The 'Comfort Women' and their Representation in International Encyclopedias

An old paper on the so-called comfort women.

(This is a revised version of a paper I wrote for university during the summer semester 2014. As I put quite a bit of work into this paper, I did not just want to let it pass as an unpublished term paper, so here it is. It was quite a hassle to create proper html from a .doc, so please excuse inconsistencies in formatting I have missed.)


The so-called comfort women were sex slaves of the Japanese military during the Second World War from a number of countries, including most prominently China, Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan itself.1 Even if there is considerable evidence to prove that the Japanese military and its affiliates systematically coerced women and girls into so-called comfort stations, raped and abused them, many aspects of the matter are still under discussion.2

The term comfort women derives from the Japanese jugun ianfu (従軍慰安婦), literally translated to "military comfort women", whereas jugun (従軍) describes laborers in the military's service, implying that they earned money, and ianfu (慰安婦) is literally translated to comfort woman. These terms were originally used by the Japanese military during the Second World War and later on popularized by, among others, the Japanese journalist and author Senda Kako and historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi.3 Alternatively to the term comfort women, military sex slaves is used to refer to the victims by those arguing, that the euphemist implications of the term comfort women was not fit for a serious issue like this.Certainly, an advantage of the term comfort women is its precision: Military sex slaves may refer to any sex slaves, as comfort women specifically refers to those used by the Japanese during the Second World War.

But not only the right term to use is a point of debate: As this paper will show, many of those involved in the debate,such as the current Japanese military, the victims themselves and human rights groups, pursue widely differing aims. Hence, a consensus has yet to be reached regarding many aspects of the comfort women issue such as the number of victims, whether coercion was used and who exactly committed which crimes.Considering the perspective of lobbyists for the cause of the comfort women survivors,it also remains to be answered who exactly qualifies to be called a victim: Are Japanese wartime prostitutes comfort women, too? Especially Korean and Japanese feminists in the 1990s emphasized, that the issue of comfort womenis not an isolated one, but generally carries important implications for human rights.4 As explained below, the historiographical aspect of the matter may also hint at persistent racist and sexist thoughts among the different parties involved.

It took until the late 1980s and early 1990s that the issue of comfort women gained much attention. Eventually,in 1993, then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei apologized to the comfort women and textbooks where updates, so that "by 1997 almost all school history textbooks and those in related subjects included a brief reference to comfort women."5 Recently there has been a strong and partially successful neoconservative movement to eradicate references to the comfort women again in Japanese media, first of all textbooks.

Among others, a central demand of human rights activists and victim groups is that the public be informed about the issue. This exactly includes leaving or putting the references back into textbooks respectively. Hence, history textbooks and in parts other media in Japan have remained a controversial topic.6 Not only have media and political groups dealt with this matter in length, but much research has been done on especially the textbook debate, too. In contrast to this, only little research has been done on the representation of the issue in non-Japanese media. Especially in regard to its representations in encyclopedias and historical dictionaries7 there has been little if any research to this day.

Print encyclopedias are useful indicators of the perceived relevance of information in their given context, be it atemporal or a local one. Because - like any other form of printed books - they are bound by limitations of space, intensified by the extensive range of topics they cover, supposedly irrelevant information is oftentimes not mentioned. This also means that long elaborations of the possible controversies revolving around an issue are a rare find. Mostly, they can be found only with the most relevant topics, or if the article deals explicitly with them. Without space to discuss the sources the use of unconfirmed data is also hardly presentable,only the supposedly most trustworthy sources will be used. Therefore, print encyclopedias serve as a fit indicator as to what information is seen as confirmed or as to what sources are of such a great relevance, that they must be included.8

Another important component in researching encyclopedias, especially those with new, different concepts, is their role as multiplicators of information to the broad public. A most prominent example for this may be the Wikipedia, which has been among the top websites on the internet for years. Depending on which information is given by most popular and widely used sources like these, the public knowledge on an issue may vary drastically.9

This paper presents the results of a study conducted to find out, if and how the discourse revolving around the comfort women and its developments are reflected in international encyclopedias,outside of the main countries immediately involved, China, the ROC and Japan.An examination of encyclopedias from these countries and in their respective languages, despite certainly being an interesting topic, would be out of the scope of this paper. Only English language encyclopedias from these countries were included, as they are sufficiently accessible to international audiences.

As the study presented in this paper shows,just a small number of international encyclopedias deem the comfort women as sufficiently important to deal with them and their story. On the other hand,issues of arguably much less importance are discussed,given they occurred in a western context. And even among those encyclopedias that deal with the topic,the limitations set upon the range of information provided vary drastically.This paper may serve as a contribution to a number of fields of research. For historians and historiographers, the limitations set by the respective editors and authors may give hints at which sources and accounts are seen as untrustworthy or at least too controversial to be included by an international community of researchers and authors. The same applies to relevance: For instance, encyclopedias give varying accounts on the countries of origin of former comfort women. Are Thai comfort women relevant enough to be mentioned explicitly? Moreover, this paper may serve as a contribution to lexicography by depicting different ways encyclopedias cope with a highly controversial topic and its various aspects, and how this way of coping changed over time. To provide the context for presenting the study sufficiently, the history of the comfort women and the discussion of the matter since the Second World War will be recapitulated first.

On Conducting the Study

For this study 41 randomly selected print encyclopedias were examined (See table 1 and 2). For reference data and to examine possible differences between print and online encyclopedias,information from three online encyclopedias, which all contain information on the topic of comfort women, were added after. Due to the rather minimal international attention paid to the issue at hand before the early 1990s, the study focused on encyclopedias published from 1990 onwards. A few earlier titles were checked -- the earliest published in 1984 -- to validate, that before the 1990s no information on the comfort women was included. A number of encyclopedias, universal or of a seemingly relevant focus, written in English,German, Spanish or Indonesian/Malay were included in the study.

A huge majority of these encyclopedias does not provide any information about the issue at all. Because it was obviously not possible to read the complete encyclopedias, each included in the study was first checked for entries on the term and, in case there was none, information provided on related issues and terms, such as the original Japanese jugun ianfu, "Second World War", "Japanese history" and "Korean history." If there were no such entries and no information provided on the issue elsewhere in related articles, it was concluded that the encyclopedia as a whole does not provide information on the issue.

If any information regarding the comfort women could be found, the text was checked for what term is used to describe the victims, which countries of origin where mentioned, which number of victims is stated and whether the recruitment process is depicted as a coercive one, as these parts of the issue may convey important information on two questions: What information is regarded as sufficiently important to be mentioned, as for example less present countries of origin of the former comfort women, and what party of the debate revolving around the issue do the authors of the respective encyclopedias side with, as for example in case of whether a use of coercion is mentioned or not.

