations many girls enlisted for overseas duty and were rewarded with an advance of a few hundred yen.[21]

Late archives inquiries and trials

On April 17, 2007 Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Hirofumi Hayashi announced the discovery, in the archives of the Tokyo Trials, of seven official documents suggesting that Imperial military forces, such as the Tokeitai (Naval military police), forced women whose fathers attacked the Kempeitai (Army military police), to work in front line brothels in China, Indochina and Indonesia. These documents were initially made public at the war crimes trial. In one of these, a lieutenant is quoted as confessing to having organized a brothel and having used it himself. Another source refers to Tokeitai members having arrested women on the streets, and after enforced medical examinations, putting them in brothels.[22]

On 12 May 2007 journalist Taichiro Kajimura announced the discovery of 30 Dutch government documents submitted to the Tokyo tribunal as evidence of a forced mass prostitution incident in 1944 in Magelang.[23]

The South Korean government designated Bae Jeong-ja as a pro-Japan collaborator (chinilpa) in September 2007 for recruiting comfort women.[24][25]

Number of comfort women

Lack of official documentation has made estimates of the total number of comfort women difficult, as vast amounts of material pertaining to matters related to war crimes and the war responsibility of the nation's highest leaders were destroyed on the orders of the Japanese government at the end of the war.[26] Historians have arrived at various estimates by looking at surviving documentation which indicate the ratio of the number of soldiers in a particular area to the number of women, as well as looking at replacement rates of the women.[27] Historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, who conducted the first academic study on the topic which brought the issue out into the open, estimated the number to be between 50,000 and 200,000.[3]

Based on these estimates, most international media sources quote about 200,000 young women were recruited or kidnapped by soldiers to serve in Japanese military brothels. The BBC quotes "200,000 to 300,000" and the International Commission of Jurists quotes "estimates of historians of 100,000 to 200,000 women."[28]

Country of origin

Internationally, it is generally thought that most of the women were from Korea and China.[29] According to State University of New York at Buffalo professor Yoshiko Nozaki and other sources, the majority of the women were from Korea and China.[30] Chuo University professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi states there were about 2,000 centers where as many as 200,000 Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Taiwanese, Burmese, Indonesian, Dutch and Australian women were interned.[31] Ikuhiko Hata, a professor of Nihon University, estimated the number of women working in the licensed pleasure quarter was fewer than 20,000 and that they were 40% Japanese, 20% Koreans, 10% Chinese, with others making up the remaining 30%. According to Hata, the total number of government-regulated prostitutes in Japan was only 170,000 during World War II.[32] Others came from the Philippines, Taiwan, Dutch East Indies, and other Japanese-occupied countries and regions.[33] Some Dutch women, captured in Dutch colonies in Asia, were also forced into sexual slavery.[34]

In further analysis of the Imperial Army medical records for venereal disease treatment from 1940, Yoshimi concluded that if the percentages of women treated reflected the general makeup of the total comfort women population, Korean women comprised 51.8 percent, Chinese 36 percent and Japanese 12.2 percent.[12]

According to the Kono Statement in 1993, of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part.[35]

To date, only one Japanese woman has published her testimony. This was done in 1971, when a former "comfort woman" forced to work for showa soldiers in Taiwan, published her memoirs under the pseudonym of Suzuko Shirota.[36]

Treatment of comfort women

Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually-transmitted disease.[37] According to Japanese soldier Yasuji Kaneko[38] "The women cried out, but it didn't matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor's soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance."[39] Beatings and physical torture were said to be common.[40]

Ten Dutch women were taken by force from prison camps in Java by officers of the Japanese Imperial Army to become forced sex slaves in February 1944. They were systematically beaten and raped day and night in a so called "Comfort Station".[10][40] As a victim of the incident, in 1990, Jan Ruff-O'Hearn testified to a U.S. House of Representatives committee:

"Many stories have been told about the horrors, brutalities, suffering and starvation of Dutch women in Japanese prison camps. But one story was never told, the most shameful story of the worst human rights abuse committed by the Japanese during World War II: The story of the “Comfort Women”, the jugun ianfu, and how these women were forcibly seized against their will, to provide sexual services for the Japanese Imperial Army. In the so-called “Comfort Station” I was systematically beaten and raped day and night. Even the Japanese doctor raped me each time he visited the brothel to examine us for venereal disease."[10][40]

In their first morning at the brothel, photographs of Jan Ruff-O'Hearn and her sisters, who were all virgins, were taken and placed on the veranda which was used as a reception area for the Japanese personnel who would choose from these photographs. Over the following four months the girls were raped up to 30 times a day and beaten day and night. Jan Ruff-O'Hearn and her sisters became pregnant and were forced to have miscarriages. Jan Ruff-O'Hearn continued to have miscarriages into her marriage due to the physical damage she received as a Comfort Woman.

