comparative politics international relations Japan-related research

JPOSS #47: “Legacies of Wartime Sexual Violence: Evidence from World War II ‘Comfort Stations’”

The forty-seventh session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on April 11, 2024. Daniel M. Smith (University of Pennsylvania) chaired the seminar and moderated the Q&A session.

Risa Kitagawa (Northeastern University) presented a paper co-authored with Sumin Lee (Texas A&M University), investigating the long-term effects of wartime sexual violence on local communities, specifically levels of social and political trust. The effects are examined using original data on the locations of “comfort stations” instituted by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and the attitudes of individuals reported in recent surveys based on their proximity to these locations. The causal relationship is advanced by exploiting the orthogonal relationship between “comfort stations” and pre-existing levels of trust in communities, as well as controlling for the extent of military operations and violence against civilians. The authors conduct two individual-level analyses using a cross-national sample and a China national sample from two separate surveys. They find positive effects of “comfort stations” on trust in the family and negative effects on trust in the government. Lastly, they supplement their analysis with victims’ oral accounts, which present possible narratives behind the findings.

Eun A Jo (Cornell University and University of Notre Dame) and Daniel M. Smith (University of Pennsylvania) offered insightful comments on the theory, alternative explanations, and further considerations related to cross-national and over-time disparities. During the Q&A session, participants furthered discussions on conflicting explanations, ways to improve the statistical analysis, and alternative sources of data.

The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: