“I have forgiven the Japanese for what they did to me, but I can never forget. The war never ended for the ‘Comfort Women’.”
This famous quote comes from Jan Ruff-O’Herne, from the Dutch Colony, who was a forced comfort women* of the Japanese imperial army during World War II along with many other women. Many girls and women from Korea, China, Taiwan, and other Southeast Asian countries were seized from their homes, factories, streets, and schools. They were held in either small comfort stations or near front lines to “serve” Japanese soldiers. Each women were forced to serve nearly thirty men per day.
Additionally, these women were physically abused. Soldiers brutally beat women and even forced hysterectomies and other medical procedures on them without anesthesia. Many women died of STDs, drug addiction, or suicide. Coerced double suicides, a practice among Japanese soldiers where they would commit suicide after killing their favorite women, were common. Those who survived suffered from disease, PTSD and social discrimination.
For a long time, even after the war, correct information about comfort women was limited, due to Japan’s cover-up. However, in 1991, Hak Sun Kim from Korea publicly spoke about her experience, leading other women to join her. She made it clear that her purpose for speaking was not to gain reparation but to expose the truth that had been concealed for so long.
*Though it is more appropriate to use the term “sexual slaves” to refer to the “comfort women”, this site used the word “comfort women,” because of the specificity of the term “comfort women” and due to the survivors’ psychological scars from being called “sexual slaves”. For more information, please refer to this site run by the Korean government. http://www.hermuseum.go.kr/eng/sub01/sub010104.asp?s_top=1&s_left=1&s_deps=4
Flitton, D. (2014, February 25). Australian wartime sex slave Jan Ruff-O’Hearne hits out at ‘hideous’ Japanese denials. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/national/australian-wartime-sex-slave-jan-ruffohearne-hits-out-at-hideous-japanese-denials-20140224-33d4o.html
Goodman, G. K. (2004). [Review of the books Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II, and Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation]. The Journal of Japanese Studies, 30(1), 183-186. Available from Project MUSE Web site: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jjs/summary/v030/30.1goodman.html
Hicks, G.L. (1997). The Comfort Women: Japan’s Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.
Ling, L.H.M. (2002). [Review of the book Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II]. International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, 1, 314-317. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/irap/1.2.314
Shibasaki, H. (2012). Reparations at the National Level: Reparations and Comfort Women Victims of the Japanese Army. Armenian Review, 53.
Stop Violence Against Women: “Comfort Women”. In Amnesty International New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.amnesty.org.nz/files/Comfort-Women-factsheet.pdf