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Behind Kawaii Culture is the Inhumane Truth of World War II Sex Trafficking: The Comfort Women

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

By Seo-Hyun Jun

The young girl's statue for peace, a statue commemorating and remembering comfort women in front of Seoul, South Korea.

Morality is frequently questioned in history, specifically the concept of the existence of goodness in humanity. Wars, in general, are defined as unethical. From the colonization of cultures to religious bloodshed, warfare promoted the supremacy of a single perspective. The resolution to countless losses was treaties and peace achieved by diplomacy. In the case of the Japanese Invasion of Korea, it was the untold efforts of concealing and hushing.

This article, I must clarify, is not intended to spread anger nor express resentment, but rather provide the general audience with a perspective on the topic of discussion. I was raised for more than half of my life in Seoul, South Korea. Since birth, I have heard stories from my family about the activist work my ancestors have achieved through their bravery in trying to grant Korea independence from the Japanese occupation.

For 35 years, it was mandatory for Koreans to change their names to Japanese and solely wear kimonos, the traditional Japanese clothing, while strolling around town. The Korean monarchy also saw its end as the mysterious death of the last ruler, King Kojong, was announced during this time. Hundreds of high school and college students were stabbed and shot by the Japanese soldiers as they shouted “Mansei!” in unanimous blood, sweat, and tears to taste freedom they had never tasted before.

While there are more barbaric facts regarding the Japanese occupation, my focus today is the Comfort Women. For readers that may not be aware, the Comfort Women were women of various ages, even 12-year-old girls, that were subjected to human trafficking by the Japanese soldiers. The homes of these women could be seen all around the continent of Asia, as the “majority of the women who were forced into sexual slavery came from Korea and China, although many women from Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Việt Nam, Thailand, East Timor, and the Dutch East Indies, as well as European women in Japanese-occupied territories, were forced into sexual slavery.”

Although my blood boils, my hand trembles coldly as I cannot possibly imagine what these women would have gone through, ripped away from their families to an unknown station. A single woman was given a small room and visited by multiple soldiers daily. Signs of pregnancy were also a calling of death: escaping alive was impossible.

Forgiveness of such horrendous acts was also impossible, as the Japanese government did not grant the satisfaction of an official apology to the surviving women. My unbiased plea on this matter would be that, with every soaking cry, there are not many of these women still living. The least a country can do is to educate its people repeatedly. On the other hand, my biased plea on this matter lives by the very skin and blood I share with my ancestors; as a Korean and a woman, I urge momentum. My voice demands a possible change: a heartfelt address from the Japanese government and an accurate historical update to their textbooks.


“Teaching about the Comfort Women during World War II and the Use of Personal Stories of the Victims.” Association for Asian Studies, 29 Apr. 2020,

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