S Korea rejects Japan’s demand to remove ‘comfort women’ statue

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Statue of a girl, symbolizing comfort women, facing the Japanese Embassy in Seoul
Citizens wrapped the statue with a scarf and left mittens in winter time
Citizens wrapped the statue with a scarf and left mittens in winter time

Seoul-South Korea on Thursday rejected Japan’s demand that a statue of a girl memorializing Korean “comfort women” erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul be removed.

“Japan’s demand is like mistaking the means for the end,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Joon Hyuk said during a press briefing. “As I said repeatedly, the statue was installed under a civilian initiative.”

He urged Japan to present measures acceptable to the South Korean people and also to the international community.

On Wednesday, South Korea and Japan held the 10th round of diplomats’ talks in Seoul to resolve the issue of Korean women forced to work at wartime brothels for the Japanese military. Japan reportedly demanded during these talks that the statue be taken down.

South Korea is seeking the resolution of the comfort women issue possibly by the end of this year based on its demand that Japan settle the issue in a way acceptable to those women still alive, such as through apology and compensation.

But Japan maintains that everything having to do with compensation was settled under the 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea.

By Japan Times

Filipino ‘comfort women’ survivors call for justice at Manila rally

MANILA – Six Filipino victims of alleged Japanese military sexual abuse during World War II staged a rally Thursday in front of the Japanese Embassy over what they say is the continuing disregard by the leaders of the Philippines and Japan of their plight and cries for justice.

The members of Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Grandmothers) reiterated their demand for justice from the Japanese government ahead of the arrival of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Manila next week.

Of the 174 original members of Lila Pilipina, only about 90 are still alive. Another group of victims, called Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers), had around 90 original members, but only one-third of them remain.

Around 1,000 Filipino women were believed to have been sexually abused by Japanese soldiers during their occupation of the country from 1941 though the end of the war in 1945.

The women, now in their 80s, are asking for a formal apology and just compensation from the Japanese government, and inclusion of the so-called comfort women system during WWII in Japan’s historical accounts and education textbooks.

Narcisa Claveria, 85, said in her remarks at the protest that the group did not regard apologies by Japanese officials as an official apology by the Japanese government.

She likewise criticized Philippine President Benigno Aquino for not understanding their pleas and for not supporting their struggle.

The organization also reiterated its opposition to the strengthening military ties of the Philippines and Japan, warning of a possible repeat of the abuses, especially against women, committed during the war.

The executive direction of the organization said it may not be able to hold another rally when Abe arrives in Manila for the APEC forum next week because of the frail condition of the elderly members.

by Japan Times

Photo exhibition shows pain of Indonesian former ‘comfort women’

Photo exhibition shows pain of Indonesian former ‘comfort women’
BY KEIJI HIRANO
KYODO

Portrait photos of 16 Indonesian former “comfort women” are currently on display at a Tokyo gallery in an exhibition focused on conveying their painful wartime experiences.

The women were taken against their will to brothels for the Japanese military as comfort women, but kept their silence for a long time until journalist Hilde Janssen and photographer Jan Banning, both from the Netherlands visited them to record their harrowing memories.

Each portrait by Banning is accompanied by an account of the woman captured in the photo — sometimes reluctantly shared — about her experience during World War II.

Janssen and Banning launched a research project in 2007, and in the following three years they interviewed and photographed around 50 women.

The women “suffered” while telling their hidden stories and “suffered again” when they were in front of the camera, Banning says.

Banning brought the women to his temporary studio immediately after Janssen interviewed them so he could “keep up the tension” stoked during their interviews, he says.

According to a description attached to her portrait, a woman named Mastia was taken from her community together with 15 other girls, and forced into service as a concubine. After the war, she underwent a religious ceremony to wash away her “sin.”

“People nevertheless continued to call me a ‘Japanese hand-me-down,’ ” she was quoted as saying.

Another woman, Niyem, was kidnapped while playing when she was around 10 years old, according to a description for her photo. She was brought to a military camp in West Java, where she was raped by soldiers in the presence of others. “I was still so young, within two months my body was completely destroyed,” she told her interviewer.

While some in Japan continue to deny the forced recruitment of women, Banning says he expects visitors to the exhibition to “look those women in the eye” to see and share their suffering.

It is clear that the Japanese government is “responsible for setting up the system” during the war, he adds.

Janssen and Banning were in Japan to attend a symposium at the start of the exhibition, which kicked off at Kid Ailack Art Hall in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward last Saturday. The exhibition, held under the auspices of the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace, runs through Oct. 25.

The “Comfort Women” exhibition has already been held in the Netherlands and Indonesia as well as in the United States, Germany and France.

Banning says his family is strongly connected with the wartime history of Indonesia.

His parents were from the Dutch East Indies, which was occupied by Japan in 1942. Recruited by the Japanese military, his father and grandfather were put into forced labor, while his mother, together with her family, was confined in an internment camp there.

They may have been killed and he would not have been born had the war continued longer, Banning says.

Janssen, meanwhile, lived in India and Indonesia for nearly 20 years since 1991 to work as a correspondent for Dutch media and as an anthropologist.

“The visitors to the exhibition must feel as if they are watched by the 16 women, rather than watching them,” says Mina Watanabe, secretary general of the museum. “We hope the visitors will be aware of the hardships the women have gone through.”