Chung-Ja Noh, now 72, said that when she was 16 she was abducted from her Korean village and taken with 38 other girls to China amid the Sino-Japanese war. The girls were forced to have sexual intercourse, sometimes with as many as 30 soldiers a day, she said.
Two years ago, during former Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's state visit to Seoul, Noh overcame the shame and humiliation she had felt for more than five decades and joined demonstrators at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
Unlike Noh, most "comfort women" did not live to return home after the war, according to Lee and other researchers. They died in the front lines with their oppressors in China, Manchuria, the Philippines, Burma, Okinawa and the Solomon Islands. Some were killed by Japanese soldiers bent on destroying evidence, she said.
With Japan's defeat in 1945, the remaining women were dumped, according to Chung-Ok Yun, the other co-chairwoman of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. She has researched the subject for two decades and tracked down dozens of survivors throughout Asia. Young women, many of them burdened with babies fathered by Japanese soldiers, were left to wander in Asia, she said. Only a few returned home.