Korean Comfort Women

Korean Comfort Women

By: Theresa Valli

With the creation of Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Japan wanted to make to bring together all Asians countries, “Asia for Asians” to fight off the Allies during World War II. During this time Japan used propaganda and their strict force of power to get control of the Asian countries and Korea was one of the countries that became colonized under Japanese rule in 1910.   Japanese military used the Koreans and other civilians for every fighting use during the war. Korean men were sent off to fight in the war and work in factories while the women of Korea to  serve their duty in helping out too during the war but in a more unbelievable matter. Promises of job employments, unthinkable violent sexual acts, and the overwhelming shameful pain were some of the aspects that played out in the comfort stations.

 As Japan took over the China capital, Nanking, (now known as Nanjing), the Japanese military murdered and raped Chinese civilians during the years of  1937-1938. Wanting no controversy over this matter,  Japanese officials made it a hush hush control situation allowing it not to be bought to the world attention. Japanese forces branch off to Korea to set it up as an industrial country, but also setting up comfort stations. After the rape of Nanking, comfort station system were established to keep the fighting spirit alive within the Japanese soldiers to keep them battling the enemy (they could no longer kill or rape just anybody anymore without there being consequences after the incident of Nanking, if their a law enforcing comfort stations than its legal), and the prevention of venereal diseases were some of the factors of comfort stations. There were apparently a number of reasons for establishing them: Japanese military personnel had raped Chinese civilian women in occupied areas on numerous occasions, and the military hoped to prevent a worsening of anti-Japanese feelings on the part of the Chinese people; there was a need to prevent the spread of venereal diseases among officers and men, as otherwise military effectiveness would be reduced; and it was also feared that contact with Chinese civilian women could result in the leaking of military secrets.[1] Korean and other Asian women of decent would endure the most pain physically, verbally, and emotionally.

            With the war dwindling material goods, food, and jobs, Japanese officials along with the help of other recruiters who were civilians recruited young women in Korea jobs in hopes of them providing for their family during the harsh times. Many of these women were told that they were going to work in factories and others were simply forced or kidnap by the recruiters. Lee Ok-seon was running an errand for her parents when it happened: a group of uniformed men burst out of a car, attacked her and dragged her into the vehicle. As they drove away, she had no idea that she would never see her parents again. She was fourteen years old. [2]Majority of the women were in their teens when they decided to leave home. Little did they know that empty promises of a real job wouldn’t happened, but another type of job was in line for them. Comfort stations were set up to housed many of these young Korean women who were now known as “Korean comfort women.”

Keeping their men safe from the incident of Nanking and protecting them by installing the new system of comfort stations only allowed Japanese officials give access to their military to have sexual  enjoyment for their needs. Japanese military order the women to become the soldiers sex slaves. It establish a licensed prostitution system to meet the desires of men, especially the military, and to protect the family system it had already imposed.[3] Prostitutes were bought in at first to the comfort stations but there wasn’t  enough prostitutes for every solider. Age limitations were going unnoticed, the girls were getting younger and younger as the recruiters were bringing in. Uneducated and naïve made the young girls a perfect target for the stations.

After days of fighting, Japanese soldiers would return they would pay a fee and wait in line to have their way with any girl they chose. Some of the girls would serve more than ten soldiers a day. On such days we had to serve seven or eight men a day. When they came in the afternoon, each would stay about half an hour. [4] The girls were not allowed to be pregnant nor carry any diseases, they were checked on a regular basis. It was important to keep the girls in good condition for the soldiers to “help them win the war.” If any girls resists, they were killed instantly, there was no way out, they had to follow the commands of the Japanese imperial government. Some of the comfort women were other Asian nations. The comfort women were set up in groups, one for higher ranking Japanese officials to civilians having their own group to themselves. If a soldier had been drinking, he would not be allowed into the comfort station because there was no abuse to be tolerate it, but even with the soldiers being sober, the comfort women would still endure any form of abuse.

Throughout their lives, Korean people had to follow Confucianism to mold their society. Obeying direct orders from the emperor or military was never questioned upon. For many of the women of Asian descent being presented as an ideal wife and mother was an important factor in their live. Many of the comfort women would not be able to live the normal family life. In 1945 and 1946, when the comfort women returned to Korea, they came back axes hwanghyang nyo. To the Koreans around them, they were neither faithful nor chaste. They were not exemplary women. The families of comfort women feared the ostracism they would suffer if the shameful past was discovered; the women became extra burden, and there was little chance to marry them off. [5] . Countless Korean women victims stayed quiet and silence after the incident due to shaming the family, their word against Japan military, and they didn’t want to relive the memory. Many of the women would go on and live in shame for the rest of their lives, not only to not being married, a mother, but to live in society with shame with brutal wounds in and outside of each woman.

Lives of the Korean comfort women would forever change them after being tormented  in the comfort stations. Coming home still empty handed without the promised job to their family, carrying the scars inflicted onto them mentally and physically by the Japanese soldiers during their time of at the stations, and their forever life of being alone and feeling like a burden on their family made life real hard on the comfort victims. Decades later the Korean comfort women would not live in shame anymore but be recognize as a victim in these horrible acts inflicted onto them. Japanese officials were in denial for the longest time with the Korean comfort women incident, but with more and more reports coming out about the truth, Japan finally gave the recognition of justice that the Korean comfort women deserved.


Oral History

Howard, Keith. True Stories of the Korean Comfort Women. London:Caswell,1996, 41-49.

Kim Tolkchin family was very poor and had to move in with her uncle to survive. After the death of her father, beaten by the Japanese police, the family fell on hard times. With the hearsay of recruitment going around about job promises in Japan, Tolkchin was one of hundreds of Korean girls who got sucked in to be given a job. On her first night arriving to Nagasaki, Tolkchin was raped by a high-ranking officer and she soon realized what her new job had her doing. Having to serve thirty to forty men a day was an everyday job to the girls. Tolkchin had developed a relationship with a Japanese officer named Izumi. Izumi was nice to Tolkchin and she saw him as a male role model helping her to read and write. After the ordeal of being a comfort woman, Tolkchin had to suffer bladder infections, gallstones, and other painful suffering for the rest of her life.



Digital Museum the Comfort Women Issue and the Asian Women Funds. Who Were the Comfort Women?- The establishment of Comfort Stations. awf.or.jp, accessed on November 18, 2018.

Blakemore, Erin. The Brutal History of Japan’s Comfort Women. history.com, accessed on November 18, 2018.

Howard, Keith. True Stories of the Korean Comfort Women. London:Caswell,1996,  36.



[1] Digital Museum the Comfort Women Issue and the Asian Women Funds, Who Were the Comfort Women?-The Establishment of Comfort Stations, awf.or.jp.

[2] Erin Blakemore, The Brutal History of Japan’s Comfort Women, history.com.

[4] Keith Howard. 36.

[5] Keith Howard. 7.

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