The History of the Comfort Women

The initial ordeals of the comfort womentook place between 1932 and 1945: According to Yoshiaki Yoshimi, one of the major researchers on the issue, the first comfort women were recruited10 for acomfort station in Shanghai, then occupied by the Japanese, in 1932.11 Japanese soldiers had raped local women, which fueled anti-Japanese feelings of the local population. The idea to use comfort women was at least in parts based on the Japanese military's practice of providing prostitutes for their troops, as could be seen already during the Siberian Intervention (from 1918 onwards)12 or even earlier, during the first Sino-Japanese War at the end of the 19^th^century.13 At first Japanese and Korean women, later on women from a variety of countries,such as China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia were recruited.14 There were two major groups of recruits during the early stages of the comfort women system: Women already employed in prostitution and girls from poor families.

Prostitution was legally sanctioned in Japan and its occupied areas and Japanese culture did not taboo it.15 This provided for Japanese prostitutes relatively easily targetable for recruitment and lowered the moral bar to setting up the comfort women system. Girls recruited from poor families were oftentimes sent away to earn money for their family's creditors or simply to earn a living for their family, and subsequently sold to recruiters of the Japanese military. Especially during the first years of the comfort women system, families did usually not know,what would happen to their daughters.16

A major turn in the history of comfort women took place after the 1937 so-called Rape of Nanking, in which Japanese troops murdered and raped Nanjing people for weeks.17 This incident caused a major outcry against Japanese politics in the international press*.* Subsequently, to prevent similar incidents from happening, the Japanese military decided to institutionalize and enforce the comfort women system: "It is essential to point out here, that the justification given for this request is the prevention of rape."18 A related, important factor is the administration's fear of spreading venereal diseases. By recruiting young, unmarried women -- preferably virgins - and making the use of condoms obligatory19 when in comfort stations, the Japanese hoped to put an end to their spreading. In fact, the comfort women system could not prevent this from happening: Oftentimes, measures taken to prevent venereal diseases spreading among the comfort women were ignored or ineffective. Venereal diseases were wide-spread among them and the Japanese soldiers.20

After the creation of this this first comfort station in Shanghai, an organized system of recruitment and distribution ofcomfort women ensued. Most comfort women were of Korean descent and their ordeals are by far the best documented. Women and young girls were either deceived under false premises or captured and consequently sent to Japanese military stations in the country or abroad under the cover of the Women's Voluntary Labor Corps.21 The cover of this Voluntary Labor Force can be seen as a kind of justification in recruiting comfort women.22 Important, too, is that the Japanese military could isolate foreign comfort women further from the public and enhance their image of voluntary prostitutes by making use of, for example, language barriers in the case of comfort women sent abroad.23Nevertheless, it needs to be noted, that the circumstances of comfort women differed from place to place. For example, in the Philippines there was no such institutional cover-up like the Women's Voluntary Labor Corps.There as well as in Indonesia there are cases of extremely violent, coercive and less organized recruitment practices documented by testimony of the victims.24 The situation in the Philippines was special in terms of comfort women's circumstances. Comfort Women in the Philippines were, according to many victims' testimony, usually recruited in very brutal ways. Common stories include, for example, the rape of young girls in front of their families and the murder of family members during the recruitment process.25 At least one witness testified to have been held in a tunnel directly next to the Japanese army's camp instead of a regular comfort station.26

There were several restrictions on the access to comfort stations. One was the differentiation between comfort stations exclusive for higher-ranking officers and those for lower-ranking ones. Regular soldiers were prohibited from accessing officer-exclusive comfort stations under the threat of draconic penalties.27 Also,according to Watanabe, comfort women in officer-exclusive comfort stations were preferably of Japanese or European descent and had better living conditions than those in regular comfort stations.28 Both forms of comfort stations were often merged towards the end of the Second World War. Officers had to pay a much higher entrance fee, matching their higher pay. To prevent soldiers and comfort women from engaging in relationships with each other, soldiers were only allowed to visit comfort stations a limited number of times a month and they had to pay a considerable amount of money in relation to their wages to have access to comfort women's services.29

As the war's end was coming closer and the Japanese military evacuated its stations, many comfort women were murdered or threatened to never talk about their live during the Second World War.30 Many documents were also destroyed to prevent the atrocities committed by Japanese forces, including the issue of comfort women, from becoming public.31

The Postwar Years: Collective Amnesia

In the years immediately after the Second World War, there was only one trial related to the comfort women issue,the Batavia Military Tribunal in what is Jakarta today. During the Batavia Military Tribunal the case of 35 Dutch women was dealt with: Their ordeals were recognized to be "forced prostitution".32 It is important to note, that „it ignored similar suffering by a much greater number of native women in Indonesia, not to mention female victims in other Asian countries."33 It took until 1991, that there was a lawsuit dealing with comfort women of Asian descent. For the next some decades after the Batavia Military Tribunal,there was in fact what has been labelled "collective amnesia"34 about the topic. Little if anything was told about the issue, and especially governments remained silent about it. Four parties are to be considered to understand this silence: The Allied forces and the victims' home countries' governments (hereinafter Allied forces), the Japanese government, the public knowledgeable about the existence of comfort women - even if much of their information may have been false - and the comfort women themselves.

Regarding the Allied forces, there are several theories as to why they did not proactively address the issue and pursue a legal prosecution of the culprits, except for the single case of the Batavia Military Tribunal. One of the possible reasons is a persistent colonial, racist mentality of the Allied forces, as illustrated by the example of the Batavia Military Tribunal. Another possible reason is, that there were new, supposedly more important, issues to deal with or preventing the issue of comfort women from being dealt with during the Cold War. Because of the extensiveness of the comfort women system, a considerable number of Japanese soldiers would have had to be sued and convicted in a trial dealing exclusively with the issue of comfort women and sexual exploitation35 during the Second World War. This could have diminished Japan's chances for economic growth and restoration further in a setting of global politics in which a strong Japan was deemed positive if not necessary for a favorable outcome of the Cold War. Subsequently, many of the victim's countries of origin had an interest in good relations with Japan after it had regained its economic power, for strong Japanese investments.36

In Korea and the Philippines, there were militant communist movements and movements to counter them. Right-wing dictatorships as in Korea, later on also in the Philippines and Indonesia, had no interest in promoting women's rights and, all the less, feminist movements.Yet, it was exactly feminist groups' support that made the late struggle of thecomfort women movement.37 Especially feminist publications argue that sexist tendencies played a role.38 Because of their own use of prostitution, the Allied forces may have encountered problems in addressing sex-related crimes. For example, South Korea used sex tourism as a catalyst for economic growth in the 1960s and a large number of prostitutes served the US army in Korea during the Korea War, in Thailand during the Vietnam War and in the Philippines until the closure of the Subic Naval Base and the Clark Air Base in 1992.