After four harrowing months, the girls were moved to a camp at Bogor, in West Java, where they were reunited with their families. This camp was exclusively for women who had been put into military brothels, and the Japanese warned the inmates that if anyone told what had happened to them, they and their family members would be killed. Several months later the O’Hearns were transferred to a camp at Batavia, which was liberated on 15 August 1945.

The Japanese officers involved received some punishment by Japanese authorities at the end of the war.[41] After the end of the war, 11 Japanese officers were found guilty with one soldier being sentenced to death by the Batavia War Criminal Court.[41] The court decision found that the charges those who raped violated were the Army’s order to hire only voluntary women.[41] Victims from East Timor testified they were forced into slavery even when they were not old enough to have started menstruating. The court testimonies state that these prepubescent girls were repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers[42] while those who refused to comply were executed.[43][44]

Hank Nelson, emeritus professor at the Australian National University’s Asia Pacific Research Division, has written about the brothels run by the Japanese military in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea during WWII. He quotes from the diary of Gordon Thomas, a POW in Rabaul. Thomas writes that the women working at the brothels “most likely served 25 to 35 men a day” and that they were “victims of the yellow slave trade.”[45]

Nelson also quotes from Kentaro Igusa, a Japanese naval surgeon who was stationed in Rabaul. Igusa wrote in his memoirs that the women continued to work through infection and severe discomfort, though they “cried and begged for help.”[45]

Occupied territories

During World War II, the Shōwa regime implemented in Korea, a prostitution system similar to the one established in other parts of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Korean agents, Korean Kempeitai (military police) and military auxiliaries were involved in the procurement and organization of comfort women, and made use of their services.[46] Chong-song Pak found that "Koreans under Japanese rule became fully acculturated as main actors in the licensed prostitution system that was transplanted in their country by the colonial state".[47]


Rangoon, Burma. August 8, 1945. A young ethnic Chinese woman who was in one of the Imperial Japanese Army's "comfort battalions" is interviewed by an Allied officer.

After its defeat, the Japanese military destroyed many documents for fear of war crimes prosecution.[48]

Historians have searched for evidence of the Army and Navy's coercion, and some written proof has been discovered, such as documents found in 2007 by Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Hirofumi Hayashi.[22] The surviving sex slaves wanted an apology from the Japanese government. Shinzō Abe, the prime minister at the time, stated that there is no evidence that the Japanese government instituted a brutal sex slave industry.[citation needed]

History of the controversy

During the Park regime (1963–1972), the subject of comfort women was little talked about in Korea. The issue came to light only after people involved in the Korean Women's Movement began to assist the "camptown" prostitutes that American servicemen were using. Young women activists discovered a connection between the Japanese, US and Korean governments, and publicized the issue.[49]

Disputed testimony of an ex-soldier

In 1983, Seiji Yoshida published Watashino sensō hanzai - Chōsenjin Kyōsei Renkō (My War Crimes: The Impressment of Koreans), in which the author confessed to forcibly procuring women from Jeju Island in Korea under the direct order from the Japanese military. In 1991, Asahi Shimbun, one of the major newspapers of Japan, ran a series on comfort women for a year. This was the beginning of the comfort women topic becoming publicly controversial in Japan. Yoshida's book was quoted often in the newspaper series, and was subsequently cited in the U.N. report by Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy.

In May 1996, weekly magazine Shūkan Shinchō published remarks by Yoshida made to them in an interview, admitting that portions of his work had been made up. He stated that "There is no profit in writing the truth in books. Hiding the facts and mixing them with your own assertions is something that newspapers do all the time too".[50][51][52]

Initial government response and litigation

Initially the Japanese government denied any official connection to the wartime brothels; in June 1990, the Japanese government declared that all brothels were run by private contractors.

