top of page

Korean Survivors of the Japanese “Comfort Women” System, a Poem by Melanie Hyo-In Han

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

Second Place Winner of the "Vultures & Doves: Social Issues of Our Time" Poetry Competition.

"Korean Survivors of the Japanese 'Comfort Women' System" is an erasure poem born out of the abstract of the essay, “Korean Survivors of the Japanese “Comfort Women” System: Understanding the Lifelong Consequences of Early Life Trauma” by Jee Hoon Park, KyongWeon Lee, Michelle D. Hand, Keith A. Anderson & Tess E. Schleitwiler for the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

Prior to and during World War II, thousands of girls and young women were abducted from Korea and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese government. Termed comfort women, these girls and young women suffered extreme sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and trauma. Research on this group is not well-developed and people know little of the impact of this early life trauma on the lives of these women who are now in later life. Using snowball sampling, 16 older adult survivors of the comfort women system participated in semistructured qualitative interviews. Thematic analysis was conducted to gain an understanding of the trauma that these women suffered and how it impacted their lives. Results revealed the depths of the abuse these women suffered, including repeated rapes, physical beatings, humiliation, forced surgery and sterilization, and social exclusion. These early traumatic experiences appeared to reverberate throughout their lives in their family relations, their inability to marry and to conceive children, and their emotional and physical well-being throughout the life course and into later life. The experiences of these survivors illustrate the lasting impact of early-life trauma and can guide interventions with current survivors of sexual abuse or trafficking.


Melanie Hyo-In Han was born in Korea and raised in East Africa, she is a poet, teacher, and author of "Sandpaper Tongue, Parchment Lips." Her poetry has received awards from “Boston in 100 Words” and The Lyric Magazine. Han got her M.F.A. in Poetry and Translation from Emerson College where she taught in the Writing Studies Program and served as an ELL Consultant. She is currently a poetry editor at Flora Fiction. Learn more about her at


bottom of page