In Korea and Japan, the issue plays a major role in nationalist discourses. Japanese nationalist forces try to deny or ignore and, if that is impossible, downplay the issue to escape from the perceived shame inflicted on Japan by its military's acts. Because of this stance of Japanese nationalists and because of their political strength, the issue is very rarely dealt with in the media.39 The Japanese government, too, has still to officially admit that coercive measures were taken by Japanese military staff in the recruitment of comfort women to this day.40

Nationalist attitudes combined with patriarchal conceptions of what a woman has to act and be like may not only have led to governments not pressing the issue, but they definitely influenced the broad public and the comfort women's own further acts around it41: In Korea, as with many other countries the former comfort women come from, the issue of comfort women was also seen as shameful to the nation for along of time.42 At least in Korea and the Philippines, the idea that a woman raped was sullied,a "dishonor"43 to her family and not marriable, persisted and does in parts still persist.44 Urged by their families to conceal their ordeals and marry soon45, many former comfort women's married life became severely strained and eventually ended after their husbands learned of what had happened to them during the Second World War.46

Venereal diseases and forced abortions further diminished comfort women's livelihood. Many died from them during the Second World War and even after, many victims kept struggling with their diseases and their aftereffects.47 Especially noteworthy is that many victims lost their ability to give birth.48 This led to further discrimination and social marginalization, based on female role models placing women as mothers and protectors of their families.49

In most areas occupied by the Japanese, comfort women were usually held in so-called comfort stations: Hoods or barracks usually secluded from, but supervised by, the Japanese military garrisons and the public's view.50 This was an attempt to keep the existent of these comfort women and their conditions secret. In fact, many people that knew of their existence thought that the comfort women willfully collaborated with the Japanese and led a good life and received decent pay for their work. Actually,most if not all did receive nothing but the most basic things to survive, such as food and clothes though.51 This conception of the comfort women as voluntary servants combined with the idea that raped women were a disgrace very likely contributed to the public's silence about the issue.

This remains a point to debate until today.The perception of prostitution as a shameful activity is of utmost importance in deciding which term was appropriate, for example military sex slaves versuscomfort women. Former comfort women refused the term for its implication of voluntariness. Contrastingly some researchers use it consciously, indiscriminately of whether recruitment took place voluntarily or involuntarily, arguing, that on the one hand such a differentiation may contribute to a continuation and reproduction of sexist approaches on gender,sex and the role of prostitution and that on the other hand, no matter how they were recruited, the circumstances of comfort women did not differ notably.52 Emphasizing the differences between voluntarily recruited, despite having to live under circumstances just as bad, and involuntary comfort women, as, according to Pyong Gap Min, also done by some Korean activists, does not only reproduce questionable ideological views, but it also leads to a split within the comfort women movement.53 This may lead to a partial exclusion of Japanese former comfort women, which in turn would weaken them in demanding compensation.

Furthermore, as explained above, most comfort women were recruited from poor families. Many probably had simply not the means to speak out about the issue or keep up a long fight for their demands.54 The fact that comfort women imprisoned together were often prohibited from talking to each other and had to use Japanese names further intensified their isolation during and after the Second World War. Not only did this increase the trauma suffered by the victims, but it also prevented them from getting to know each other better and possibly form groups to tell their stories and join hands in making their demands.55

Last but not least, the idea that rape and other gender based crimes were a natural consequence of war or a plain necessity in conflicts was prevailing.56

Breaking the Silence

All these factors may give an explanation to the relative absence of the issue in the media and public discourse for at least 20 to 25 years until the 1970s:

"A number of reports, diaries, and memoirs published in Japan during and after World War II mentioned military comfort facilities on various war fronts and throughout territories occupied by Japanese imperial forces. In these writings, the term ianfu (comfort women) was a euphemism for prostitutes who provided sex to men in service. Although the story had no place in Japan's official war history, it was told and retold privately as a nostalgic (and sometimes romantic) episode in men's memoirs and novels."57

In the 1970s, the Japanese journalist and author Senda Kako started publishing non-fiction books on the issue, which gained a lot of attention. Other authors in both Japan and South Korea followed soon after, but this did not yet trigger any political reactions.58

The first major article about comfort women was published by Matsui Yayori in Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's largest newspapers after interviewing an unnamed Korean former comfort woman.Even if the article did not yet gain much attention, Korean researchers pick edit up and started working more on the topic after the end of South Korea's dictatorship in 1987. From 1988 onwards, after extensive research on her own and consultation with Matsui, South Korean scholar Yun Chung-ok "wrote a series of reports on the issue for a Korean newspaper."59 These reports boosted awareness of the issue and caused an outcry by the public and political groups, which in return forced the Japanese government to react.60

Women rights groups managed to raise further awareness of and political pressure regarding the issue in the context of the 1990 state visit of South Korean President Roh Tae Woo to Japan.61 The Japanese government continued to refuse acknowledging any involvement of the military in the issue, "insisting on its official position of regarding the institution of military 'comfort stations' as private enterprise."62

Finally, in 1991, Kim Hak-sun, was the first former comfort woman to speak out publicly about her ordeals.63 It is important to note, that she waited until she was the only member of her family remaining.64This may have at least contributed to her willingness to give testimony.Subsequently, many more former comfort women from various countries,gave testimony and a series of lawsuits in front of the Tokyo High Court and the Japanese Supreme Court ensued.65 In December 1991 the first of these was filed by Kim and two other Korean former comfort women, backed by civil society, first of all in Korea.66 Further lawsuits included, among others, that by Philippine women in 1993 and that by Taiwanese women in 1999.67 In 1993 the South Korea government announced its support of the former comfort women's demand for clarification and an earnest apology, but that it would not seek financial compensation. It also started paying compensation to the victims. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono reacted by issuing a statement (usually referred to as Kono Statement) expressing his apology to the former comfort women.68

An important factor in triggering the Kono Statement had been that Yoshiaki Yoshimi found Japanese military documents giving evidence for the existence of comfort women in the Japanese Self Defense Forces' archives. Further research by international researchers was in turn fueled by the Kono Statement. The early 1990s' Rwanda Civil War and Yugoslavia Wars gave a new, global dimension to the issue, setting it in context with gender based crime in war.69 This new dimension broadened the range of disciplines dealing with the topic, as for example more and more law experts came to mind it, and internationalized the research conducted on it. Eventually, in 1998, sexual slavery was added to the list of war crimes in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.70

Nevertheless it has to be noted, that the majority of research conducted on the comfort women issue was and is centered on Korean victims. Most documents probably deal with them, and they enjoy a broad backing from civil society organizations, and in parts the government, as explained above. Comparatively little research can be found on comfort women from less prominently named areas, such as Burma, where comfort women survivors also do not enjoy as strong a civil society backing.