In 1990 the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery filed suit, demanding compensation. Several surviving comfort women also independently filed suit in the Tokyo District Court. The court rejected these claims on grounds such as statute of limitations, the immunity of the State at the time of the act concerned, and non-subjectivity of the individual of international law.[53]

Kono statement

However, in 1991, the historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi discovered incriminating documents in the archives of Japan's Defense Agency. According to Yoshimi, they indicated that the military was directly involved in running the brothels (i.e. by selecting the recruiting agents).[54] The Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese national daily newspaper, published these findings as a front-page article entitled "Japanese Army abducted comfort women" on 11 January 1992. This caused a sensation and forced the government, represented by Chief Cabinet Secretary, Koichi Kato, to acknowledge some of the facts the same day. On January 17, 1992, Prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa presented formal apologies for the suffering of the victims during a trip to South Korea.

After some government studies into the matter, Yohei Kono, the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Japanese government, issued a statement on 4 August 1993. In this statement, the Japanese government recognized that "Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military of the day" and that "The Japanese military was directly or indirectly involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of the women". He also noted that "[the] recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will through coaxing and coercion". The government of Japan "sincerely apologize[d] and [expressed its] remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable psychological wounds". In the statement, the government of Japan expressed its "firm determination never to repeat the same mistake and that they would engrave such issue through the study and teaching of history".[35]

Although this statement was offered as an apology, it was very carefully worded, thus admitting an unspecified role in the military brothels, yet rejecting legal responsibility for them. Japan continues to contend the brothels were not a "system" and not a war crime or crime against humanity.[55]

Asia Women's Fund

In 1995 Japan set up an "Asia Women's Fund" for atonement in the form of material compensation and to provide each surviving comfort woman with a signed apology from the then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama, stating "As Prime Minister of Japan, I thus extend anew my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women."[56] The fund is funded by private donations and not government money, and has been criticized as a way to avoid admitting government abuse.[39][57] Because of the unofficial nature of the fund, many comfort women have rejected these payments and continue to seek an official apology and compensation.

United Nations Human Rights Commission

On June 22, 1998 Gay J. McDougall, Special Rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, released Contemporary Forms of Slavery,[58] a report based on prior UN investigation by Linda Chavez documenting systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices in wartime in general. The report detailed the official Japanese government stance as well as the UN's own legal position. MacDougall was awarded a MacArthur Fellows Program "genius" grant the year after her analysis.

Guilt and liability

The 1998 UN report listed their findings regarding Japan's guilt and liability:

  • The system of comfort women used by the Japanese government during World War II falls under the international definition of slavery at the time, and slavery (sexual or otherwise) was illegal at the time. The 1926 Slavery Convention embodies one such definition. International prohibition of slavery was included in the Tokyo Charter which was used to make the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.[58]
  • Rape (including forced or coerced prostitution) was a war crime at the time; regardless of whether prostitution was widespread during World War II.[58]
  • Enslavement and other inhumane acts committed by the Japanese government can be considered “crimes against humanity.” In crimes against humanity, the nationality of the victim is irrelevant thus, (it does not matter if the Japanese government was committing crimes against its enemies’ citizens or its own) it is liable for these offenses.[58]
  • The Japanese government is liable for crimes against humanity because of the considerable scale on which these crimes were committed.[58]
  • Arguments that the enslaving and raping of comfort women was perfectly legal at the time is similar to an argument that was used and refuted at the Nuremberg Trials.[58]

Official position of the Japanese government

The 1998 UN report stated their understanding of Japan's legal position regarding compensation:

"Until the early 1990s, the Japanese government denied the extent of its involvement in the creation of comfort stations and the abuses committed against women (comfort women). The Japanese government has made various apologies since the early 1990s. One very notable apology was made by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in July 1995 in which he specifically mentions the Japanese military’s involvement in crimes against comfort women. Though it has seemingly apologized repeatedly for these offenses, the Japanese government denies legal liability for the creation and maintenance of the system of “comfort stations” and comfort women used during World War II. The Japanese government has set up an Asia Women’s Fund which conveys Japan’s apologies for crimes committed against women during World War II through direct donations from the Japanese public. Despite this, according to the Japanese government, individual comfort women don’t deserve compensation."[58][59]

Abe controversy

On March 2, 2007, the issue was raised again by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe when he denied that the Japanese military had forced women into sexual slavery during World War II in an orchestrated way. He stated, "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion." Before he spoke, a group of lawmakers from his (conservative) Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) also sought to revise Yohei Kono's 1993 apology to former comfort women.[57][60] Abe's statement provoked a negative reaction from Asian and Western countries. The New York Times editorial said, "These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women."[61] On 26 March 2007 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his regrets for the violations of human rights with regard to comfort women.[62] According to Kyodo news, Abe's step back and announcement that he should stand after all to Yohei Kono's 1993 statement was made after firm warning by U.S. ambassador Thomas Schieffer.[63]

