Former comfort woman Kim Hak-soon was so angry that she decided to “come out” as a way of forcing the Japanese government to confront the issue.She was the first Korean woman residing in South Korea to reveal herself in public as a former comfort woman. In the fall of 1991, Kim testified before the Japanese public. Why does [the Japanese government] tell such a lie [to deny its knowledge of comfort women system]?In particular, neonationalists objected strongly to both the government’s admission of state involvement in the matter and to the inclusion of the issue in school textbooks.
The government also acknowledged that coercion had been used in the recruitment and retention of the women, and called for historical research and education aimed at remembering the fact.
The Kono statement became the basis for addressing the issue of comfort women in education, and by 1997 almost all school history textbooks and those in related subjects included a brief reference to comfort women. One history textbook for junior high school read, “[M]any women, such as Korean women, were sent to the front as comfort women serving in the war.” Such statements, however bland, served as a legitimate window through which teachers and students could address the issue in classrooms.
Yun Chung-ok, a professor at Korea's Ewha Womans University, was an important catalyst in this development.
In the late 1980's she met with Matsui to exchange information about the comfort women, and in 1990 she wrote a series of reports on the issue for a Korean newspaper. Yun’s reports ignited and enraged the South Korean public, prompting calls for redress from the Japanese government.
In the 1970s and 1980s, several publications appeared that took somewhat more critical views of the comfort women issue.
One of the first was a book written by the non-fiction writer Senda Kako in 1973. Senda, a former journalist, conducted extensive research and interviews, and from these he concluded that the women's situations had been “pitiful.” Senda's work was based almost wholly on sources and recollections of Japanese men who had served in the war--only a few Japanese former comfort women spoke of their experiences, and the two Korean former comfort women he interviewed remained silent. The term he used for the women jugun-ianfu (comfort women serving in the war), would later become contentious, came to have a wide circulation.
In 1993, a Japanese government hearing for fifteen former comfort women in Seoul revealed that many women had been made to serve as comfort women involuntarily.
Later that year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei made an official statement (danwa), essentially admitting that the Japanese Imperial Army had been directly and indirectly involved in the establishment and administration of comfort facilities.
Many non-Japanese women were minors, rounded up by deception or under conditions of debt slavery, and some were violently abducted. Prostitution for military personnel in war zones and occupied territories was widely practiced during and prior to World War II, but Japan’s comfort women system was unusual in the extreme forms of coercion and oppression imposed on women, including teenage girls brought from Korea and Taiwan.
The evidence reveals that state and military authorities at the highest levels were extensively involved in the policymaking, establishment, and maintenance of the system, and in recruiting and transporting women across international borders. One result of both the Japanese government's apologies and of recent scholarship on comfort women was backlash from neonationalist groups.