Recently, while enjoying myself on TikTok, I came across a 1-minute video about comfort women. While listening to the girl in the video, I started crying out of the blue. I don’t know what made me so emotional. Perhaps all the rape stories touched a sensitive spot, or maybe it was the pain she had in her voice. What is certain is that I was sobbing. I decided to go on the internet and search some more, as one can’t take all the information needed from a 1-minute video.
What I found left me speechless (and teary-eyed).
What I knew for sure is that the comfort women situation hasn’t yet been officially addressed by the Japanese government, and that is the time we do something. At the moment, there are only 17 of these women left, and with every minute that passes, their number may grow smaller and smaller. I decided to write this post so I can bring awareness to their situation.
Table of Contents
- What is a comfort women?
- Life in comfort stations
- What happened after the war ended?
- How many of these women are left?
- What can you do as an individual to help?
- Book recommendations about comfort women.
What is a comfort women?
Comfort Women (CW) is the term used by the Japanese government to describe all of the women and girls who were taken by the Japanese Imperial Army for sex trafficking. During World War II, thousands of women were kidnapped from their own homes to join the army as a strategy of war. They were supposed to boost the soldiers moral by having sex with them.
While some were allured by faux advertising, most were abducted and kidnapped into joining the army. When the girl didn’t want to join the army, the soldiers were blackmailing their families. They told them they would be exiled from Korea or the country they were living in. Most of the victims were Korean and Chinese, but they were also from The Netherlands, the Philippines, etcetera. Most of them were between the ages of 14 to 17, but there were also girls of the age of 19. It is estimated their total number reached 200,000, but historians think it is even higher.
They were kept in inhuman conditions in places called conform stations.
Life in comfort stations
The brothels, where these women were held in, were called comfort stations. According to various regulations, comfort stations were open for a long time, usually from nine or ten until late evening. The women typically lived in harsh conditions. They were starved, and when they resisted rape, they were murdered. Most of them died anyway because of the pain, starvation, STD’s, abuse or infections.
Once got there, the woman was greeted by a team of medics, which examined her body. Then, after her examination was complete, she was sent to her dorm. The rooms were completely seethrough, and everybody could see the people having sex. To make sure that the woman complied, she was beaten a bit.
Each of the women in the comfort stations had a schedule she had to respect. For example, Kim Bok-Dong, an ex comfort woman, had to work for 6 hours+ a day. In this time, hundreds of soldiers were staying in line to get the chance to fuck her. She said that the soldiers were using lubricant and condoms, but they didn’t do much. She was full of pain by the end of the day. When her program was over, the medics came to treat her wounds, inject them, and give them medicine.
In common comfort stations, the soldiers were paying to have sex with these women. At the end of the day, the income should have been divided between the women and the owner, but rarely the money eneded up into the girl’s hands.
Over time, some of these women were operated without their consent. The medics were taking off their uteruses so they won’t get pregnant.
What happened after the war ended?
By the end of the war, most of the women were killed or died because they couldn’t take it anymore. The ones who remained alive and in foreign nations were abandoned, and because they didn’t have any income or means to communicate, they couldn’t go back to their homes.
The soldiers were burning the stations and killing the girls, so there won’t be any evidence of what they have done between 1932-1945. As you can see right now is 2020, and they failed miserably.
The ones who managed to get back home, couldn’t talk about what happened, as they would have been shamed by their families and their neighbours. Most of them lived with the trauma, and the ones who talked about what happened were disowned. After all, there was no right answer.
How many of these women are left?
There are a total of 240 former comfort women registered by the Korean government, but at the moment only 17 of them are still alive. One of them died recently in April 2020. Her name was Lau Hai Yue. The other woman I mentioned in the article, Kim Bok-Dong, died in January 2019 at the age of 92 years-old.
What can you do as an individual to help?
The only thing these women want is a formal apology from the Japanese government. Instead, the only thing these strong people receive is silence. Instead of trying to solve their mistake, the government is talking down their monuments from around the world. Furthermore, they are taking down their representation from history books.
At the end of the day, this movement is not only about the justice these women deserve. It is also about human rights. We have to educate ourselves, as well as the future generations, of the dangers of warfare and the importance of everybody’s rights.
Here are some petitions you can sign:
- Take Responsibility for Wartime Crimes of Sexual Slavery and Human Trafficking: Remember the “Comfort Women” – Change.org
- Petition to UNESCO to include the “Comfort Women” documents – Change.org
*I could only find two active petitions, if you find more, please comment so I can include them here.
Also, if you want to donate to their cause, you can do it here. This form is taken from their official website.
Book recommendations about comfort women
All of these book recommendations are taken off the Comfort Women Offical Website (don’t worry, I will link it in the bibliography section). I haven’t got the change to read them myself, but as soon I as I get the chance, I will tell you all about them.
- Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II by Yoshimi Yoshiaki, “Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II,” Columbia University Press, 2002. – Readings on the comfort women issue
- A Cruelty Special to Our Species by Emily Jungmin Yoon, “A Cruelty Special to Our Species,” Harper Collins, 2018. – Poetry
- Grass, Drawn & Quarterly by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, “Grass, Drawn & Quarterly,” 2019. – Graphic Novel
- Daughter of the Dragon by William Andrews, “Daughter of the Dragon,” Lake Union Publishing, 2014. – Fiction
- How We Disappeared, Jing-Jing Lee, “How We Disappeared,” Hanover Square Press, 2019. – Fiction
- The Last Girl, My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State Nadia Murad, “The Last Girl, My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State,” Tim Duggan Books, 2017. – Related Memoirs
I tried to choose the ones that I would rather read. They are also more recent. I think they can be better correlated with today’s society.
- Blakemore, Erin. “The Brutal History of Japan’s ‘Comfort Women.’” HISTORY, 20 Feb. 2018. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- Constante, Agnes. “Who Are the ‘comfort Women,’ and Why Are U.S.-Based Memorials for Them Controversial?” NBC News, NBC News, 7 May 2019, Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- “Comfort Women | Definition, History, & Facts | Britannica.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- “The Life in Comfort Stations.” Awf.or.Jp, 2020, Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- “Comfort Women.” Remembercomfortwomen.Org, 2019. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- “Newsletter: 2020 ‘Comfort Women’ Updates – Comfort Women.” Remembercomfortwomen.Org, 2020. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- “Remember Comfort Women | Book Reading List.” Remembercomfortwomen.Org, 2019. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- Shim, Elizabeth. “South Korea Comfort Woman Dies; 18 Remain Alive.” UPI, UPI, 3 Mar. 2020. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- Asian Boss. “Life As A ‘Comfort Woman’: Story of Kim Bok-Dong | STAY CURIOUS #9.” YouTube, 27 Oct. 2018. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
- Asian Boss. “Meet Estelita Dy: A Filipino Comfort Woman Survivor | STAY CURIOUS #13.” YouTube, 30 Nov. 2019. Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
I don’t usually ask for this, but it will be of great help if you shared or reblogged this post. If you don’t want to, that is perfectly ok, but please share the petitions. As I said, if you find any others, please tell me so I can include them here.
Now, I only managed to write a 101 guide to comfort women. There is so much more to tell than what I wrote here. If you want to know more, I can always write another post. You only have to ask!
Use the hashtag #RememberComfortWomen when sharing their stories on social media.