Following Abe's declarations, former education minister Nariaki Nakayama declared he was proud that the LDP had succeeded in getting references to "wartime sex slaves" struck from most authorized history texts for junior high schools. "Our campaign worked, and people outside government also started raising their voices.",[64] "It is good that expressions such as comfort women and forced labor have decreased in history textbooks"[65] He also declared that he agreed with an e-mail sent to him saying that the "victimized women in Asia should be proud of being comfort women".[66] "Those women deserve much sympathy, but (being forced to provide sex) is not so much different from what was commonly seen in poor rural Japanese communities in the past, where women were sold to brothels. It could be said that the occupation was something they could have pride in, given their existence soothed distraught feelings of men in the battlefield and provided a certain respite and order." He has denied the term "comfort women" existed during the wartime years.[65]

Conclusion of litigation in Japan

The possibility for seeking claims through litigation in Japan was firmly and finally closed by the Supreme Court of Japan in a decision handed down on April 27, 2007. That case, Ko Hanako (a pseudonym) et al. v. Japan,.[67] was brought by six plaintiffs on behalf of two women who were captured by the Japanese soldiers in Shanxi province of northern China, removed to garrisons, and subjected to weeks of ongoing sexual and other brutal violence.[68] Filed against Japan in Tokyo District Court in 1996, the case sought compensatory damages and a public apology based upon the employer’s agency liability, as provided in Chinese law of the time and also in Japanese Civil Code Article 715(1).[69] However, all claims were ultimately denied. The Supreme Court reasoned that while the China-Japan Joint Communique of 1972, which governed these cases, was ambiguous with regard to claims by individuals, it implicitly accomplished a comprehensive renunciation of claims given that the document functioned as a de facto peace treaty and accordingly fell under the operative framework of the San Francisco Peace Treaty where renunciation of claims by individuals was made explicitly.[70] The Court's rationale has been criticized as "a masterwork of legal instrumentalism," but at the same time recognized for "provid[ing] a modest degree of factual recognition of the historical record, so that judicial validation of the victims’ suffering and defendants’ abject wrongdoing may be a positive consequence of the cases."[71] In an interview in October, 2011, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stated that the issue of war compensation to "comfort women" from South Korea had already been "legally resolved" in 1965 by a bilateral diplomatic treaty between the two nations to normalize relations.[72]

The use of the term

Taiwan's English-language newspaper Taipei Times says that the first exposure of the use of Korean comfort women can be found in Japanese writer Tamura Taijiro's 1947 novel A Prostitute's Story.[73]

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun stated that comfort women were not treated as "paramilitary personnel", unlike military nurses.[74] The article says, during the war, Comfort women were not called military comfort women (従軍慰安婦 jūgun-ianfu?) and the use of the term spread in the post-war period.[74] The term military comfort women is said to have been used by Japanese writer Kakō Senda (1924–2000) in his book titled Jūgun Ianfu (military comfort women) published in 1973.[74]

Senda’s book became a best seller.[75] Thereafter, the usage of jugun ianfu prevailed, and the term jugun ianfu (comfort women serving in the war), would later become contentious, came to have a wide circulation.[75]

U.S. Congressional resolution

In 2007 Mike Honda of the United States House of Representatives proposed House Resolution 121 which stated that Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner, refute any claims that the issue of comfort women never occurred, and educate current and future generations "about this horrible crime while following the recommendations of the international community with respect to the 'comfort women'."[76] Honda has stated that "the purpose of this resolution is not to bash or humiliate Japan."[77] However, the Japanese embassy in the U.S. stated that the Resolution was erroneous in terms of the facts and that it would be harmful to the friendship between the US and Japan.[78]

On April 26, 2007, a group created to support the passage of House Resolution 121 took a full-page ad out in the Washington Post calling attention to the “comfort women” issue.[79] In response, in the June 14 edition, members of the LDP, DJP, independents, professors, political commentators, and journalists styling themselves collectively as "Assentors" joined to place a counter advertisement headed "The Facts".[80] On June 26, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs reported out the Honda Resolution by a vote of 39-2. Abe took a "no comment" stance with respect to the resolution.[81]

On July 30, 2007 the resolution passed through the House of Representatives after half an hour of debate in which there was no opposition voiced.[82] Honda was quoted on the floor as saying, "We must teach future generations that we cannot allow this to continue to happen. I have always believed that reconciliation is the first step in the healing process."