One consequence of the Kono Statement was the foundation of the AMF (Asian Women's Fund), funded mainly by private donations. Its aim was to pay compensation to former comfort women and to teach the public about their existence and circumstances.71 Nevertheless, both, the AMF and the Kono Statement led to a serious discourse within organizations of former comfort women: Because it was just Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono as a private person and not the whole government who apologized, and because the AWF was not paid for primarily with state money,many former comfort women refused to accept them. The Japanese government had and has still to give an official, legally binding apology passed by the parliament.72

The next crucial event resolving around thecomfort women issue took place in 2000. The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery (Hereinafter Tokyo Women's Tribunal), primarily organized by former comfort women and human rights activists, met to discuss the issue in a setting at least resembling a legal one. Nevertheless, the Tokyo Women's Tribunal had no official legal backing,and consequently its extensive conclusions were not binding, even if the procedures of a regular war tribunal were followed and many people involved informer war tribunals such as the Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunal took over key positions in the Tokyo Women's Tribunal.73 Despite wide international press coverage and support, the Tokyo Women's Tribunal was answered with harsh criticism from Japanese neo-nationalists and was widely ignored by Japanese media. A documentary about the tribunal by Japan's national broadcasting NHK was only aired after radical editing, after a visit of the current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, then Deputy Chief Secretary, to NHK higher-ups. This visit in turn led researchers and commentators to question the neutrality of Japanese media.74 Since then, there have been several attempts by Japanese officials to revise or ignore the Kono Statement in regard to whether coercion was used when recruiting comfort women, and in which form the military was involved,especially since Shinzo Abe was elected in 2006.

One last notable event is the final step to internationalizing the issue: United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121 (Hereinafter H.R. 121). Activists hoped to raise the international pressure applied on the Japanese Government by involving the US and other seemingly uninvolved nations. Subsequently a broad front of representatives of civil society in the US and abroad, along with some senators pushed forward the resolution. It expresses the US' support for the demands of former comfort women for an official apology, a refusal of all claims that the comfort women system never existed and that teachers would teach their students about the issue.75 It was introduced to the US House of Representatives in 2007 and passed 2007and 2014 by the US House of Representatives and Congress respectively.76

Several crucial points about the comfort women issue are still up for discussion and further research. Besides the debate about the use of coercion already mentioned above, there is the question of how many comfort women existed. "[E]stimates vary from 20,000 to 400,000, though a careful study by historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki suggests a narrower range of between 50,000 and 200,000."77 This estimate, 50000 to 200000, is the one mentioned by most researchers on the topic, as well as by most encyclopedias giving a number that were found by the study presented in this paper. No matter the estimated number, a consensus has almost been reached among international scholars in estimating the relative number of Korean former comfort women at around 80 percent of the victims.78 This estimate is also most presently stated in the encyclopedias examined for this paper.

The Representation of the Issue in International Encyclopedias and Historical Dictionaries

As mentioned above, 41 print encyclopedias,published after 1984, from a wide range of academic fields and supposedly universal ones were checked for this study. As illustrated in table 1, only six out of these 41 print encyclopedias contain information on the issue of comfort women. Especially with those encyclopedias published for local markets outside of the immediately affected areas, it is to be assumed, that the issue was regarded as of not enough relevant to be included. In fact, none of the examined print encyclopedias from Germany79 and Spain contained information about the comfort women. Malaysian and Japanese did not contain any information regarding the issue either. Especially with Japanese encyclopedias, political considerations may have been a possible reason, even if those checked were both published before 1999, when the issue had not yet gained as much attention.

Also, only one of the print encyclopedias,which deal with the issue, has a universal approach (The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World). Contrastingly, half of the encyclopedias -- Singapore:The Encyclopedia, Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East Timor and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide: Asia and Oceania - are Asian studies related ones and the remainder consists of topically related encyclopedias, historiography, gender studies or human rights related ones. This may lead to the conclusion, that the issue did not yet make it fully to the international arena until at least the mid-2000s. Actually, this may have changed with the introduction of H. Res. 121 (2007), the first time US representatives became actively involved in the debate around comfort women, to the US' House of Representatives though,as the one universal encyclopedia that contains information on the issue was also the only print encyclopedia found to do so after the resolutions passing at all. Despite not necessarily mentioning it directly, all online encyclopedias checked were updated after H. Res. 121 had been passed, and with only one exception (The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia) they were universal ones.

In terms of time, a general trend can be seen in the number of publications dealing with the issue rising from 1999 onwards. Reasons may be the introduction of sexual slavery to the catalogue of war crimes or, more likely, the Tokyo Women's Tribunal. Because interestingly those encyclopedias that do contain information on the issue are all comparatively short works, it is not likely that their editing times were extensive enough to make the AWF's creation likely to be the triggering reason.Another fact speaking in favor of the Tokyo Women's Tribunal giving a bump to the perceived relevance of the issue is that the earliest of the encyclopedias examined containing an own article on the issue was published almost right after, in 2001, and that those, that deal with the topic and were published after, do all feature a separate article except for one exception. (Table 2)

