East Asia

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 255–269 | Cite as

The Comfort Women Controversy: Not Over Yet



During the World War II, up to 200,000 women, the majority of whom were Korean, were forced to provide sex to Japan’s military forces. The perceived refusal of Japan to fully take responsibility for the mistreatment of these “comfort women” has been a major obstacle to Japanese-Korean relations for a quarter of a century. Although the signing of the December 28, 2015 Agreement between Japan and Korea purported to “finally and irreversibly” solve the comfort women issue that has divided these two East Asian powers, the voices of Korean and Korean-American civil society indicate the contrary. American local, county, and state governments have become key battlegrounds in the conflict. As comfort women memorials across the USA proliferate, these governmental entities have allowed themselves to be caught up in incomplete narratives, whether Japanese or Korean. Against the backdrop of the tense geopolitics of today’s Asia-Pacific, a more responsible, comprehensive inquiry is needed to bring closure to a tragic chapter of human history.


Comfort women Sex slaves Korean Council for the Women drafted for military slavery in Japan Asian Women’s Fund December 28, 2015 Yasukuni shrine Pak Geun Hye Shintaro Abe 


  1. 1.
    63rd Session of the Committee on the Cessation of Discrimination against Women. (2016). Written Submission by the Korean Council for the Women drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. Official Document.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    110th Congress. (2014). House Resolution 121. Official documentGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Asian Woman’s Fund. (2016). Fund Brochure. Brochure. Asian Woman’s Fund. Accessed 11 August 2016.
  4. 4.
    California Department of Education. (2016). 2016 History-Social Science Framework; Chapter 15: Grade Ten—World History, Culture and Geography: The Modern World” adopted by the California Board of education July 14, 2016. Resource Document. California Department of Education. Accessed 4 August 2016.
  5. 5.
    Calvan, Bobby. (2015). GOP and Democrats slow to woo booming Asian-American Electorate. News article. AlJazeera America. .Accessed 15 August 2016.
  6. 6.
    Coleman, N. (2015). President Park Should Publicly Apologize for South Korea’s Sexual Violence in Vietnam. News article. Accessed 24 December 2014.
  7. 7.
    Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. (2016). Submission by “The Korean Council for the Women drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan,” Appendix 3, Letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dudden, A. (2014). Troubled Apologies Among Japan, Korea and the United States. New York, New York: Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Eddy, M. (2012). For 60th Year, Germany Honors Duty to Pay Holocaust Victims. News article. The New York Times. Accessed 21 November 2014.
  10. 10.
    Ensslin, J. (2012). Bergen Executive Kathleen Donovan Headed to Korea for 6-Day Tour to Promote Business. News article. Accessed 2 February 2015.
  11. 11.
    Feminist Peace Network. (No date). Comfort Women Still Wait For An Apology From Japan. Personal Testimony. Feminist Peace Network. Accessed 27 December 2014.
  12. 12.
    Frost, E.L. (2014). Rival Regionalisms and Regional Order-A Slow Crisis of Legitimacy. Online Article. The National Bureau of Asian Research Report (48). Accessed 17 January 2015.
  13. 13.
    Hicks, G. (1994). The Comfort Women. New York, New York: Norton and Company.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hirai, T. (2015). San Francisco Board Unanimously Passes Comfort Women Memorial Resolution. News article. New America Media. Accessed 24 December 2015.
  15. 15.
    Hyun, P. (2014). Bill Related to Comfort Women Passed in US Congress. News article. Hangyere. Accessed 2 August 2016.
  16. 16.
    Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, University of Tokyo. (1965). “Japan and the World” Database project, United Nations Treaty Collection, “Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea. Resource Document. Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia.