Dutch Parliament resolution

The lower house of the Dutch parliament passed a motion unanimously on November 20, 2007 urging Japan to financially compensate the women forced into sex slavery during World War II.

"This should send a strong and clear signal to the Japanese government and the Japanese people, that so many years after World War II, people in the Netherlands still want the Japanese to recognize the war crimes of the past and to recognize the victims," said van Baalen, who tabled the motion. "It is a matter still taken seriously in the Netherlands," he said. [83]

Canadian Lower House resolution

Canada's lower house, the House of Commons, unanimously approved a draft motion on November 28, 2007 that urges the Japanese government to make a "formal and sincere apology" to women who were forced by the Japanese military to provide sex for soldiers during World War II.

The text of the motion said the Canadian government should call on the Japanese government "to take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the system of forced prostitution, including through a formal and sincere apology expressed in the Diet to all of those who were victims; and to continue to address with those affected in a spirit of reconciliation."

It also said, "Some Japanese public officials have recently expressed a regrettable desire to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the 'comfort women,' which expressed the (Japanese) Government's sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal."

The motion, though nonbinding, also said the Canadian government should call on Japan to abandon any statement which devalues the expression of regret from the Kono statement and to clearly and publicly refute any claims that the sexual enslavement and trafficking of the "comfort women" for the Imperial Japanese Army never occurred.[84][85]

European Parliament resolution

Following a campaign by Amnesty International to press the EU on making a statement about the issue, on 13 December 2007 the European Parliament in Strasbourg passed a resolution calling for the Japanese government to formally acknowledge its historical responsibility over the Comfort Women issue, as well as apologize and compensate victims.

The motion was submitted by Jean Lambert, a Green member of the European Parliament, and was voted through by 54 MEPs. The resolution, while acknowledging past statements by the Japanese government, noted that "some Japanese officials have recently expressed a regrettable desire to dilute or rescind those statements" and called for the Japanese government to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical and legal responsibility, in a clear and unequivocal manner". The resolution also called for the Japanese government to remove legal obstacles to compensation for the victims, and to take steps to educate people about these events. [86][82]

British Parliament Recommendations

Followed on the heels of calls for Japan to offer fresh apologies from the U.S. and Canadian governments in 2007, The Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.K. Parliament produced a report in November, 2008 entitled, "Global Security: Japan and Korea" which concluded that Japan should acknowledge the pain caused by the Comfort Women issue so that both nations can further cooperate in resolving the North Korean nuclear stand-off.[87]


Japanese historian and Nihon University professor, Ikuhiko Hata estimates the number of comfort women to be more likely between 10,000 and 20,000.[3] Hata writes that none of the comfort women were forcibly recruited.[88]

Some Japanese politicians have argued that the former comfort women's testimony is inconsistent and unreliable, making it invalid.[89]

A comic book, Neo Gomanism Manifesto Special - On Taiwan by Japanese author Yoshinori Kobayashi, depicts kimono-clad women lining up to sign up for duty before a Japanese soldier. Kobayashi's book contains an interview with Taiwanese industrialist Shi Wen-long who stated that no women were forced to serve, and that they worked in more hygienic conditions compared to regular prostitutes because the use of condoms was mandatory.[90]

There was a controversy involving NHK in early 2001. What was supposed to be coverage of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery was extremely edited to reflect revisionist views.[91]

