In 1932, the Japanese armys comfort stations began. The Japanese Lieutenant-General Okamura Yasuji, was trying to find a solution to the 223 reported rapes by Japanese troops. So the only solution that he could find was to ask for comfort women to be sent for his soldiers in Shanghai, China. The Japanese Army made use of comfort stations a lot until the war ended in 1945. At a typical comfort station, a soldier paid a fee, obtained a ticket and a condom, and was admitted to a woman’s space.

Pak (her surname) was about 17, living in Hamun, Korea, when local Korean officials, acting on orders from the Japanese, began recruiting women for factory work. Someone from Pak’s house had to go. In April of 1942, Korean officials turned Pak and other young women over to the Japanese, who took them into China, not into factories.

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Pak’s history is not unusual. A majority of the women who provided sex for Japanese soldiers were forcibly taken from their families, or were recruited deceptively. Sometimes family members were beaten or killed if they tried to rescue the women, most in their teens. Once the women arrived at the comfort station, they were forced to have sex, typically with 20 to 30 men a day. If they resisted, they were beaten or killed.

Nearly all of the two-and-a-half million Japanese soldiers who surrended to the Allies in 1945 would have known about the comfort system, according to George Hicks’ book The Comfort Women. However, after the war the comfort stations quickly faded from public consciousness, and for years the issue received little attention. Accounts of former comfort women reveal that many told only a few family members or no one about their experiences.

The events that led to international awareness of the issue began in 1988. In that year, Professor Yun Chung Ok of Ehwa Women’s University in Korea began to lead an activist group that conducted and presented research about the comfort women. In 1990, 37 women’s groups in Korea formed the Voluntary Service Corps Problem Resolution Council and demanded that the Japanese government admit that Korean women had been forcibly drafted to serve as comfort women, publicly apologize, fully disclose what happened, raise a memorial, compensate survivors or their families, and include the facts in historical education.

In response, the Japanese government denied that women had been forced to work at comfort stations and maintained that it was never involved in operating comfort stations. In 1991, three Korean former comfort women filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government.


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