  17. 17.
    Jae-soon, C. (2015). U.S. Congressman Honda says Korea-Japan Deal on Comfort Women ‘Historic Milestone’. News article. Yonhap News Agency. Accessed 30 December 2015.
  18. 18.
    Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (1993). Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the result of the study on the issue of ‘Comfort Women. Official Statement. Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. women/fund/state9308.html. Accessed 15 August 2016.
  19. 19.
    Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (1995). Statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the occasion of the Establishment of the Asian Women’s Fund. Official Statement. Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 6Accessed 12 August 2016.
  20. 20.
    Jun, C. (2015). Chinese World War II Museum Names Mike Honda Honorary Curator. News article. China Daily USA. Accessed 18 May 2015.
  21. 21.
    Jun, K. (2015). Japan, South Korea Agree to Aid for Comfort Women. News article. The Wall Street Journal. Accessed 29 December 2015.
  22. 22.
    Kelley, R.E. (2014). Three Hypotheses on Korea’s Intense Resentment of Japan. Online article. Foreign Policy. Accessed 2 February 2015.
  23. 23.
    Korean American Civic Empowerment. (2015). KACE Statement on Korea-Japan Agreement on “Comfort Women”. Online Statement. KACE. Accessed 30 December 2015.
  24. 24.
    Korean American Civic Empowerment. (No Date). Korea and International Affairs. Online article. KACE. Accessed 3 January 2015.
  25. 25.
    Korean American Forum of California. (No Date). Website. Accessed 2 February 2015.
  26. 26.
    Kim, R. (2014). Peace Garden Seeks to Raise Awareness. News article. Koream News. Accessed 3 December 2014.
  27. 27.
    Kim, S. (2016). Comfort Foundation Chief is Attacked. News article. Joongang Daily. Accessed 4 August 2016.
  28. 28.
    Kim, V. (2016).’Comfort Women’ and a lesson of how history is shaped in California Textbooks. News Article. Los Angeles Times. Accessed 5 August 2016.
  29. 29.
    Lee, T. (2013). Korean-Americans and the 2012 Presidential Elections. Korea Economic Institute Academic Paper Series. lee_final.pdf. Accessed 15 August 2016.
  30. 30.
    Lee, J.F. (2014). In Suburban New Jersey Let Off Steam the Traditional Korean Way. News article. The Washington Post. Accessed 2 February 2015.
  31. 31.
    Levine, B. (2013). Comfort Women Statue Opponents Sway Buena Park. News article. Glendale News-Press. Accessed 17 October 2014.
  32. 32.
    Mera, K. (2015). Comfort Women not “Sex Slaves—Rectifying the Myriad of Perspectives. Online Book. Accessed 20 August 2016.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Monsy, A. (2012). Palisades Park Officials Detail Week-Long Trip to South Korea. News article. Accessed 2 February 2015.
  34. 34.
    New Jersey State Department of Labor. (2010). Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2010: Geographic area: Palisades Park borough. Geographic Study. New Jersey State Department of Labor. Accessed 26 December 2014.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Oh, G. (2012). US Mayor Vows Continued Support for Wartime Sex Slavery Victims. News article. Yonhap News. Accessed 19 January 2015.
  36. 36.
    Olivo, A. (2014). Memorial to WWII Comfort Women Dedicated in Fairfax County Amid Protests. News Article. The Washington Post. Accessed 14 October 2014.
  37. 37.
    Onishi, N. (2007). Decades After War Trails, Japan Still Honors a Dissenting Judge. News article. The New York Times. Accessed 15 June, 2015
  38. 38.
    Pae, K.C. (2009). Western Princesses-A Missing Story: A Christian Feminist Ethical Analysis of U.S. Military Prostitution in South Korea. Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics Vol. 29, No. 2 (Fall / Winter 2009)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Pamintuan-Lamorena, M. (2014). Obama Comments on ‘Comfort Women’ Issue in Seoul, Urges Japan & Korea to Settle History Dispute. News article. Japan Daily Press.; Accessed 9 August 2016.