See also


  1. ^ a b Tessa Morris-Suzuki (March 8, 2007), Japan's 'Comfort Women': It's time for the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word), The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus,, retrieved 2011-08-04 
  2. ^ a b c WCCW 2004.
  3. ^ a b c d Asian Women'sFund, p. 10.
  4. ^ Rose 2005, p. 88.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Reuters 2007-03-05.
  7. ^ Yoshimi 2000, pp. 100–101, 105–106, 110–111;
    Fackler 2007-03-06;
    BBC 2007-03-02;
    BBC 2007-03-08.
  8. ^ Ministerie van Buitenlandse zaken 1994, pp. 6–9, 11, 13–14.
  9. ^ Hata Ikuhiko (PDF), NO ORGANIZED OR FORCED RECRUITMENT: MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT COMFORT WOMEN AND THE JAPANESE MILITARY,,, retrieved 2008-12-15  (First published in Shokun May, 2007 issue in Japanese. Translated by Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact).
  10. ^ a b c Onishi 2007-03-08.
  11. ^ Hicks 1995.
  12. ^ a b 2007-11-30.
  13. ^ On the right: Keijō nippō (Newspaper published by Japanese government, Governor-General of Korea) July 26, 1944: Big recruitment for comfort women. Age: 17 to 23 year old women... Monthly salary: 300 yen or higher and a prepayment of 3000 yen... On the left: Mainichi shinpō October 27, 1944: Urgent recruitment for [Military] comfort women... Age: 18 to 30 year old women of good health/constitution. Recruitment period: October 27 to November 8... Number of recruitment positions: Several dozen (tens)...
  14. ^ Jeong Hye-gyeong (정혜경) (2002) (in Korean), Research on the History Before and After the Liberation 1 (해방 전후사 사료 연구 1), Seonin (선인), ISBN 8989205441, "매일신보 1944년 10월 27일자의 광고와 같이 '위안부 모집 광고'를 게재한 경우도 있다. 어떠한 경우에도 일본군위안부가 무엇인지, 무슨 일을 하는지에 대해..." 
  15. ^ Mitchell 1997.
  16. ^ "[...] Pak (her surname) was about 17, living in Hamun, Korea, when local Korean officials, acting on orders from the Japanese, began recruiting women for factory work. Someone from Pak's house had to go. In April of 1942, turned Pak and other young women over to the Japanese, who took them into China, not into factories [...]", Horn 1997.
  17. ^ Yoshimi 2000, pp. 100–101, 105–106, 110–111;
    Hicks 1997, pp. 66–67, 119, 131, 142–143;
    Ministerie van Buitenlandse zaken 1994, pp. 6–9, 11, 13–14.
  18. ^ Yoshimi 2000, pp. 82–83;
    Hicks 1997, pp. 223–228.
  19. ^ Yoshimi 2000, pp. 101–105, 113, 116–117;
    Hicks 1997, pp. 8–9, 14;
    Clancey 1948, p. 1135.
  20. ^ Fujiwara 1998;
    Himeta 1996;
    Bix 2000.
  21. ^ Yorichi 1944.
  22. ^ a b Yoshida 2007-04-18.
  23. ^ Japan Times 2007-05-12.
  24. ^ Bae 2007-09-17.
  25. ^ (Japanese) "宋秉畯ら第2期親日反民族行為者202人を選定", JoongAng Ilbo, 2007.09.17. "日本軍慰安婦を募集したことで悪名高いベ・ジョンジャ"
  26. ^ Burning of Confidential Documents by Japanese Government, case no.43, serial 2, International Prosecution Section vol. 8;
    "When it became apparent that Japan would be forced to surrender, an organized effort was made to burn or otherwise destroy all documents and other evidence of ill-treatment of prisoners of war and civilian internees. The Japanese Minister of War issued an order on 14 August 1945 to all Army headquarters that confidential documents should be destroyed by fire immediately. On the same day, the Commandant of the Kempetai sent out instructions to the various Kempetai Headquarters detailing the methods of burning large quantities of documents efficiently.", Clancey 1948, p. 1135;
    "[...] , the actual number of comfort women remains unclear because the Japanese army incinerated many crucial documents right after the defeat for fear of war crimes prosecution, [...]", Yoshimi 2000, p. 91;
    Bix 2000, p. 528;
    "Between the announcement of a ceasefire on August 15, 1945, and the arrival of small advance parties of American troops in Japan on August 28, Japanese military and civil authorities systematically destroyed military, naval, and government archives, much of which was from the period 1942–1945. Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo dispatched enciphered messages to field commands throughout the Pacific and East Asia ordering units to burn incriminating evidence of war crimes, especially offenses against prisoners of war. The director of Japan’s Military History Archives of the National Institute for Defense Studies estimated in 2003 that as much as 70 percent of the army’s wartime records were burned or otherwise destroyed.", Drea 2006, p. 9.
  27. ^ Nakamura 2007-03-20.
  28. ^ "An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 women across Asia, predominantly Korean and Chinese, are believed to have been forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese military brothels", BBC 2000-12-08;
    "Historians say thousands of women – as many as 200,000 by some accounts – mostly from Korea, China and Japan worked in the Japanese military brothels", Irish Examiner 2007-03-08;
    AP 2007-03-07;
    CNN 2001-03-29.
  29. ^ "An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 women across Asia, predominantly Korean and Chinese, are believed to have been forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese military brothels", & BBC 2000-12-08;
    "Estimates of the number of comfort women range between 50,000 and 200,000. It is believed that most were Korean", Soh 2001;
    "A majority of the 80,000 to 200,000 comfort women were from Korea, though others were recruited or recruited from China, the Philippines, Burma, and Indonesia. Some Japanese women who worked as prostitutes before the war also became comfort women.", Horn 1997;
    "Approximately 80 percent of the sex slaves were Korean; [...]. By one approximation, 80 percent were between the ages of fourteen and eighteen.", Gamble & Watanabe 2004, p. 309;
    Soh 2001.
