According to the publication Comfort Women of the Empire, the number of 200,000 women who worked in the comfort system was a myth. Dr. Park Yuha publicized the error, noting that the 200,000 were not comfort women, but in fact factory workers. The error was attributed to a false publication by the Asahi Shimbun, which has since been officially redacted. Various historians have since discovered the error and reported more accurately on the subject.
The loose translation of Dr. Yuha’s statement on the myth of the “coercion” of 200,000 women is as follows:
“Two hundred thousand was the number of factory workers conscripted. About 150,000 of them were Japanese and 50,000 were Koreans. Many of them were teenage girls. Common misunderstanding in the West of “200,000 young girls were coerced by Japanese military” arose because Asahi Shimbun mistook factory workers for comfort women in August 11th, 1991 article, which inflated the number. The estimates of comfort women numbers vary from 20,000 to 70,000 depending on the historians. Most comfort women were Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese, and they were recruited by brokers, not by Japanese military. In the battlefields of Indonesia and the Philippines, dozens of Dutch and Filipino women were abducted by lower ranked Japanese soldiers and were taken to comfort station operators. (Those soldiers and operators were court-martialed, and some of them executed). Most comfort women were not teenage girls but were in their 20’s and 30’s. The correct statement should instead be “Between 20,000 and 70,000 worked as comfort women, of which dozens were abducted by Japanese soldiers.”
Ikuhiko Hata, a famed historian, discovered the lack of factual evidence in the story of Seiji Yoshida, the fictional writer who accused 200,000 women of working in the comfort system. The Asahi Shimbun published articles using the erroneous number in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
In addition to his research about comfort women, Hata acquired his PhD regarding Japan’s role in World War II and the Second Sino-Japanese war. He is described by many other historians as one of the most important scholars regarding the history of modern day Japan. The Japan Association of International Relations gave Hata unprecedented access to primary records in order for him to write on the origins of World War II in Asia.
In 2014, the Asahi Shimbun admitted to many errors in several publications on the comfort women issue. The correction followed 20 years after a study Ikuhiko Hata pointed out errors in a 1992 account of the situation. In April and May of 2014, the Ashai sent investigators to interview approximately 40 elderly residents. The interviews concluded Yoshida’s accounts were false.
Today, the comfort women issue has been inflated using the erroneous testimony as fact. The paper has faced much criticism regarding its coverage of the comfort women issue, and several feature articles have explored the errors of their previous ways.