The first comfort station was established in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1932. Earlier comfort women were Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for such service. However, as Japan continued military expansion, the military found itself short of Japanese volunteers, and turned to the local population to coerce women into serving in these stations, or abducted them.[21] Many women responded to calls for work as factory workers or nurses, and did not know that they were being pressed into sexual slavery. In the early stages of the war, Japanese authorities recruited prostitutes through conventional means. In urban areas, conventional advertising through middlemen was used alongside kidnapping. Middlemen advertised in newspapers circulating in Japan and the Japanese colonies of Korea, Taiwan, Manchukuo, and China.

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Comfort women

Comfort women were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II. The name “comfort women” is a translation of the Japanese ianfu (慰安婦),[4] a euphemism for “prostitute(s)”. Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 (by Japanese conservative historian Ikuhiko Hata) to as high as 360,000 to 410,000 (by a Chinese scholar[7]); the exact numbers are still being researched and debated.

Most of the women were from occupied countries, including Korea, China, and the Philippines.[9] Women were used for military “comfort stations” from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Taiwan (then a Japanese dependency), the Dutch East Indies, Portuguese Timor,[10][11] and other Japanese-occupied territories. Stations were located in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, then Malaya, Thailand, Burma, New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, and French Indochina.

A smaller number of women of European origin were also involved from the Netherlands[13] and Australia with an estimated 200–400 Dutch women alone. According to testimonies, young women were abducted from their homes in countries under Imperial Japanese rule. In many cases, women were lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants, or opportunities for higher education; once recruited, they were incarcerated in comfort stations both inside their nations and abroad.

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