Japanese Ad Rekindles Comfort Women Controversy

The Comfort Women Memorial in New Jersey has triggered fresh tensions between Japanese and Koreans. On Oct. 24, a Korean civic group said that the monument was “defiled with a stake.” More recently, a Japanese group published an ad in the Star Ledger, in which they dismissed the “Do You Remember?” ad created by two Koreans to bring awareness to the plight of comfort women. An article from Korea Daily – originally from its parent publication, Joong-ang Ilbo – is translated below.

The “objection advertisement” done by a Japanese group in response to the “Do you remember?” ad put together by Koreans was published in New Jersey’s Star Leger. (Image via Joong-ang Ilbo)

A Japanese rebuttal to the “Do You Remember?” advertisement ran in the Star Ledger, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, on Nov. 4.

Seo Kyoung-duk, a public relations expert and professor, and singer Janghoon Kim had created the “Do You Remember?” ad, which described the brutality of the Japanese army in sexually enslaving more than 200,000 Korean women during World War II. The ad was printed in the New York Times and on a billboard in Times Square. To counter this message, right-wing Japanese extremists put together an “objection advertisement” entitled, “Yes, we remember the facts.”

The Japanese advertisement argues that comfort women were voluntary prostitutes and that the Japanese government cracked down on some of the illegal civilian brokers. It was made by the Committee for Historical Facts and signed by the group’s president, Shigeharu Aoyama, journalist Yoshiko Sakurai, professor Nobugasu Fujioka, composer Koichi Sugiyama, journalist Kohyu Nishimura. Members include political commentators, TV producers, composers and professors.

The rebuttal ad claims three things. First, it says that it was civilian brokers that recruited the comfort women, and that in fact, the Japanese army banned this activity. As evidence, the ad pointed to Japan’s Army memorandum 2197, which was issued on March 4, 1938.

Second, the ad cited an article published on Aug. 31, 1939 in the Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo, entitled “Unscrupulous Brokers Run Rampant – Abduction of Rural Women and Girls.” It added that brokers who kidnapped women and made them into sex slaves were arrested by police. The advertisement argues, “Korea… was under the Japanese jurisdiction at the time. This offers proof that the Japanese government dealt severely with inhumane crimes against women.

Lastly, the advertisement insists that Korean comfort women were not sex slaves. It says that legal prostitutes always existed in war. They were well treated and in fact, many of the women earned incomes far in excess of what were paid to field officers and even generals. It’s really sad that many women were made to suffer severe hardship during the World War II, but “it is a gross and deliberate distortion of reality to contend that the Japanese army was guilty of “coercing young women into sexual slavery” in “one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century…”

Dongchan Kim, the president of Korean American Civic Empowerment, which encourages civic participation among the community, said, “The shamelessness of the Japanese people who published the advertisement in an American newspaper is despicable. They’re denying history for their own sake. It’s very concerning that Japan is still avoiding the worldwide issue of human rights, and distorting history.”

Jaewon Yoo, of Palisades Park, N.J., where many Koreans live, said, “I’m furious that I live in the same world as people who want to use lies to hide historical facts. But before we criticize their insanity, the Korean-American community should work together to let people know the truth.”

The far right-wing Japanese group chose the Star Ledger, rather than a nationally-known media outlet, because it has a lot of readers in northern New Jersey’s Bergen County, where the Comfort Women Memorial is located. Furthermore, had the advertisement been published in a national newspaper, the people behind it worried that Americans who did not know about comfort women would find out about the issue.


  1. Committee for Historical Facts also denies the traditional historical view of the Nanking Massacre…. I am ashamed as a Japanese…

    • If you were a true Japanese, you know the fact.
      Nanking massacre was fake.Comfort woman was fake.
      You must be faking being Japanese as the Korean usually do. Lie after lie after lie.

      Use your head: There were so many Korean army in Japanese military,did they just watched the 200,000 Korean women were raped?

      • Your comment about South Korea as a prostitute’s country does not make sense. Even though 16.9% prostitutes were from South Korea in Australia in 2004, how is that a evidence that women who were voluntarily went to Japan to make money by prostitution more than 60 years ago? and do you have any reference or factual documents that really demonstrate the racial percentage of prostitution in many different countries? where did that data come from seriously? Historical fact is always going to be there no matter what or how Japanese government wants to deny. If Japanese Government is that confident, why not confront about this situation and get this problem over with Korea and China? Are you really going to say its a fake to women who are still alive as a evidence of this brutal victimization that Japan made? These women who are still alive from sexual enslaving has been suffering from not being heard and supported. Do you think they want the money from Japan when they are already more than 80 years old? do you think they want to come every annual protest for just money ?
        Tell me about what you really know. dont say what you think it is. brings actual evidences to prove it wasnt enforcement to make women become sex slave. DO not brings modernized prostitution rate. In addition, Japan conquered Korea that times during the World War II, Korean soldiers were drafted to Japan, They had no power to protect Korean women who were being sexually abused. did you really think Korean soldiers were equally treated? that they will have voice to speak for women?

        • They simply lie 100 times until it gets through, even 80 years old woman.

          Need evidence in the matter anyways except oral evidence because sometimes they can just cry to make us believe.

          Sometimes we need to know their nationality well to understand the fact.

  2. This article explains objectively three points alleged as facts in the ad with evidences that recruitment activities of comfort women were not “official” conducts of the Japanese government. Unfortunately, comments from Kim or Yoo are just emotional without any counter evidence. They had overstated the past but appears not being able to take the shame of admitting it was an anti Japan propaganda. I believe there had been human rights issues, but it is more productive to dig misconducts of Japanese/Korean individuals including some government officials instead of trying to cook them up as the official orders of the Japanese government.

  3. “Comfort women” paid better than generals received mostly notes issued by army stationed in particular areas. Those notes were not in official Japanese currency and carried large face values because of very high-level of inflation in such a location as Burma. After the war ended, those notes were not honored by the Japanese government. Even if they could have been redeemed, they were almost worthless because of the hyper inflation in Japan.

  4. Needless to say South Korea is a big prostitutes’ country. South Korea women want to get the job for money. After they grow old, they ask indemnities to other courtiers and their own government. Koreans prostitutes were compelled the work by the Japanese and American soldiers? I don’t think so. About 23,000 women work as prostitutes in Australia. 25% to them are from oversea. And over 1,000 women came from South Korea, which means 16.9% of prostitutes who came from oversea are South Korean ladies. South Korean ladies enter Australia with working holiday Visa. This problem also happened in Japan, Canada and New Zealand, because Korean government carried out a new law against prostitutes, which numbers were very high in Korea, in 2004.

    If you think about Korean women’s problem, stop blame Japan. If you think about Chinese people being killed so easily by their government, stop blame Japan about fake Nanking massacre that had never happened. Because as long as you are brainwashed,these problem will never be solved.

  5. Well, the Japanese can have their say on the side of their buildings on Kenmare Street or wherever but the Comfort Women victimized nationalities should have a safe place to air their position as well.

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