Die große Bertelsmann Lexikothek 1985-
Meyers Großes Taschenlexikon 1987-
Encyclopedia of Asian History11988-
Das neue Duden Lexikon21989-
Dictionary of the Second World War11989-
Encyclopedia of the Second World War11989-
Information China11989-
The Cambridge Encyclopedia11990-
BI Universallexikon21991-
The Historical Dictionary of Singapore11991-
Historical Dictionary of Indonesia11992-
Collier's Encyclopedia 1993-
Japan - An Illustrated Encyclopedia11993-
Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan11993-
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Japan11993-
The Columbia Encyclopedia51993-
Webster's New World Encyclopedia 1993-
Meyers neues Lexikon 1994-
Encyclopedia Americana 1995-
Ensiklopedia Malaysiana 1995-
Harenberg Kompaktlexikon 1996-
Nueva Enciclopedia del Mundo - 36 Tomos - 1998-
The Kodansha Bilingual Encyclopedia of Japan11998-
Encyclopedia of China11999-
Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical Writing119991314
Censorship - A World Encyclopedia12001555-556
Das große China Lexikon 2003-
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania12003259; 260; 435
Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East Timor1200443; 374-375
Encyclopedia Britanica152005-
Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture12005-
Historical Dictionary of the Philippines22005-
Japan Encyclopedia12005-
Brockhaus Enzyklopädie212006-
Encyclopedia of Singapore12006-
Singapore - The Encyclopedia12006137
The Encyclopedia of Malaysia12006-
The Encyclopedia of the Overseas Chinese12006-
The Penguin Encyclopedia32006-
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World 2008256-257
Encyclopedia Britanica152010-
Table 1: Print encyclopedias examined(Blanks in case of unavailable information; no page given means no information found)
TitleOwn Entry
Censorship - A World EncyclopediaX
Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical Writing
Singapore - The EncyclopediaX
Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East TimorX
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern WorldX
Table 2: Print encyclopedias checked, that contain information on the issue by whether they feature the issue in a separate article.
The Pacific War Encyclopedia - 17:59
Encyclopedia Britannica Online - 21:26
Wikipedia80 - 19:41
Table 3: Online Encyclopedias examined.

Curiously, unlike in the academic discussion revolving around the topic, all encyclopedias examined used the termcomfort women. Their use of quotation marks when using the term comfort women (Table 4), be it more or less consistent, most likely indicates a consciousness of the problems in naming the victim. Encyclopedia editors and writers found a similar solution as most researchers: Many give an account of the original term (ianfu or jugun ianfu; see above), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World even discusses the usage of the term and possible alternatives in its article. Nevertheless, even there, the most widely used referral remains "comfort women."

TitleTerm Used
Censorship - A World Encyclopedia"comfort women"; jūgun i'anfu
Encyclopaedia Britanica Onlinecomfort women; military comfort women; juguns ianfu (sic!)
Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical Writingcomfort Women;wi'anbu; ianfu
Singapore - The Encyclopediacomfort Women
Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East Timor"comfort women"; comfort women
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania"comfort women"
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World"comfort women"; "military comfort women" (jügun ianfu); ianfu; "voluntary labor corps" (chôngsindae); "military sex slaves"
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia"comfort women"; comfort women
Wikipediacomfort women; ianfu
Table 4: Encyclopedias checked by terms used to describe*comfort women*.

When looking at the stated number of victims, the regarding encyclopedias give very different information (Table 4).It is to be assumed, that this can be attributed to different approaches regarding unconfirmed data, too. The average value of the numbers stated always remains within a range of 100000 and 150000 victims with only one exception.The Wikipedia gives account of a much wider range of an estimation:Probably due to the lack of limitations set by printing costs and space, a number of estimations, ranging from 20000 to 410000 victims, are mentioned. The most extreme of these are by far the highest and the lowest number of victims to be found in any of the encyclopedias included in this study. Similarly, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World gives a relatively broad range of an estimate. Here, too, it is likely that a wide range was chosen to give safety of accurate information. A totally contrasting approach is not giving full information or none at all, as for example the Encyclopedia of Historians& Historical Writing does not give any estimate for the number of victims. Special is the case of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania, which not only gives a relatively high estimate, but does so regarding Korean victims only, which subsequently leads to a very high estimate if victims from other countries are taken into account. Nevertheless, no information is provided on the number of victims of anon-Korean descent. In terms of the publication date, a shift from giving no information, to giving a comparatively exact estimation and finally to giving a wider range of numbers again is to be recognized.

TitleNumber of Victims - MinimumNumber of Victims - Maximum
Censorship - A World EncyclopediaN/A200000
Encyclopaedia Britanica Online80000200000
Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical WritingN/AN/A
Singapore - The Encyclopedia~100000~100000
Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East Timor50000200000
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania81100000200000
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World20000200000
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia40000200000
Table 5: Encyclopedias checked by number of victims.

Korean former comfort women are not only the most researched group, they are also the only one mentioned by all encyclopedias. Other countries of origin mentioned oftentimes are the Philippines and China. This may be due to the extremeness of the crimes done there, the comparatively large number of outspoken victims in the case of the Philippines and the close relation of the comfort women issue with the Rape of Nanking. The Rape of Nanking has been an integral part in mainland Chinese nation building, and the Chinese government has asserted much pressure on the Japanese government in its context.82

Curiously, Japanese women are only mentioned as victims in about half the examined encyclopedias. A demand for clear cut lines between victims and victimizers comes to mind first. Other possible reasons include the incomplete collaboration between Japanese and Korean survivors and the perceived different legal situation they find themselves in, as Japanese citizens are first and foremost subjects to Japanese national law, not immediately to international laws.

Interesting, too, is the high number of occasions on which Dutch victims are mentioned and contrastingly the low number references to Thai women. The frequent mentioning of Dutch women may be attributed to Ruff O'Herne's great prominence. Together with Kim Hak-sun and Rosa Henson, she is arguably the most well-known former comfort woman.Another reason may be, that the Batavia Military Tribunal's results can serve as an official framework to confirm and validate the information given about the existence and circumstances of Dutch military sex slaves of the Japanese during their occupation of Southeast Asia. It needs to be mentioned though,that even these do or may carry a racist component. It remains to be answered,why exactly Ruff O'Herne is such a prominent spokesperson for the comfort women's cause. Likely is, that her different social and racial backgrounds do still give her relevance when dealing with international audiences: Seeing for example Korean women or Filipinas demonstrate for justice gives rise to the assumption, that the comfort women issue were an inner-Asian one; seeing a Caucasian victim may make it easier to understand the issue's international relevance. As explained above, racial mechanisms were also at work in the set-up of the Batavia Military Tribunal as no victims of native Indonesian83 descent where dealt with. Contrastingly, Thai victims may be so rarely dealt with for a lack of research, which in turn may be caused by the positive stance many Thai people have towards the Japanese today and in the past.