  40. 40.
    Rowland, A & Kyong Chang, Y. (2014). Former Prostitutes who Served US Troops Sue South Korea. News article. Stars and Stripes. Accessed 14 October 2014.
  41. 41.
    Sang-hun, C. (2015). Japan and South Korea Settle Dispute Over Wartime ‘Comfort Women’. News article. New York Times. Accessed 7 January 2015.
  42. 42.
    Semple, K. (2012). In New Jersey, Memorial for ‘Comfort Women’ Deepens Old Animosity. News article. The New York Times. Accessed 1 October 2014.
  43. 43.
    Soble, J & Sang-hun C. (2015). South Korean and Japanese Leaders Feel Backlash from ‘Comfort Women’ Deal. News Article. The New York Times. Accessed 30 December 2015.
  44. 44.
    Soh, C. S. (2001). Japan’s Responsibility to Comfort Women Survivors. Online Journal Article. Japan Policy Research Institute Working Paper (77). Accessed 2 February 2015.
  45. 45.
    Soh, C.S. (2008). The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Source. (2014). The Official WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall Website Hacked. News article. Web on China. Accessed 14 August 2015.
  47. 47.
    Source. (2015). Japan will Seek Seoul’s Involvement in Final ‘Comfort Women’ Fund. News article. The Asahi Shimbun. Accessed 10 January 2016.
  48. 48.
    Source. (2016). Ex-Comfort Woman Becomes First to Back Japan-S.Korea Accord but Winning Support Not Easy. News Article. Mainichi Shimbun. Accessed 4 August 2016.
  49. 49.
    Source. (No Date). Steven Cavallo is an artist living in New Jersey in the USA who designed the first memorial plaque dedicated to Comfort Women in Korea. News Article. Newswire. 6 December 2014.
  50. 50.
    Source. (No Date). ‘Comfort Women’ Funds Won’t be Paid Until Sex Slave Statue Outside Japanese Embassy Removed. News Article. The Japan Times. Accessed 7 January, 2016.
  51. 51.
    Source. (2016). South Korea Expert Hopes “Comfort Women” Pact Gets Wrapped Up by End of Park’s Term. News article. Accessed 16 July 2016.
  52. 52.
    Sullivan, S.P. (2013). Bergen County Marks International Women’s Day with Korean ‘Comfort Women’ Memorial. News article. Accessed 19 January 2015.
  53. 53.
    Tadaki, K, et al. (2014). Details of Exchanges between Japan and the Government of Korea regarding the Comfort Women Issue—From the Drafting of the Kono Statement to the Asian Women’s Fund. Study team’s report. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. .Accessed 15 August 2016.
  54. 54.
    Take Two. (2015). LA Group Representing Korea’s WWII Sex Slaves denounces ‘Comfort Women’ Deal. News article and radio broadcast. 89.3 KPCC. Accessed 30 December 2015.
  55. 55.
    Tanaka, Y. (2002). Japan’s Comfort Women-Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II and the US Occupation. New York. Routledge.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    White House Office of the Press Secretary. (2014). Press Conference with President Obama and President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea, April 25, 2014. Press Conference. Accessed 10 August 2016.
  57. 57.
    White House—President Barack Obama. (2016). Remarks by President Obama, President Park Geun-Hye of the Republic of Korea, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan After Trilateral Meeting. Press Release. The White House. Accessed 16 July 2016.
  58. 58.
    Yamaguchi, M. (2016). Former Marine Charged in Rape, Murder of Women on Okinawa. News article. Marine Corps Times. Accessed 12 August 2016.
  59. 59.
    Yan, H., Kwon, K., Ogura, J. & Ap, T. (2015). South Korea, Japan Reach Agreement on ‘Comfort Women’. News article.
  60. 60.
    Yasukuni Shrine. (No Date). Precinct Map Monument of Dr. Pal. Website Source. Yasukuni Shrine website. Accessed 10 March 2015.
  61. 61.
    Zinn, H. (2003). A People’s History of the United States. Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Open image in new window. (2016). South Korea and Japan Addressing Final Details of Comfort Women Agreement. News article. Accessed 14 August 2016.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Public and International AffairsUniversity of BridgeportBridgeportUSA

Personalised recommendations