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Comfort women in twentieth-century Asia

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  1. Tracing the origins of comfort women.
  2. Korea and comfort women.
  3. Talking a woman into being a comfort woman rather than a street-based prostitute.
  4. The horrors and abuse these women had to endure during their time in clubs.
  5. The comfort women of the inter-war periods.
  6. Changing perspectives on women.

The concept of profiting off of women's bodies has been around since commerce began. Different cultures have built up different ideologies to justify this act, whether it's for spiritual purposes, economic hardship, privilege of the wealthy or just dominance over females in general. While prostitution for these reasons and more has existed throughout time and culture, a different form of sexual business exchange developed in Asia during the course of the mid-twentieth century. Comfort women, as they were called, originated around foreign military bases during wartime in places around Southeast Asia. The idea of a comfort woman was supposedly different from a prostitute; they were called on to provide a superficial relationship with soldiers, catering to the need of affection and service that a wife would provide, such as cleaning or boosting the ego. However, what actually occurred between customers and these women was quite different and usually traumatic. The result of comfort women during this time in Southeast Asia spawned an entire economy of female service-oriented business to foreigners in the postwar period that is still around today.

[...] The lifestyles of these women were based in night clubs where they were often given a loan in the beginning to pay for their expenses or to send back home. This started them off already in debt, therefore whatever money they made afterward was kept to pay this loan back. The women were given rooms with beds, stereos, and all types of appliances which made the room seem inviting to prospective clients, however they rarely got to stay there unless the client paid for a whole night. [...]

[...] In China, during the rape of Nanking from 1937-38, the damages of war and tragedies inflicted upon civilian women gave rise to many victims being forced to become comfort women (Chang 95). In Korea, the popularity of Japanese men using Korean women for sexual matters is, as Takahasi Kikue calls ?subconscious feelings of sexual and racial superiority? (Kim 136). The social arrogance of these attitudes comes from justifying that the government needs the income that these women provide, and the women themselves are in need of the money as well. [...]

[...] This comes from Confucianism, which is dominant in most parts of Southeast Asia. Again, there is the double standard. Throughout Korea's history, the government employed women for the very purposes of prostitution (Moon 40). During the Koryo period (918-1392), girls from low class families were trained by government officials on how to be entertainers for the royal court and wealthy men. Though they were exposed to an education in the arts and Chinese classics which was forbidden to the poor, their purpose was really learning the art of seduction. [...]

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