Added: July 7, 2007 – Last updated: June 4, 2016


Author: Yonson Ahn

Title: Korean "Comfort Women" and Military Sexual Slavery in World War II

Subtitle: -

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Warwick

Supervisors: Joanna Liddle and Terry Lovell

Year: June 1999

Pages: 279pp.

OCLC Number: 815956731 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | Asian History: Japanese History, Korean History | Types: Forced Prostitution / "Comfort Women"; Types: Wartime Rape / Asia-Pacific War


Link: WRAP: Warwick Research Archive Portal (Free Access)


Author: Yonson Ahn, Institut für Orientalische und Ostasiatische Philologien (Institute for Oriental and East Asian Studies), Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (Goethe University Frankfurt) –


»The aim of this thesis is to explore the way in which sexualities and identities are involved in the creation of patriarchal relations, ethnic hierarchies and colonial power in the context of "Comfort Women". The women were considered sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II. I attempt to show the It) ways in which masculinity, femininity, and national identity were re/constructed through the enforcement of the subject-positionings of gender, colonialism and nationalism.
The questions I raise and attempt to answer are: What kinds of masculinity and femininity of the Japanese soldiers and Korean "Comfort Women" respectively, and the national identities of both, were re/constructed through the comfort station system? How were the positionings of the "Comfort Women" enacted through daily practices and ideology, and what were the consequences of the re/construction of their identity? Finally, how did the "Comfort Women" position themselves in the face of the imposition of gender and national identities, by Japanese colonial and Korean nationalist power?
I use personal narratives, including testimonies and life histories of the former Korean "Comfort Women" and Japanese veterans obtained from my interviews with them as well as from testimonies already released. I interviewed thirteen former Korean "Comfort Women" and seventeen Japanese veterans. Thirteen out of the veterans were 'rehabilitated' in China after World War El, the remaining four were not. I also occasionally use official documents on the comfort station system, which were issued by the Japanese military and the Western Allies.
I argue that the development of gender and national identities contributed to the construction of Japanese colonialism, and that the "Comfort Women" system helped to produce and reproduce Japan as an imperial state with power over the lives and human resources of the colonies. In particular, the maintenance of the military system depended on the circulation of these concepts of masculinity and femininity. The regulation of masculine and feminine sexuality and national identities through the military comfort station system was a crucial means through which Japan expanded its colonies by military means.« (Source: Thesis)


