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Korean Comfort Women Essay

2655 words - 11 pages

Comfort women, or ianfu as they are called in Korean, are females who were forced sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army (Chunghee). Some of the women were dragged off with physical force as their families wept, while others were actually sold to the army by their destitute families (Watanabe). Still other were officially drafted by the Japanese Imperial Army and believed they would be factory workers or nurses (Hwang in Schellstede 4). Some Korean village leaders were ordered to send young women to participate in "important business for the Imperial Army" (Watanabe). Many Japanese soldiers referred to comfort women as teishintai, which means “volunteer corps,” so those women who thought they would be working in a factory would not understand what the army really intended to do with them (Kim in Schallstede 25). Jungshindae was the women’s labor corps in which the women would work at a military factory and receive wages. Many women believed this was what they would be doing when they were recruited by the army (anonymous in Schellstede 103). The horrific practice of using comfort women for the army carried over from World War II to the Korean War.

Many feel that the practice of comfort women lies in discrimination on the part of the Japanese in terms of gender, ethnicity, and race. “Created through legalized prostitution based on patriarchy, colonialism, and imperialism, the system of comfort women clearly demonstrates that capitalism, sexism, and racism are linked and perpetuated both in the colonial and postcolonial eras” (Watanabe). Estimates as to how many comfort women there were range anywhere from 80,000 to 200,000, and it is believed that approximately 80% of them were Korean. Others came from the Philippines, Indonesia, China, and many other Asian-Pacific countries (Chunghee). Comfort women were often placed in hierarchies according to class and nationality. The majority of Korean women seem to have come from lower-class worker and farmer families. Korean and other Asian women were assigned to lower-ranking soldiers, while Japanese and European women were reserved for higher-ranking officers (Watanabe). This obviously portrays the condescending attitude the Japanese had toward Koreans.

Japanese military leaders formulated the concept of comfort women in order to stop soldiers from committing sexual violence towards women they might encounter. Japanese Lieutenant-General Okamura Yasuji proposed that comfort women should be shipped to Shanghai to solve the problem of 223 rapes reportedly committed by troops there (Kim). One former comfort woman reported that in some places, soldiers were so desperate for some kind of outlet for their sexual desires that they had intercourse with dogs (Kim in Schellstede 32). It is estimated that over 125 million forced sexual acts took place between Japanese soldiers and comfort women in the span of only five years (Kim). The Japanese military made soldiers pay to have sex with...

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