The exact numbers of Comfort Women victims are still being researched and debated. The Japanese historian Ikuhiko Hata insists that the number was as low as 20,000. In 1993, Hata proposed a hypothesis of 1 comfort woman was for every 50 military personnel, and a replacement rate of 1.5. The number of military personnel was 3,000,000. Therefore, the calculation yields 60,000 x 1.5 = 90,000 comfort women. On the other hand, in 1999, he proposed another hypothesis with reduced number of military personnel from 3,000,000 to 2,500,000. He also posits 1 comfort woman for every 150 military men…
Whatever the calculation is in the end, the Japanese historian concluded that the number of Comfort Women comes out to be 20,000.
In contrast, the other scholars and researchers say the numbers must have been as high as 400,000.
At this point, we don’t even know which numbers to trust and who to listen to. It is important to know the exact numbers of victims, so we can remember and mourn them, but it was such a long time ago that there is no reliable record. It’s just like how many Jewish lives were lost from Nazi concentration camps.
The more surprising fact is that out of all these victims, only a few numbers of victims were actually reported to governments. There are 238 victims reported in South Korea, 260 in North Korea, 169 in Philippines, 42 in Taiwan, 11 China, 8 in Malaysia and two in Indonesia. Compared to how many victims there were back then, these numbers are extremely few. This is because majority of their lives were taken away during that time, and even if there were victims who survived, they stayed silent because it must have been a very hard thing for them to stand up for themselves. It is such a sorrowful time to even remember and look back for them.
Now the number of survivors in Korea is 20. China is still in stage of collecting testimonies. Other than these two countries, the awareness and even education in other nations are not spoken regularly. The small numbers of alive victims are not going to be here for long.
The numbers are gone. The lives are gone. What we can do for those disappeared souls is to keep them in our hearts and keep fighting for their justice, so their spirits are in a happier place. And for those who are still with us now, we need to keep holding their hands and remind them they’re not alone.