Saturday, March 24, 2007

The origin of the "indisputable number: 200,000"

This post is the second one on this article regarding comfort women (via AMPONTAN).

The article says:

How many women served soldiers at the brothels?

No official figures have been provided, as there are few documents discovered. Historians have calculated the numbers by tallying how many soldiers were in the field and consulting documents on the ratio of women to soldiers. They also made assumptions about the "replacement rates" of women at the brothels.

Hata has estimated there were up to 20,000 "comfort women," while Yoshimi says the figure was between 50,000 and over 200,000.

The number circulated in the media 200,000 is the upper limit that Yoshimi supplied, and it could be lower. However, that is not the point.

Surprisingly, there is no documents underlying the "indisputable number: 200,000," or any other numbers. They are all, well, guesses. Since the prostitutes were not the official member of the military, there were no name lists of prostitutes serving the military. Besides, they often used "stage names," which makes name lists meaningless any way.

There are five ways to do this guess work (Hata ibid, pp397-406),

  1. guessing from total numbers of soldiers and guessing "appropriate ratio"
  2. extrapolating from the information of a small area
  3. guessing from the numbers of comfort stations
  4. guessing from economic standpoint
  5. guessing from number of condoms distributed
Above numbers of Yoshimi and Hata are using the first method. The difference lies in how you imagine the "average rate of appropriate prostitutes per given number of soldiers."

In Yoshimi Yoshiaki's case:

3.0 million soldiers/sailors (1944: 2.8 million Army, 0.2 million Navy)
divided by
30 (one prostitutes per 30 soldiers)
multiplied by
2 (2 prostitutes took turns)
200,000 = indisputable number in the media

Hata's estimate:

2.5 million soldiers/sailors (0.5 million were thrown into battlefields)
divided by
150 (one prostitutes per 150 soldiers)
multiplied by
1.5~1 (1.5~1 prostitutes took turns)
16,000 or maybe more.

Furthermore, these estimates are number of "prostitutes," not the number of "abducted women forced into sex slavery." If one has to imagine "the appropriate ratio" for "sex slaves", nobody has any evidence with which to calculate the number.

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