  Acknowledgements (p. 5)
  1 Introduction (p. 9)
  1.1 Historical Background (p. 9)
  1.2 Setting up Comfort Stations (p. 12)
  1.3 Activism (p. 16)
  1.4 Silence (p. 17)
  2 Literature Review and Conceptual Framework (p. 20)
  2.1 Nationalist Approaches (p. 22)
    2.1.1 Japanese Nationalist Approach (p. 22)
    2.1.2 Korean Nationalist Approach (p. 25)
  2.2 'Objective Historian' Approach (p. 28)
  2.3 Feminist Approaches (p. 32)
    2.3.1 'Gender Emphasising' Approach (p. 32)
    2.3.2 Feminist Political Action Approach (p. 35)
  2.4 My Research Questions and Concepts (p. 40)
  2.5 'Integrated Feminist' Approach: Sexuality, Subjectivity, War and Colonialism (p. 44)
    2.5.1 Sexuality and Colonialism (p. 44)
    2.5.2 Sexual Scripts and Femininity (p. 48)
    2.5.3 Sexual Violence and War (p. 50)
    2.5.4 Masculinity and Militarism (p. 53)
    2.5.5 Victimisation and Resistance (p. 54)
  3 Researching Military Sexual Slavery (p. 58)
  3.1 Methodology (p. 58)
    3.1.1 Narrative Resources and Written Resources (p. 58)
    3.1.2 Why Personal Narrative Method? (p. 60)
    3.1.3 What are Testimony and Oral History? (p. 62)
  3.2 Method (p. 67)
    3.2.1 Collecting Material (p. 67)
    3.2.2 Finding Informants (p. 70)
    3.2.3 Preparing and Conducting Interviews (p. 74)
  3.3 The Relationship between a Narrator and a Researcher (p. 78)
    3.3.1 Power Relationship between a Narrator and a Researcher (p. 78)
    3.3.2 Commonality (p. 83)
    3.3.3 Tension (p. 84)
    3.3.4 Language Barrier (p. 88)
    3.3.5 Differences from Orthodox Ethnography (p. 90)
  3.4 Epistemology (p. 91)
    3.4.1 Reliability of Experience and Memory (p. 91)
    3.4.2 Women's Experience (p. 94)
  4 Stories of the "Comfort Women" (p. 99)
  4.1 Recruitment and Transportation (p. 100)
  4.2 Family Background (p. 105)
  4.3 Sexual Initiation (p. 107)
  4.4 Aspects of Daily Life (p. 109)
    4.4.1 Routinisation of Sexual Violence (p. 109)
    4.4.2 Rhythms of Daily Life: the Weekends (p. 110)
    4.4.3 An Ostensible Form of Prostitution (Prostitutionalisation) (p. 111)
    4.4.4 Rhythms of War, Rhythms of Violence (p. 114)
  4.5 Woman as Body (p. 116)
  4.6 Relationships between the Soldiers and the "Comfort Women" (p. 120)
  4.7 Contestation and Resistance (p. 123)
  4.8 The End of the War, and its Aftermath (p. 130)
    4.8.1 Being Deserted or Killed (p. 130)
    4.8.2 Diseases, Barrennes or Hysterectomy (p. 132)
    4.8.3 Stigmatisation: 'Damaged Goods' (p. 132)
    4.8.4 Anti-Japanese Reaction (p. 135)
  5 Stories of the Soldiers (p. 138)
  5.1 Personal Relationships (p. 139)
  5.2 Motivations (p. 142)
    5.2.1 Motivations to Go to Comfort Stations (p. 142)
    5.2.2 Motivations Not to Go to Comfort Stations (p. 145)
  5.3 Regulations and Disciplines of Military Life (p. 146)
    5.3.1 Hierarchy (p. 146)
    5.3.2 Regulation and Control of Soldiers (p. 148)
    5.3.3 Regulation of the Comfort Stations (p. 151)
  5.4 Violence (p. 152)
  5.5 Legitimation (p. 154)
  6 Military Masculinity (p. 161)
  6.1 Characteristics of Military Masculinity (p. 165)
  6.2 Re/construction of Military Masculinity through Practices (p. 168)
    6.2.1 Creating Stratification among the Men (p. 169)
    6.2.2 Use of Violence (p. 172)
    6.2.3 Sexual Conquest (p. 174)
    6.2.4 Using Military Vernacular including Sexual Language (p. 178)
    6.2.5 Drinking Alcohol (p. 179)
  6.3 Contributions to War (p. 180)
  7 Enslaved Sexualised Femininity (p. 187)
  7.1 Enforced Feminine Subject Positioning (p. 188)
  7.2 Estabished Femininities in Korea and Japan (p. 190)
    7.2.1 Femininity in Korean Confucianism (p. 191)
    7.2.2 Japanese Femininity (p. 196)
    7.2.3 Femininity in Korean Nationalism (p. 201)
  7.3 'Re-socialisation': Using and Transforming Traditional Femininities (p. 205)
  7.4 How Successful was the Process and with What Effects? (p. 208)
  8 National Identities (p. 213)
  8.1 Characteristics of National identities of the Japanese Military Men and the "Comfort Women" (p. 214)
    8.1.1 Characteristics of National Identity of the Japanese Military Men (p. 214)
    8.1.2 The Japanese Construction of Korean Identity of the "Comfort Women" (p. 220)
  8.2 Practices for Establishment of National Identities (p. 222)
    8.2.1 Practices in Reconstructing National Identity of the Japanese Military Men (p. 222)
    8.2.2 The 'Pseudo Japanese' Subjugated Identity of the Korean "Comfort Women" (p. 228)
  8.3 Identity Reformation as a Political Weapon (p. 235)
  9 Conclusion (p. 239)
  9.1 Conformity: Internalised Femininities (p. 240)
  9.2 Resistance in the Comfort Stations (p. 243)
  9.3 Reconstitution of Identities After the War (p. 247)
  9.4 Breaking the Silence: The "Comfort Women" Campaign (p. 251)
  10 References (p. 257)
  11 Appendix (p. 275)

Wikipedia: History of Asia: History of Japan, History of Korea / Korea under Japanese rule | Prostitution: Forced prostitution / Comfort women | Types of rape: Wartime sexual violence | War, Pacific War / Japanese war crimes