A development can be seen in the descent of victims stated, too: The newer the sources, the more concrete information are given, and the more countries are mentioned explicitly. As the 1999 Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical Writing only mentions "from the Japanese colonies" and remains not concrete, Censorship - A World Encyclopedia (2001)only mentions two countries explicitly, Indonesia and Korea. Five or more different countries of origin are mentioned explicitly by the 2008' Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World and all online encyclopedias included in the study, with the only exception of the Encyclopedia Britannica Online. In the case of online encyclopedias, there is obviously no need to keep articles short, as in contrast to print encyclopedias printing costs et cetera do not need to be considered anymore. At the same time, it may be concluded that,this, too, is an aftereffect of the Tokyo Woman's Tribunal. The Tokyo Women's Tribunal published its judgement in December 2001, at the same time releasing the results of its extensive studies conducted on paper.84

Censorship - A World Encyclopedia X  X
Encyclopaedia Britanica Online XXX 
Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical Writing XXXX
Singapore - The Encyclopedia XXXX
Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East TimorXXX X
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania X   
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern WorldXXX X
The Pacific War Online EncyclopediaXXX  
Table 6: Encyclopedias checked by countries of origin mentioned.[^85]
TitleVietnameseBurmeseFilipinoFrom Malaya or MalaysianDutchThai
Censorship - A World Encyclopedia
Encyclopaedia Britanica Online
Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical WritingXXXX 
Singapore - The EncyclopediaXXXXX
Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East Timor85XXXXX 
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania  X   
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World86  XXX 
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia  X X 
Table 6 (continued)

Last but certainly not least, the issue of coercion remains. All encyclopedias at least suggest that coercion was used in the context of comfort women. Interestingly, it is not the two -- in the widest sense - historiographical encyclopedias that try to couch their statement that coercion was used. None of the encyclopedias did question extensive brutality in dealing with comfort women, and so it may be said that there is, at least in international encyclopedias that take up the issue,a consensus, that the comfort women system served to severely abuse women as sex slaves for the Japanese military in the Second World War.

TitleCoercion stated
Censorship - A World Encyclopedia~
Encyclopaedia Britanica OnlineX
Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical WritingX
Singapore - The EncyclopediaX
Southeast Asia - A Historical Encyclopedia: From Angkor Wat to East TimorX
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and OceaniaX
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern WorldX
The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia~
Table 7: Encyclopedias by statement on use of coercion, where "X" means that a use of coercion is stated and "~" means that not as clear an account is given regarding the use of coercion in recruiting *comfort women*.

A number of conclusions may be drawn from this study. Focusing on the lexicographic aspects, a trend to more lengthy articles offering comparatively extensive information is to be recognized. A likely reason is the emergence of electronic encyclopedias, most specifically the Wikipedia with its new, more comprehensive (even if less controlled)approach.  Also, Smelser's description of encyclopedias' traditional approaches "embod[ying]  some kind of 'integrative impulse' -- to symbolize civilizational progress, to express the unity of positive knowledge[...].87 has to be limited further. This "positive knowledge" is comprised differently,obviously, depending on the authors' and editors' contexts: In the comfort women's case, encyclopedias that do not discuss for example the number of victims ignore lower and higher estimates, as expressed in arguably biased sources like Hata's writing on the comfort women.88 Especially in Japan Hata and his writing on comfort women are well acknowledged though,even if his count of comfort women differs much from that of other researchers like Yoshimi. Consequently, it shall be concluded, that the "positive knowledge" strived to be presented is limited to what may trustworthy in the authors' settings.  By this, what has been described as a, at least in parts, racist and sexist perspective is usually reproduced in and by encyclopedias.

This study also hints at the development in the reception of comfort women. At first the issue was ignored, but key events like the Tokyo Women's Tribunal managed to push the matter closer to an international audience's vision. Nevertheless it is most probably this already mentioned ignorance that is the most important finding of this study, the validation that the issue of the comfort women took a long time to become what may be referred to as common knowledge in an international setting.Even after the Kono Statement, it took another six years for the first international encyclopedia to deal with the topic. Encyclopedias from seemingly unrelated countries like Germany remain ignorant of the issue.

Final Remarks and Suggestions for Further Research

The study presented in this paper was not intended to be seen as extensive, it is meant to be seen as an initial study.By only including a relatively small number of encyclopedias, it may not be able to give final answers to the questions driving it, but it does give hints at what these answers may look like. In case they deal with controversial topics like the comfort women, encyclopedias give broader and broader information. Nevertheless, many do still have a Eurocentric perspective, visible in the relatively little number of encyclopedias dealing with the topic and in parts the information presented. Finally the effect of far-reaching events like the Tokyo Women's Tribunal or the introduction of H. Res. 121 is notable.

The potentials of a study of encyclopedias regarding the matter of comfort women have been shown, nevertheless, the limitations of such a study need to be noted, too. These limitations lie primarily in trying to gain information from encyclopedias published in the victims' countries of origin: Many of these countries were colonies and are still developing countries where publishers have very limited funds and much less encyclopedias are published than in the first world. Other after effects have to be taken into account, too.

Especially the case of the Philippines maybe highlighted here, as there are extremely few encyclopedias made in the Philippines -- those, who can afford to buy an encyclopedia, are with very few if any exceptions literate in the English language, and the production costs of encyclopedias are too high to make an encyclopedia's creation economically reasonable given the small target audience. Hence, most encyclopedias to be found in the Philippines are reprints of British or US products. This ultimately leads to a situation, in which the specific view of Filipino publishers, editors, authors et cetera is barely represented. In this specific case, research on other forms of media may be more rewarding.

Not only a comparison with Philippine media in general may be of interest, but also further research into encyclopedias from other countries not as present in the initial study presented here: Only one encyclopedia from Malaysia was included, and it does not contain information on the comfort women. Consequently, the question remains, whether other Malaysian encyclopedias contain information on the comfort women issue. If not, it would remain to be researched which specific circumstances keep Malaysian authors from depicting the issue in a time in which even many US-American ones deal with the topic.

Especially the way Korean encyclopedias deal with the comfort women may give valuable information, too. As has been explained beforehand, there is almost a consensus that most comfort women came from Korea; it was Korean women who came out publicly first and who filed the first lawsuits, and the government of the Republic of Korea supported the Korean comfort women in their struggle for acknowledgement and compensation. It is very likely, that information in Korean encyclopedias differs much from that in those examined here -- in case they deal with the issue - and, on the other hand, that a much larger number of Korean encyclopedias do actually deal with the issue. In turn, comparing research on data from, say, Malaysian encyclopedias and Korean ones may give valuable information on how different peoples cope with their past.

Finally, encyclopedias from the former Yugoslavia's countries may be a point to further research. Drawing from the results of the study presented in this paper, it seems likely that, like German encyclopedias, they will not deal with the comfort women. Information on activists' success in setting the topic into a broader context by relating it to war crimes committed during the Yugoslavia War may be found out by examining encyclopedias from these countries.


Because it is still the most common and arguably most precise term to describe military sex slaves in territory occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, the term comfort women will be used throughout this paper. Nevertheless, it will be set in italics due to the ongoing controversy about its use. Other groups of victims include Thais, Burmese, Indonesians, Malaysians, women from then French Indochina and a small number of Dutch women.


