Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the U.S. Occupation

By Yuki Tanaka | Go to book overview

Foreword

By Susan Brownmiller

In December 1991, three Korean women who had been abducted into Japanese military brothels during World War II filed a dramatic class-action lawsuit in a Tokyo court. After a half-century of shame, anonymity, and hardship, the aged survivors were ready to tell their personal stories, and to demand an apology and reparations from the Japanese government on behalf of an estimated 100,000 victims.

The women's campaign had begun in Seoul with a call for a public memorial and had escalated into impromptu confrontations with Japanese diplomats. Their tactical leader, an active feminist, was Professor Yun Chung Ok of Ehwa Women's University. As a young schoolgirl, Professor Yun herself had narrowly escaped abduction and conscription into the brothels. Aided by church women and a sisterly coalition of Japanese feminists who were equally intent on righting an historic wrong, the Koreans' demand for belated justice was covered widely by the foreign media, putting the term “comfort woman” into the international lexicon.

Thus, the world learned of a highly organized trafficking system during the Pacific War run by the Japanese Imperial Army, secret police, and local “labor recruitors” using the ruse of legitimate jobs for good pay. Girls and women taken from country villages, or hijacked in broad daylight on city streets, became a human cargo that was transported to barracks on frontline posts, jungle airstrips, and base camps, where the captives remained in sexual servitude until the war's end.

Japan's military brothels were not exactly an undocumented story when the Korean comfort women launched their international campaign. Two books on the subject published in the 1970s had assumed a modest place in Japan's growing literature of conscience, but the research of Kim Il Myon, a Korean, and Senda Kako, a Japanese, had produced little interest and only scant indignation. It took the rise of an indigenous feminist movement in Asia to supply the moral outrage and place the dormant issue in a modern context.

Yuki Tanaka, the son of a Japanese military man, is the latest historian, and certainly the most meticulous, exhaustive scholar, to explore the dimensions of the comfort women story. In addition to ferreting out fresh documentation from buried and forgotten sources, he creates an original overview by moving

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Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the U.S. Occupation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Figure and Tables xi
  • Plates xii
  • Foreword xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Author's Note xx
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Origins of the Comfort Women System 8
  • 2 - Procurement of Comfort Women and Their Lives as Sexual Slaves 33
  • 3 - Comfort Women in the Dutch East Indies 61
  • 4 - Why Did the Us Forces Ignore the Comfort Women Issue? 84
  • 5 - Sexual Violence Committed by the Allied Occupation Forces Against Japanese Women: 1945-1946 110
  • 6 - Japanese Comfort Women for the Allied Occupation Forces 133
  • Notes 183
  • Index 206
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