During World War II, the Japanese military extended Japan’s civilian licensing regime for domestic brothels to those next to its overseas bases. It did so for a simple reason: to impose the strenuous health standards necessary to control the venereal disease that had debilitated its troops in earlier wars. In turn, these brothels (dubbed “comfort stations”) recruited their prostitutes through variations on the standard indenture contracts used by licensed brothels in both Korea and Japan. Using information about these contracts, the authors of this book discuss why and how the women in these military comfort stations came to be there. Some women took the jobs because they were tricked by fraudulent recruiters. Some took them under pressure from abusive parents. But the rest seem to have been driven by the same basic motivation as most other prostitutes throughout history: want of money. Indeed, the notion that these “comfort women” became prostitutes by any other means has no basis in documentary history.
These findings caused a firestorm in Japanese Studies academia. For explaining that the women took the job under contract for the money, both scholars found themselves “cancelled.” The party line in the United States academia is that the “comfort women” were dragooned into sex slavery at bayonet point by Japanese infantry. But, as the authors show, this narrative originated as a hoax perpetrated by a Japanese communist writer in the 1980s. It was then spread by a South Korean organization with close ties to the Communist North. Serious intellectuals of all political perspectives in both South Korea and Japan have understood this for years. In this book, the authors detail both the history of the comfort women and their own persecution at the hands of their academic peers. Only in the West—and only through a brutal strategy of censorship and ostracism—has the myth of bayonet-point conscription survived.