C.f.: Yoshiaki Yoshimi, Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II, trans.Suzanne O'Brien (New York:Columbia University Press, 2000) and George Hicks, The Comfort Women:Japan's Brutal Regime of Enforced Prostitution in the Second World War (NewYork: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1995)


Yoshiko Nozaki, The "Comfort Women" Controversy: History and Testimony, Accessed: 13.05.2014, 19:03


Kazuko Watanabe, Trafficking in Women's Bodies, Then and Now: The Issue of Military "Comfort Women". Women's Studies Quarterly 27, 1/2 (1999), 26.

Generally caution is advised when dealing with this source as a great number of generalizations, in parts incorrect, have been used. "Confucianism, which is the basis for the patriarchal system in Asian countries, has created a cultural double standard." (Watanabe, Trafficking in Women's Bodies: 23) For example in the Philippines, which are the country of origin of many former comfort women and many sex workers in modern day Japan (continuities between these two groups are the main issue of the article), it is very questionable whether Confucianism really lays the foundation for any form of local culture, except for that of Chinese minority groups that have not yet been integrated into society.


Nozaki, The "Comfort Women" Controversy.


C.f.: Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Free Speech - Silenced Voices: The Japanese Media and the NHK Affair, Asia Rights 4(2005)


Hereinafter, the term encyclopedias is used to refer to both encyclopedias and historical dictionaries.


Neil J. Smelser, On Compiling a New Encyclopedia, Daedalus 131, 1 (2002), 151-154.


C.f.: Darren Crovitz and W. Scott Smoot, Wikipedia: Friend, Not Foe, The English Journal 98, 3 (2009): 90-92.


The term recruiting is meant to be as neutral as possible regarding the matter of coercion. As there are still people denying a forceful recruitment of comfort women, this neutral term is deemed necessary.


Yoshimi, Comfort Women, 45-47.




Pyong Gap Min,  Korean "Comfort Women": The Intersection of Colonial Power, Gender, and Class, Gender & Society 17 (December 2003),948.


C.f.: Min, Intersection of Colonial Power, 941. This source mentions Dutch women from Indonesia explicitly. It does not mention Chinese victims, which are among the most often mentioned in encyclopedia articles (table 5).


See: Sheldon Garon, The World's Oldest Debate? Prostitution and the State in Imperial Japan, 1900-1945, American Historical Review 98, 3(1993), 710-32.


Ustinia Dolgopol, Women's Voices, Women's Pain. Human Rights Quarterly 17, 1 (1995), 131. This issue is of special importance regarding the debate on responsibility and coercion.


Yoshimi, Comfort Women, 43-47.


Ibid.; See also: Carmen M. Argibay, Sexual Slavery and the Comfort Women of World War II, Berkeley Journal of International Law 21, 2(2003), 377.


Michelle Park, Defining Responsibility for Sexual Assault - War Crimes Committed in the Second World War, Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs 8, 1 (2008), 25.


Yoshimi, Comfort Women, 48.


Korean comfort women were shipped as far as Rabaul in modern day Papua New Guinea. See: Gordon Thomas, Rabaul 1942-1945, typescript ms: 96,quoted after Hank Nelson, The New Guinea Comfort Women, Japan and the Australian Connection: out of the shadows (May 2007),, Accessed: 26.04.2014, 19:46. See also: Min, Intersection of Colonial Power, 945,951.


Chunghee Sarah Soh, The Korean "Comfort Women": Movement for Redress*, Asian Survey* 36, 12 (1996), 1228.


C.f.: Nelson, New Guinea Comfort Women.


"Statement of Jan Ruff O'Herne AO", Hearing on Protecting the HumanRights of "Comfort Women" (15.02.2007),, accessed: 20.05.2014, 11:50.


Nelia Sancho (ed.), War Crimes on Asian Women: Military Sexual Slavery by Japan During World War II -- The Case of the Filipino Comfort Women(Part II) (Unknown Place: Asian Women Rights Council India Regional Secretariat and Manila Secretariat, 1998), 61-64. Stories like these can be found elsewhere, too; the difference lays in their frequency in the Philippine case.


Sancho, War Crimes, 75-80.


Nelson, New Guinea Comfort Women.

90 Watanabe, Trafficking in Women's Bodies, 20-21.


See: Nelson, New Guinea Comfort Women and Dolgopol, Women's Voices, 136.


Maki Arakawa, New Forum for Comfort Women: Fighting Japan in United States Federal Court, Berkely Women's Law Journal 16, 1 (2001), 180.


Yvonne Park Hsu, "Comfort Women" from Korea: Japan's World War IISex Slaves and the Legitimacy of their Claims for Reparations. Pacific RimLaw & Policy Journal 2, 1 (1993), 101.


Chunghee Sarah Soh, "Japan's Responsibility Toward Comfort Women Survivors", JPRI Working Paper, 77 (2001),, accessed: 20.05.2014, 11:02


Soh, Responsibility.


Kelly D. Askin, Comfort women: Shifting shame and stigma fromvictims to victimizers, International Criminal Law Review 1 (2001), 24.


Here, the term sexual exploitation may refer to both sexual slaveryand rape. See: Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome:1998).


C.f.: Roger Dingman. The Diplomacy of Dependency: The Philippines and Peacemaking with Japan, 1945--52. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 17, 2 (1986), 307-321


For example, in the Philippines, GABRIELA, the most major feminist group of the country and the Women's Desk of BAYAN, a leftist party, were involved in the work of the Taskforce of Filipina Victims of Military Slavery by Japan. See: Taskforce of Filipina Victims of Military Slavery Secretariat, Primeron Filipina "Comfort Women": Questions and Answers (Quezon City: Taskforce of Filipina Victims of Military Slavery by Japan, 1992), 2.


Min, Intersection of Colonial Power, 940-942.


Morris-Suzuki, Free Speech.


Tokudome Kinue, The Japanese Apology on the "Comfort Women" Cannot Be Considered Official: Interview with Congressman MichaelHonda, (2007), 14.05.2014, 16:21.


C.f.: Min, Intersection of Colonial Power, 948-949.


Yayo Okano, Toward Resolution of the Comfort Women Issue---The 1000th Wednesday Protest in Seoul and Japanese Intransigence, The Asia-Pacific Journal10, 50, 2 (December 10, 2012)


Myrna Elizabeth P. Borromeo, Media for Justice and Healing - The Case of Philippine Comfort Women Survivors, Review of Women's Studies 20, 1/2 (2010), 88.


