Comfort Women

Statue of a young girl sitting

The term “comfort women” is a euphemism to describe sexual slaves under the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The most widely accepted estimate is nearly 200,000 women held captive; however, the most conservative estimates are around 20,000 women. Most of these women were from Korea, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Japan, and the Netherlands. In 1991 the first woman, Kim Hak-Sun, broke the silence about being a comfort woman, over 40 years after the events. Kim Hak-sun brought the issue to the public eye which has become a large issue in Asia. Since the 90s there have been many other women who came forward.  However, many of the women who came forward as former comfort women were shunned by their family members. In 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced an apology a compensation agreement of 1 billion yen (about $8.3 million) was reached. However, the funds have since been since been frozen. There are many efforts in Asia to educate people about the horrors comfort women faced. In the Philippines, for instance, the group Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers) is an activist group which campaigns for justice for former Filipino comfort women. On the U.S. side, a house resolution was passed in 2007 which urged the Japanese government to formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept responsibility for their actions from the 1930s to WWII. In 2017, the first comfort women memorial in the United States was built in San Francisco. This statue caused controversy with Japan and caused them to end their relationship with Osaka, Japan in 2018. Even after the 2015 agreement some activists are fighting for justice. Currently, the number of living former comfort women are dwindling whose stories may not have been explored.

Koh, Jinyang, “Comfort Women: Human Rights of Women from Then to Present” (2007). LLM Theses and Essays. 79. https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/stu_llm/79​

U.S. Congress. House. H Res.121. 110th Cong., 1st sess. Introduced in House January 31, 2007. https://www.congress.gov/bill/110th-congress/house-resolution/121​

Morgan, Jason. “Stories about Comfort Women Not Accurate: Historian | Article.” Asia Times. April 09, 2019. https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/04/article/stories-about-comfort-women-not-accurate-historian/.