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Class Year

2003

Abstract

The Pacific War in Asia is infamous for the sickening atrocities committed by the military forces of both the Allies and Japan. Proof of the carnage is undeniable and is often discussed in textbooks, history classes, and documentaries around the world. The forced recruitment of women to serve as sex slaves to the Japanese military is included on the long list of wartime tragedies, however it often remains on the periphery of discussions on wartime violence. The negligence is due in part to the half century of silence that followed the victimization of the women most often known as “ianfu,” “wianbu,” “Military sexual slaves,” “Japanese war rape victims,” or the less provocative “comfort women.”1 Yet the inattention can also be attributed to the Japanese government’s repeated denial of culpability, be it from shame or simple economic greed. Despite Japan’s desire to hush up the stories of the military sexual slavery, recent women’s movements in Korea and the international community have spurred the outspokenness of the survivors. This paper will discuss the rationales used by the Japanese government for the establishment of the comfort system, its effects on women’s lives, and their reasons for decades long silence. Also examined are the women’s recent demands for justice and various governmental reactions in an effort to reveal the actions that necessitate emotional and mental healing, as well as prevention of future abuses against women.

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