A guide to the literature of Japan’s “comfort women”: Comfort station survivors tell their stories

As Japan & South Korea reach an agreement on the painful subject, some books to help the reader untangle the past: Salon

A guide to the literature of Japan's "comfort women": Comfort station survivors tell their stories
(Credit: Columbia University Press)

If you’ve followed any of the headlines emerging about the “comfort women” in the past weeks—or months, or years, or decades—you probably have some questions. Did the Japanese government really coerce thousands of women into military brothels while its empire colonized Asia? Were the so-called “comfort women” sexual slaves or indentured servants, consenting prostitutes, or none of the above? Was the Japanese government’s recent apology to South Korea, along with the pledge to pay $8.3 million to Korean survivors, a resolution, an insult or one step in a long process of reconciliation? Does the U.S. bear any responsibility? And why is a statue of a teenage girl still making so many people so mad?

 The answer to each is, “It’s complicated.” Like most matters of history, especially those entwined with violent colonialism, there are heaps of good questions, but few simple ones. Still, the story of the comfort women and the issue’s legacy today is worth your interest. There are plenty of books to help readers untangle the thorny topic. From the researched to the riveting, here’s a glimpse into the long overlooked literature of the comfort women.

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