Definition

The Japanese Military Sexual Slavery system refers to crimes that the Japanese military committed from the 1930s to 1945 when Japan was defeated. During that period, the Japanese military systematically set up ‘military comfort stations’ by recruiting women from colonized and occupied countries and forcing them to serve as sex slaves.


Background

During the Shanghai Incident in 1932, rape by Japanese soldiers became increasingly frequent, leading to an extreme anti-Japanese sentiment in occupied regions. Also, Japanese soldiers started to get venereal infections, which interfered with the war's progress. As a result, the 'military comfort station' system was established, and women from colonized and occupied regions were drafted against their will. According to the reports on the victims registered with the Korean government, the age of victims ranged from 11 to 27. Most of them were drafted by abduction and job fraud.



‘Military Comfort Stations’

The ‘military comfort stations’ differed in their establishment, management, and recruitment of the ‘comfort women’ based on the period, location, and whether the military or a commissioned private agent ran them. However, all of them were subject to complete protection, supervision, and restriction by the Japanese military. At each ‘comfort station,’ the hours of use depended on ranks, fees, medical checkups or STIs, and other sanitary precautions were displayed. During the peak time, 20 to 30 soldiers waited in line outside the door, according to the testimonies of the former Japanese soldiers. For the safety of Japanese soldiers, ‘comfort women’ had to receive medical checkups for STIs regularly and were brutally raped even when they were having periods, pregnant, or sick. The women could not leave the ‘comfort stations’ of their own will, and even the most basic living and moving conditions were under restrictions. Records also refer to ‘comfort women’ as “gifts from the Emperor” and “sanitary public bathroom.” After Japan was defeated in 1945, ‘comfort women’ were abandoned in the countries they were taken to, dead by bombings, or were killed by the Japanese military. Survivors struggled with finding a way back home or had to give up going back home. The wounds and trauma from beatings, torture, and sexual violence in the ‘comfort stations’ left the victims in pain, unable to give birth or have a family. Furthermore, they were kept silent due to psychological trauma, ignorance, and public discrimination.


Breaking the

Silence 

Professor Youn Chung-ok presented the issue of Japanese military sexual slavery to the public during the Women and Sex Tourism Seminar in 1988. Afterward, feminist organizations cooperated in establishing the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan on November 16th, 1990. However, the Japanese government denied its involvement with the issue. On August 14th, 1991, Kim Hak-soon did the first press interview in Korea to make a public testimony that she was a survivor. Her courageous testimony gave hope to other survivors who had been silent to come out to the world. Kim Hak-soon’s testimony became a critical turning point for the resolution of the issue of Japanese military sexual slavery in Korea and the international community. Survivors who were disconnected from neighbors and 83family and unable to speak of the fact that they were victimized started to connect with other women and citizens to reveal the crimes of the Japanese government. Survivors transformed into women’s rights and peace activists who demanded the restoration of their dignity and human rights and achieving a peaceful world where no more person is victimized.