  30. ^ Nozaki 2005;
    Dudden 2006.
  31. ^ Yoshimi 1995, pp. 91, 93.
  32. ^ Hata 1999;
    "Hata essentially equates the 'comfort women' system with prostitution and finds similar practices during the war in other countries. He has been criticized by other Japanese scholars for downplaying the hardship of the 'comfort women'.", Drea 2006, p. 41.
  33. ^ Soh 2001.
  34. ^ 2007-03-19;
    Moynihan 2007-03-03.
  35. ^ a b Kono 1993.
  36. ^ China Daily 2007-07-06.
  37. ^ de Brouwer, Anne-Marie (2005) [2005], Supranational Criminal Prosecution of Sexual Violence, Intersentia, pp. 8, ISBN 9050955339, 
  38. ^ "731部隊「コレラ作戦」" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-03-23. .
  39. ^ a b Tabuchi 2007-03-01.
  40. ^ a b c O'Herne 2007.
  41. ^ a b c (in Japanese) (PDF) 日本占領下インドネシアにおける慰安婦, archived from the original on 2007-06-28,, retrieved 2007-03-23 , archived from the original on 2007-01-28.
  42. ^ Hirano 2007-04-28
  43. ^ Coop 2006-12-23.
  44. ^ 일본군 위안부 세계가 껴안다-1년간의 기록 2006 February 25
  45. ^ a b Nelson 2007.
  46. ^ Brook, Tim . Collaboration: Japanese Agents and Local Elites in Wartime China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), pp. 1-13, 240-48
  47. ^ Chong-song, Pak. 'Kwollok kwa maech'un [Power and prostitution]' Seoul: In'gansarang, 1996.
  48. ^ Yoshimi 1995, pp. 1135–1136.
  49. ^ Moon, Katharine H.S. (March - April 1999), "South Korean Movements against Militarized Sexual Labor", The Journal of Asian Studies 39 (2): 473–500, "The chongsindae movement, however, is not the first women's movement in South Korea to protest and redress sexual exploitation and abuse of Korean women by foreign men. In the 1970s, Korean women activists, some of whom are now fighting for the chongsindae survivors, protested vehemently against Japanese government's and Japanese society's participation in kisaeng tourism in Korea. Also, since the mid-1980s, a group of Korean women and men have sought to recognize and publicize the plight of U.S. military camptown (kijich'on) prostitutes as victims of debt bondage and objects of foreign domination. Moreover, the chongsindae movement and the kijich'on movement originally began together as part of a larger Asian women's human rights movement against the sexual exploitation of women ... Camptown women were kidnapped by common criminals and other forms of coercive procurements such as fraudulent promises by traffickers for well-paying jobs and skills-training. And in both the chongsindae and kijich'on systems, rape was often used as a way to "initiate" women into sexual labor ... They are beholden to their clubowner/manager/pimp through what human rights activists call the debt bondage system ... it is imperative to understand that the kijich'on system is highly regulated and sustained by the official policies and practises of the US Government and Korean government." 
  50. ^ "勇気ある告発者か詐話師か?吉田清治を再考する [A brave whistleblower or a swindler? Reconsidering Yoshida Seiji]" (in Japanese). Nikkan Berita. 2007-03-06. Retrieved 2008-01-24. "「本に真実を書いても何の利益もない。事実を隠し自分の主張を混ぜて書くなんていうのは、新聞だってやるじゃないか」" 
  51. ^ 水野靖夫 [Yasuō Mizuno] (in Japanese). 『近現代史の必須知識: 日本人として最低限知っておきたい』 [Essential consciousness of modern history: The minimum that Japanese people should know]. PHP研究所 [PHP Kenkyūsho]. p. 129. ISBN 978-4569645087. 
  52. ^ Ye, Yeong-jun (2007-03-04). "고노 담화 [The Kono talks]" (in Korean). JoongAng Ilbo. Retrieved 2008-01-24. "궁지에 몰린 요시다는 "일부 사례의 시간.장소에는 창작이 가미됐다"고 털어놨다." 
  53. ^ Violence Against Women in War.
  54. ^ Yoshimi 2000.
  55. ^ Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues - History.
  56. ^ Asian Women's Fund 1996.
  57. ^ a b Coleman 2007-03-23.
  58. ^ a b c d e f g McDougall 1998.
  59. ^ Honda 2007.
  60. ^ The Guardian 2007-03-05.
  61. ^ New York Times 2007-03-06.
  63. ^ Japan Times 2007-11-09.
  64. ^ Yoshida 2007-03-11.
  65. ^ a b Asahi,Asahi Shimbun July 12, 2005.
  66. ^ China Daily 2005-07-13.
  67. ^ 1969 Hanrei Jiho 38 (Sup. Ct. Apr. 27, 2007), available at 20070427165434.pdf(in Japanese)
  68. ^ Levin, Mark, Case Comment: Nishimatsu Construction Co. v. Song Jixiao Et Al., Supreme Court of Japan (2d Petty Bench), April 27, 2007, and Ko Hanako Et Al. V. Japan, Supreme Court of Japan (1st Petty Bench), April 27, 2007 (January 1, 2008). American Journal of International Law, Vol. 102, No. 1, pp. 148-154, January 2008. Available at SSRN:
  69. ^ id. at 3.
  70. ^ id. at 4.
  71. ^ id. at 5-6.
  72. ^ Japan Times 2011-10-18.
  73. ^ Lin 2000-12-18.
  74. ^ a b c Yomori Shimbun 2007-03-31.
  75. ^ a b Nozaki 2005.
  76. ^ 2007-2008.
  77. ^ 2007-02-02.
  78. ^ Embassy of Japan in the United States of America 2007.
  79. ^ Przystup 2007, p. 142.
  80. ^ Assentors 2007-06-14.
  81. ^ Przystup 2007, p. 139.
  82. ^ a b Epstein 2007-07-31.
  83. ^ Xinhau 2007-11-21;
    Davis 2007-11-28.
  84. ^ Wire Reports. "Canada urges Japan to apologize to WWII sex slaves". Japan Today News. Retrieved 2007-11-28. .[dead link].
  85. ^ AFP 2007-11-28.
  86. ^ Amnesty International 2007-12-13;
    Kyodo 2007-11-24;
    The Parliament 2007-12-14;
    Europees Parlement 2007-12-13.
  87. ^ "Japan should acknowledge 'comfort women' pain: MPs". AFP. 2008-11-29. Retrieved 2009-03-23. .
  88. ^ "None of them was forcibly recruited.", Hata undated, p. 16.
  89. ^ "Their testimonies have undergone dramatic changes...", Assentors 2007-06-14.
  90. ^ Landler 2001-03-02.
  91. ^ "However, the second night’s programming on January 30 was heavily censored through deletion, interpolations, alterations, dismemberment and even fabrication. This segment was originally supposed to cover the 'Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery' that had been held in Tokyo in December 2000.", Yoneyama 2002.


