Japanese military comfort houses and Overseas Chinese 'comfort women' in South-east Asia  (summary)

                                                                        Hayashi Hirofumi

This paper was presented at the International Symposium on Chinese "Comfort Women" in Shanghai on 30 March, 2000.  This symposium was the first conference on the "comfort women" issue in China. This is just a summary of my speech.  

In South-east Asia occupied by Japanese Army not only Japanese, Korean, mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese but also a lot of local women were forced to be 'comfort women'.

 The recruitment methods employed in South-east Asia is categorised as follows.

1  To entrust the recruitment of 'comfort women' to Japanese who had still remained there. This was the typical method employed in Malaya . Japanese ex-prostitutes( so called Karayukisan) were entrusted the management of comfort houses as well as the recruitment.

2  To recruit through advertising, such as newspapers.  We can find such cases in Singapore.

3  To order local leaders, such as village headmen or Chian-iji-kai(association for maintaining the law and order) to provide 'comfort women'. This method is reported to have been used at various places in South-east Asia.

4  The recruitment by forcible abduction. We can find such numerous cases in the Philippines and so on.

The recruitment by fraud overlaps with 1, 2 and 3.  Women were defrauded at the recruitment stage, and their transformation into 'comfort women' was effected through the use of force. 

 The characteristics of the recruitment methods employed in South-east Asia are as follows.

1  Even prior to the outbreak of the Asia-Pacific War, the Japanese military had been considering the establishment of comfort houses in the occupied territories of South-east Asia.

2  As these territories were battlefields or areas under the occupation of the Japanese army,  the role of the army in recruitment was more active than that in the colonies.

3  In not a few cases the recruitment was in progress while the Japanese army was massacring local residence whom the Japanese army regarded as anti-Japanese elements. We can find such cases in the Philippines, Malaya and Burma.

4  Javanese women were forced to be brought to Malaya and Borneo. At the final stage of the war, Jawa was the place which supplied ‘comfort women’ for the Japanese army in South-east Asia.   


In Malaya including Singapore the majority of Japanese military 'comfort women' were local Chinese. A regulation issued by the Japanese military administration of Malaya in 1943 stated that local women should be made use of as 'comfort women' as far as possible.

In Kuala Lumpur by August 1942, sixteen comfort houses had been set up in seven areas and the total number of 'comfort women' in these houses is estimated to have been over 150.  The majority of 'comfort women' in Kuala Lumpur were Chinese, Koreans numbered about 20, and the remaining few were Thai, Javanese, Indian and Eurasian.  About 80% were local Chinese.

In the state of Negeri Sembilan, comfort houses were set up in four towns but there were few Korean. In Kuala Pilar, a small town in the central part of the state, the head of the Chian-iji-kai was ordered to recruit women by the garrison commander. Then, he recruited eighteen Chinese women from other towns, such as Kuala Lumpur, and handed them over to the Japanese garrison. 

The Kempeitai in Malaya reported that the number of 'comfort women' living in Malaya and Sumatra of Japanese nationality (which included both Japanese and colonial subjects from Korea and Taiwan) was 194 on 20 July 1942.  By this time, comfort houses had been set up in almost every city where Japanese troops were stationed.  My research shows that comfort houses were present in over 30 cities, including Singapore. 

As my estimate is that there were about 1000 or more 'comfort women' in Malaya at that time, the majority of 'comfort women' in Malaya were local Chinese. In other areas in South-east Asia, although there were many Korean 'comfort women' in Burma,  a lot of local women were forced to be 'comfort women' in the Philippines, Indonesia and so on.

   This is not to suggest that Korean women were not victims within the 'comfort women' system, nor does it diminish the suffering of Korean women.  It indicates that other Asian women were also victims and that the methods of recruitment employed in the colonies were different to those used in the military occupied territories.

As for Chinese 'comfort women', we have to pay attention to Overseas Chinese women in South-east Asia as well as women in the mainland China and Taiwan.