A contemporary account on this phenomenon can be found at: Bella Ellwood-Clayton, Maria Clara, Manila Girl & the other Mary - Premarital Sexin the Catholic Philippines - Constructions of Seduction. Pilipinas: A Journal of Philippine Studies 46 (2006), 10.


See: Maria Rosa Henson, Comfort Woman -- Slave of Destiny(Pasig City: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, 1996), 97. For asimilar account regarding Korean women's case, see: Borromeo, Media for Justice and Healing: 95. Interestingly, Soh mentions a related case even with Dutch victims (Soh, Movement for Redress, 1229).


As an example may serve Remedios Estorninos Felias' testimony:Sancho, War Crimes, 71.


Min, Intersection of Colonial Power, 941.


Askin, Shifting Shame, 19.


Park, Defining Responsibility, 26.


Yoshimi*, Comfort Women,* 131-135 and Min, Intersection ofColonial Power, 941.


Askin, Shifting Shame, 15.


Maki Kimura, Listening to Voices: Testimonies of "Comfort Women" of the Second World War. New Working Paper Series 8 (London: London School of Economics, Gender Institute, 2003), 2.


Min, Intersections of Colonial Power, 939.


Yoshiaki Yoshimi assumes, that most of the women accepting the AWF were probably poor Filipinas, "who have little hope of receiving any form of aid from their own government." (Yoshimi, Comfort Women, 24)


C.f.: Sancho, War Crimes, 75-80 and Watanabe, Trafficking in Women's Bodies, 23-24.


This does not only include systematic rape, but any form of rape.As an example may serve this account from a 1943 intelligence report: "Raping of native women seems to have been fairly common in the Buna Area, but it was condoned by the men who seemed to accept it as the normal thing in war." See: Report on Native Conditions in Rabaul. NAA Victoria B3476: 24, quoted after Nelson, New Guinea Comfort Women.


Nozaki, The "Comfort Women" Controversy. The first sentence contains a reference to Takasaki,Ryuji (ed.). 1994. Hyakusatsu ga Kataru "Ianjyo" Otoko no Honne: Ajia-zeniki ni "Inanjyo" ga Atta [The "comfort facility" and men's confessions told in one hundred books: There were "comfort facilities" all over Asia]. Tokyo: Nashinokisha. This reference has been omitted from the text for an enhanced readability.


Nozaki, The "Comfort Women" Controversy.


Nozaki, The "Comfort Women" Controversy.


Nozaki, The "Comfort Women" Controversy and Soh, Movement for Redress, 1226-1240.


Soh, Movement for Redress, 1232.




Publicly means non-anonymously here. A few former comfort women told their stories as early as the 1980s, but in those cases they chose to remain anonymous. See.: Nozaki, The "Comfort Women" Controversy.


Askin, Shifting Shame, 13.


Soh, Movement for Redress, 1233.


For a list of very early lawsuits of former comfort women,see: Etsuro Totsuka, Commentary on a Victory for "Comfort Women":Japan's Judicial Recognition of Military Sexual Slavery, Pacific Rim Law& Policy Journal 8, 1 (1999), 49.  


It needs to be noted, that there were also more lawsuit by other organizations and former comfort women from Korea and the Philippines.Those mentioned are the initial ones from women of the regarding countries.


Soh, Movement for Redress, 1236.


Ruki Sakamoto, The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery: A Legal and Feminist Approach to the 'Comfort Women' Issue. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 3, 1 (2001), 49-50.


Askin, Shifting Shame, 7.


Shellie K. Park, Broken Silence - Redressing the Mass Rape and Sexual Enslavement of Asian Women by the Japanese Government in an Appropriate Forum, Asia-Pacific Law & Policy Journal 3, 1 (2002), 43-44.


Kinue, The Japanese Apology.


Sakamoto, Legal and Feminist Approach, 49.


C.f.: Morris-Suzuki, Free Speech.


H. Res. 121. July 30 2007. (Passed version).


Hyun Park, Bill related to comfort women passed in US congress, The hankyoreh (January 17, 2014)., accessed: 21.05.2014, 20:39


Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Policy Forum 07-025: Comfort women: It's timefor the truth (in the ordinary, everyday sense of the word), APSNet PolicyForum (December 01, 2007), available at:


C.f.: Soh,Movement for Redress, 1227.

It needs to be mentioned, that there are still voices questioning this information, most prominently Ikuhiko Hata, who also estimates the number of comfort women much lower than most other important researchers on the issue and denies the use of coercion in recruiting them. Hata believes, that Japanese comfort women were the largest group of victims at 40 percent (Ikuhiko Hata, No Organized or Forced Recruitment: Misconceptions about Comfort Women and the Japanese Military, trans. Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact (2007),, accessed: 24.05.2014, 12:53, 18). These voices are oftentimes overheard or regarded as revisionist and therefore basically invalid, especially by international scholars.


Curiously, the German Nazis used a similar, even if much less extensive, system in their occupied areas during the Second World War. See: Nanda Herbermann, Hester Baer and Elizabeth Roberts Baer, The Blessed Abyss: Inmate #6582 in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for Women, trans.Hester Baer (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000), 33--34.


Hereinafter, the title Wikipedia refers to the Englishversion of Wikipedia.


The numbers mentioned by The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women's Issues Worldwide - Asia and Oceania refer to Korean victims only.


C.f.: Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, The Nanking Atrocity 1937-38: Complicating the Picture (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2007), 22.


The author is conscious of how problematic a term "native Indonesian" may be to some of the readers. Unfortunately, the limited space of this essay does not permit a thorough discussion of the matter.


See: The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal, "Judgement on the Common Indictment and the Application for Restitution and Reparation"(2001), available at:


Oftentimes concepts like "other Asian countries" ("Comfort Women."Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 3.5.2014 - 21:26) are mentioned. In this particular case, only the countries named explicitly can be found in the table. "From the Japanese colonies" (Kelly Boyd (ed.). 1999. Encyclopedia of Historians & Historical Writing. London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers: 1314) and "from all Japanese-occupied territories" (Koh, Tommy (ed.), Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Miller, 2006), 137) has been interpreted as any from (giving the current states' names) Korea, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Burma, Malaysia,Indonesia. Laos and Cambodia were left out of the table because no other sources mention them and because, at the time, they were still part of French Indochina, together with Vietnam. For their relatively small political influence and size other countries like modern day Papua New-Guinea have been left out, too.


This book also mentions overseas Chinese and Indians.Probably this is meant to say, that all kinds of Malaysian women were recruited to be comfort women.


This encyclopedia mentions women from Indonesia and the Dutch East Indies separately. It is to be assumed, that white Dutch women were meant with this.


Smelser, Compiling, 151.


See footnote 78.