Before and during the WWII, Japan committed innumerable horrific crimes against Korea, China and many other countries in Southeast Asia. One of the many atrocities was a brutal human right violation that has still not been properly rectified: forceful abduction and coerced sex slavery of teen girls and young women from these countries for the Japanese military. Imperial Japanese army abducted girls from their homes, work, schools or streets by coercion and deception ¬to use as sexual slaves for the military, as volunteer Japanese prostitutes were determined to be insufficient in numbers.  The popular term for these victims is ‘comfort women’, which is an incredibly misleading and diminishing euphemism for these sexual slaves who were abducted and raped countless times. The term implies and connotates that 1) these victims were adult women, but in reality, most of them were in their teenage years, and that 2) they provided ‘comfort’ to soldiers and perhaps ‘served’ a few men, when in fact they were victims to dozens of rapes daily. The evasive term is only the beginning to the bigger picture of the lack of acknowledgment and reparations that the women rightfully deserve. The abducted girls as well as their families suffered lifelong grave injustice and pain. Many of the ‘comfort women’ girls died due to STDs, health complications with pregnancies or other diseases or even killed when they were found to be too frail at the ‘comfort stations’. Even surviving victims were so ashamed to come back home and upon returning, most of them silently passed away due to old age. The estimated number of victims ranges from 20,000 to 410,000 depending on the source. The majority of these girls were taken from Korea and China.  Victims were also from seven other Southeast Asian countries (the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor), Taiwan, Netherlands and Australia. These girls were confined against their wills for a long period of time in “comfort stations” and subjected to continual rapes by lines of violent soldiers daily in various military bases of East and Southeast Asian countries. 
After reading testimonies of the hal-mu-nis1 in Comfort Women Speak, I was deeply saddened by their painful pasts--how they were abruptly separated from their families and violated mercilessly as girls around my age or even younger. I felt enraged by the grave injustice against them then and now, without acknowledgment of their victimization, to be left for their lives with the irreversible scars and no reparations. My goal is to work towards eradicating the ignorance and fallacies surrounding the issue. In this series, I will cover important information on the current status on the issue of Korean ‘comfort women’ to raise public awareness. This is my dedication to the many deceased and few surviving victims who endured unimaginable hardship and violation and yet continue bravely to fight for the redress of the injustice.

I. Japan’s Failure Over ‘Comfort Women’ provokes UN Human Right Commissioner

In July, 2014, the U.N. Human Rights Committee condemned Japan’s failure to properly deal with the ‘comfort women’ issue and demanded that they try and persecute wartime perpetrators. However, the Japanese government repeated its long-standing stance that they considered the issue resolved in a 1965 treaty between Japan and South Korea.
On August 6, 2014, Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, rebuked the Japanese government for not providing reparations to the victims of wartime sexual slavery.  
In February of 2014, Japan’s rightwing lawmakers demanded a review of the basis of the 1993 official apology, known as the Kono statement2.  The Japanese government presented a report on the study of Kono statement in June of 2014 and concluded that there was no recorded evidence showing that the ‘comfort women’ were taken by force.  This week, the current Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe and his rightwing ally accused the newspaper Asahi Shimbun of making up ‘comfort women’. The Asahi newspaper remains firm that there are so many records of the forceful recruitment of ‘comfort women’ that Japan must face history honestly instead of turning to blind nationalism. 
The denial and degradation of the ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese top government officials continues to this day, nearly 70 years after ending of the WWII.  As Pillay stated, the ‘comfort women’ issue is “a current issue, as human rights violations against these women continue to occur as long as their justice and reparation are not realized.” Pillay’s approach is the latest attempt to keep the ‘comfort women’ issue on the front burner. The South Korean government announced this week that it would publish its first white paper (official government report) on ‘Comfort Women’ in three languages - English, Chinese and Japanese. 

1. hal-mu-ni: The Korean word for grandmother or elderly woman

2. Kono statement: On August 4, 1993, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono of Japan at that time released the result of their governmental study on the issue of ‘Comfort Women’.  It stated that Japanese military was involved in the recruitment and transfer of a great number of comfort women against their own will, and kept them in misery for long periods in comfort stations which were established and managed by Japanese military. 

Sources:
Comfort Women Speak, Testimony by sex slaves of the Japanese military, Sangmie Choi Schellstede, Holmes & Meimer, 2000
The Comfort Women, Japan’s Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War, George Hicks, Norton & Company, 1994
Wall Street Journal Japan (August 7, 2014) 
Jungahng Ilbo (August 6, 2014)
 Wikipedia (August 6, 2014)