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"Comfort woman" is a term ascribed to young women and girls who were coerced or kidnapped into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. From as young as 10 years old, these girls were taken from countries like Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, amongst many others. Though their exact numbers are still debated, estimates range from 50,000 to as high as 200,000 or more.

The Japanese military sent them off to comfort stations where they were expected to service Japanese soldiers everyday with little to no pay or chance to leave. The quality of care for their health and well-being was minimal, limited to making sure they were eating, and doing routine health checks to control possible outbreaks of disease amongst the troops. When the comfort women returned home at the end of World War II, they were silenced, some choosing to not speak of their experiences because of shame, others shunned from society for being viewed as “sullied” because they had been physically intimate with men, even though it was non-consensual. For over 50 years, the stories of their experiences were hidden until Kim Hak Sun came forward in 1991 as the first survivor to speak out about the trauma that she and thousands of other comfort women experienced, bringing this history into the light.

Because of Kim Hak Sun’s bravery, women from various countries (mostly Korea) came forward, and gave testimony about the trauma they had experienced.  Since 1992, the surviving comfort women and their supporters have protested every Wednesday with a set list of seven demands, outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul in the longest continual protest in the world. Their fervor and adamance in their fight to fulfill their demands has garnered the attention of the world, and people outside of Asian countries, such as in the U.S., have taken note.

In 2007, Congressman Mike Honda introduced House Resolution 121. The House Resolution urged for the United States government to ask for an apology from the Japanese Government to the comfort women, and for comfort women to be included in the Japanese school curriculum. This measure was unanimously passed on July 30th, of 2007, after a nationwide grassroots campaign came together to help support its passage.

Since then, education and activism related to comfort women has steadily gained more traction in the U.S. Almost a dozen memorials have been erected across the country since 2010, including one in Glendale, California. 

Historical Background: Text
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