"Comfort women" is a commonly used euphemism for sex slaves used by the Japanese army during World War II.

Negationists argue that "Comfort women" were not sex slaves, and make the specific claim that they were well paid, which would be inconsistent with the women being sex slaves.

Examples of claims that they were well paid:

Comfort Women were not sex slaves, but very well-paid prostitutes:

Comfort Women earned over six times more than newly recruited policemen who earned a relatively high salary in Japan. Comfort women were voluntary.

Copy of an opinion piece run, and subsequently retracted, in the Korea Times (probably authored by a pro-Japanese troll)

Only the people of Korea seem to be unable to come to grips with the reality that there never really was a “hellish situation” for these women. My grandmother, who made lots of money from her work as a prostitute servicing Japanese soldiers, and her friends (yes, they are Koreans, too) all say they never were forced and they were all paid very well.

Texas Daddy Whacking the Lies of Comfort Women quotes "Texas Daddy" citing a report by the United States written in August 1944 (that is, when it was at war with Japan, and had every reason to paint Japan in a negative light):

"They lived in near-luxury in Burma in comparison to other places. They lived well because their food and material was not heavily rationed and they had plenty of money with which to purchase desired articles. They were able to buy cloth, shoes, cigaretes, and cosmetics to supplement the many gifts given to them by soldiers who had received 'comfort bags' from home."

"While in Burma, they amused themselves by participating in sports events with both officers and men, and attended picnics, entertainments, and social dinners. They had a phonograph, and in the towns they were allowed to go shopping."

"In an average month, a girl would gross about 1,500 yen (half of which she turned over to the master)".

With the following as commentary (not from the US report)

This means, a comfort girl earned 750 yen a month. To give you an idea of how humongous this salary was, a Japanese Imperial Army sergeant at the time was paid 30 yen a month.

Were "Comfort women" well-paid?

My question is about whether they were well paid, and not about whether "Comfort women" were sex slaves. I want to be able to rebut specific claims when encountering negationists, rather than "knowing" that "Comfort women" were sex slaves but not knowing how to prove it.

For what it's worth, this is what I had in my bounty message:

A rebuttal of this specific claim (about "comfort women" being paid well) would be appreciated.

I strongly suspect the claim is false, but the specific nature of the claim may make it seem plausible, if one were not familiar with other atrocities committed by imperial Japan, and the negationism modern-day Japan has about such atrocities.

Ideally, an answer would point to a resource that would be useful in debunking other false claims about imperial Japan, or at least about the "Comfort Women" issue.

  • 4
    Are you looking for an answer that address the majority of "comfort women"? It's entirely possible that a small minority of women at the time might have been voluntary prostitutes and have been included in the "comfort women" umbrella.
    – rjzii
    Nov 10, 2013 at 17:33
  • 1
    @Articuno Isn't there a a too-long-to-reproduce-here article at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_women which addresses "the full spectrum"?
    – ChrisW
    Nov 11, 2013 at 0:26
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    It doesn't matter how much they were ostensibly paid or not. They weren't given a choice in the matter, therefore it wasn't consensual, therefore it was rape. Nov 12, 2013 at 7:51
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    @Shadur comfort women denialists sometimes assert that it was consensual.
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 13, 2013 at 2:36
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    @AndrewGrimm I'm fairly sure that the surviving comfort women that were asked whether it was consensual pretty much universally replied 'no'. Nov 13, 2013 at 7:50

1 Answer 1


Trigger warnings: Detailed depiction of sexual assault, trafficking, and related.

It depends on what you mean by "well", and it depends on a wide different number of factors - Paid by whom, to whom? The actual yen range was so wide it's hard to depict an "average" without being insensitive to the trauma endured. It's like asking how well-paid the average prostitute here in the States is, when the reality stretches from a person making just over the minimum wage, to higher-class escorts.

From this particular book, pages 35-36:

Many married women also became prostitutes due to financial difficulties that arose while their husbands were working away from home. However, the amount of an advance paid for a Korean woman was for less than that paid for a Japanese woman. For example, in 1933, brothel owners in Inchon made an advance payment of between 200 and 700 yen for a Korean woman for a five-year contract, while between 700 and 2500 yen was a usual amount paid for a Japanese woman. [...] It was quite common also for owners of "restaurants," "cafes," and "bars," who operated clandestine prostitution businesses, to pay far less - between 50 and 100 yen in advance - in order to employ Korean women under the pretence of being "waitresses" and "barmaids".

Those are just some of the "better" examples of "advances". Another book from Columbia University Press gives more examples that don't fare better - page 101:

A woman with the professional name Kikumaru, who worked as a geisha in Nishikoyama in Tokyo, went to the Truk Islands in 1942 to work in a comfort station for naval officers. Since the military agreed to pay off her debt of close to 4,000 yen to the brothel owner, she is said to have volunteered. [...] Contracts were for a period of one and a half years. Comfort women kept 40 percent of their earnings, while 60 percent went to the navy.

Back to the other book, page 78, harder to read, gives an example of a "comfort station" (in Flores, from Surabaya, which included trafficked Eurasians, Chinese, Indonesians, etc) and gives a more harrowing description. In the previous page there was a disturbing mention of involuntary inspection of their genitalia, to detect the condition of their hymen (or archaically, "virginity", which is worth noting it's not an actual medical term):

On average, each woman was forced to serve 20 soliders, two NCOs, and one officer every day. [...] Each comfort woman was expected to collect at least 100 tickets a week. Those who failed were physically punished by the manager. Each man was given a condom along with the ticket, and was instructed to use it without fail. But many would not use condoms and some beat into submission those women who refused service without a prophylactic. It seems the women rarely received payment, although sufficient food was provided every day. [...] Undoubtedly their situation was very similar to that experienced by most Korean comfort women, as seen in the previous chapter.

And apparently some women were downright lied to about any supposed benefits other than monetary value - page 79:

According to a Javanese woman, Siti Fatimah, a daughter of Singadikarto, the Subdistrict head of Subang in west Java, she was told that she would be sent to Japan to study in Tokyo. [...] They joined a few hundred Indonesian girls who had been deceived by the Japanese and believe that they were going to Tokyo. The ship went instead to Flores Island. As soon as they arrived, the Japanese attitude towards the girls suddenly changed. [...] Three months later they were transported to the north of Buru Island, where they were put into a military compound. Here too, they were sexually abused every day until the end of the war.

In both Flores and Buru, many girls died as the result of maltreatment by the Japanese. Others suffered psychological trauma as the result of sexual abuse.

There's also another book called the "Legacies of the Comfort Women" with multiple authors, that gives a similar account of the Surabaya-Flores-Buru route and even mentions Siti Fatimah again in page 61.

  • 4
    I'm not sure if this was worthy of putting in my answer, but it's very telling of the oftentimes obnoxious state that I (sadly but currently) live in: A user by the name "Texas Daddy", wearing a TX shirt, with a brown paper bag over his head in the youtube thumbnail, is attempting to downplay the suffering of Korean comfort women by calling the people who set up the memorial in California - "liars", by linking a shoddy pre-ww2 US report, on his website. Even though the US wasn't their ally, they probably didn't have a favorable view of sex workers, voluntary or involuntary.
    – Velda
    Apr 5, 2014 at 6:13
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    notice the wording of "an amount paid FOR a Korean woman", suggesting it wasn't the woman who was paid but rather the person (probably a soldier) supplying her to the brother owner...
    – jwenting
    Mar 22, 2017 at 11:49

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