United Nations

Japanese government

The Netherlands government

  • Ministerie van Buitenlandse zaken (January 24, 1994), "Gedwongen prostitutie van Nederlandse vrouwen in voormalig Nederlands-Indië [Enforced prostitution of Dutch women in the former Dutch East Indies]", Handelingen Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal [Hansard Dutch Lower House] 23607 (1), ISSN 0921-7371 , authored by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, laysummary by Nationaal Archief [Dutch National Archive] (Dutch), 2007-03-27.

U.S. government


Journal articles

News articles

Online sources

Further reading

  • Barbara Drinck, Chung-noh Gross Forced Prostitution in Times of War and Peace, Kleine Verlag, 2007. ISBN 978-3-89370-436-1.
  • Tanaka, Yuki Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II and the US Occupation, London, Routledge: 2002. ISBN 0-415-19401-6.
  • Molasky, Michael S. American Occupation of Japan and Okinawa, Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0-415-19194-7, ISBN 0-415-26044-2.
  • D. Kim-Gibson, Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women, 1999. ISBN 0-931209-88-9.
  • Schellstede, Sangmie Choi. Comfort Women Speak: Testimony by Sex Slaves of the Japanese Military, 2000. ISBN 0-8419-1413-3.
  • Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashii "Comfort Women: Beyond Litigious Feminism"
  • Nora Okja Keller "Comfort Woman", London, Penguin: 1998. ISBN 0-14-026335-7.
  • Maria Rosa Henson "Comfort woman: Slave of destiny", Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism: 1996. ISBN 9718686118.

External links


Academic research

Japanese official statements

United States historical documents

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