Publication Date

December 1, 2015

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

In the September 2015 issue of Perspectives, Professor Naoko Kumagai writes concerning the history of Japan’s state-sponsored system of sexual slavery in the 1930s and ’40s (the so-called comfort women): “With regards to the means of recruitment, no official documents have been found on the forced recruitment of women by the Japanese authority.”

This is not true.

Simplest for the nonspecialist and available online in English, this is made clear in the Japanese government’s 1993 acknowledgement of Japanese state responsibility for this history (—to which Professor Kumagai’s letter refers.

It states:

The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.

Indeed, in the mix of substantial documentary evidence, there are many documents relating to the role of military and civil officials in the recruitment of the system’s victims.

Professor Kumagai’s perpetuation of a denialist thesis that would seek to absolve the Japanese government today for the state’s past actions regrettably reinforces a perspective on the memory wars that prevents Northeast Asia from achieving reconciliation.

Alexis Dudden, University of Connecticut
Sabine Fruhstuck, University of California, Santa Barbara
Sheldon Garon, Princeton University
Andrew Gordon, Harvard University
Mark Healey, University of Connecticut
Miriam Kingsberg, University of Colorado
Peter Kuznick, American University
Mark Selden, Cornell University
Franziska Seraphim, Boston College
Stefan Tanaka, University of California, San Diego
Julia Adeney Thomas, University of Notre Dame
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine
Jun Yoo, Yonsei University
Herbert Ziegler, University of Hawaii

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