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  • Writer's pictureManushya Foundation

Why the World must never forget the Brutal History of WW2 « Comfort Women » ?

After 70 years, WWII “Comfort Women” Survivors are still waiting for Justice!

On this International Day for the Elimination of #SexualViolence in Conflict, we pay tribute to #ComfortWomen Survivors who were enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army and forced into sex slavery during World War II. They are mainly from China, Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

During World War II, the Japanese army enslaved countless women and girls into sex slavery across occupied territories; they were Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipina, Indonesian, and Dutch. Comfort women – a euphemism for tens of thousands of girls and women, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the war. There were an estimated 200,000 “comfort women” during the war.

1. Life as “comfort women”: inhuman conditions and non-stop raping

The “comfort women” were mostly teenagers when they were captured by the Japanese army and forced into sexual servitude. In order to obtain women and girls, the Japanese army used extreme violence. They also use deception to abduct girls from poor families: the girls were told to have the chance to work in factories or as nurses with good wages while in fact they were being sent to “comfort stations”-- the military brothels.

At the comfort stations, women and girls had no freedom, their movements were restricted. The harsh conditions and extreme cruelty in the “comfort stations” deteriorated their health conditions. Many of them died as a result of disease, exhaustion and ill-treatment. Survivors testified that their genitals were always swollen and constantly bleeding, they could not sit, stand or urinate without extreme pain.

“I had to serve 40-50 men per day, I was in extreme pain all the time, It feels like my vagina was on fire”

Choi Gap-soon, Korean, she was abducted when she was 14 and was enslaved for 12 years.

As historians estimated, 90% of the victims didn’t manage to survive during the war, while the survivors bear the life-long pain and shame and often become social outcasts for the rest of their life. For survivors, the impact and trauma of rape extended far beyond the war itself. Survivors face emotional torment, physical injuries, disease, social ostracism and many other consequences that devastate the rest of their life.

2. Shame and Stigma stopping Survivors from telling their stories as “Comfort Women”

Due to the injustice of social norms and patriarchal culture, the women survivors were forbidden to talk about their ordeal, most of them were considered unvirtuous which made them unmarriageable. Many survivors remained isolated and bore their ordeal to themselves for more than 70 years, until their last day of life.

“I really couldn’t do anything about it, you carry all the shame, you feel dirty, you feel sorry, you feel different, you feel unworthy, they took away my youth, my possessions, my dignity. It is so amazing that after the war men come back with all these medals on their chest and all women came back with were these scars”

Jan Ruff O’Herne Dutch survivor, she was 19 when she was abducted.

For a really long time, “comfort women” survivors have been living in the shadow of the past. They tried to hide their experiences serving as comfort women because it’s shameful and there is a lot of stigma towards “comfort women” in their societies.

For decades, the truth about the sexual slavery system remained hidden. The Japanese government denied the women had been coerced. Until 1992, due to the release of documentary evidence discovered by Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki proving the role of the Japanese government and military involved in the “comfort women” system, the government was forced to admit its undeniable responsibilities. In 1993, the Japanese government published the Kono Statement, in which it first recognized that the Japanese Imperial Army had forced women, known as “comfort women”, to work in military-run brothels during World War II.

3. Denial of the Japanese government

However, the Japanese nationalist politicians have been trying to water down the apology and urging the government to revise the Kono Statement, arguing that there is no evidence of large-scale coercion by the Japanese government.

In 2015, the Japanese government even urged US publishers to remove “comfort women” from textbooks. Japan’s foreign ministry requested that McGraw-Hill delete a passage containing a reference to “comfort women” from a text on world history used by high schools in California. The passage says that Japan’s imperial army “forcibly recruited, conscripted and dragooned as many as 200,000 women aged 14 to 20” to serve in military brothels.

4. 70 years later, Survivors are still waiting for Justice!

In 1991, Seoul, Kim-hak-soon became the first survivor to speak publicly about her ordeal as a comfort woman. Her courage inspired more and more women in Korea and the Philippines. A year later, Filipina Lola Rosa Hanson talked on television and radios in the Philippines to call on survivors not to be ashamed of their experiences anymore and demand justice for themselves. From then on, more and more survivors stand out and speak about their truth. They organize regular demonstrations locally and internationally to raise awareness and demand justice from the Japanese government.

“I will live up to 100 because I want an apology and reparation, it is not a matter of money, I need to talk to the Japanese government face to face, they should see me and listen to what I have to say”

Lee Yong-soo, she was 16 when she was abducted, now she is 92 and is still waiting for justice.

Survivors call for full reparations and a genuine apology from the Japanese Government. As of now, 70 years after the end of World War II, they are still waiting for both.

Many of these women did not see justice served in their lifetime, and we can not allow the impunity for rapists anymore. We demand Justice for Survivors Right Now!!


  1. Reuters, Japan's Abe says won't alter 1993 apology on 'comfort women', March 14, 2014. Available at:

  2. The Guardian, Japan urges US publisher to remove comfort women from textbooks, January 15, 2015. Available at:

  3. Amnesty International, South Korea: Disappointing Japan ruling fails to deliver justice to ‘comfort women’. April 14, 2020. Available at:

  4. The New York Times, Japan Hints It May Revise an Apology on Sex Slaves. December 27, 2012. Available at:



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