South Korean ‘comfort women’ protest against accord with Japan

Hundreds of South Korean protesters joined two surviving former “comfort women” on Wednesday to denounce an agreement with Japan to resolve an issue stemming from Japan’s wartime past that has long plagued ties between neighbors.

The two “comfort women”, as those who were forced to work at Japan’s wartime military brothels are euphemistically known, criticized the government for agreeing with Japan on Monday to “finally and irreversibly” settle the issue.

“The government cannot be trusted,” said one of the women, Lee Yong-su, 88.

She said she and fellow survivors were never consulted by officials at they negotiated the agreement.

“We will continue to fight until the end,” she said.

She and the other protesters, including students, opposition legislators and civic activists, are demanding what they call a sincere apology from Japan and formal compensation for victims.

“We did nothing wrong,” Lee said. “Japan took us to be comfort women and still tries to deny its crime.”

Under the agreement, Japan will establish a fund to help surviving victims and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed an apology.

The United States, keen to see its Asian allies improve ties, welcomed the accord.

The protesters spilled onto the street in front of Japan’s embassy in Seoul and milled around a bronze statue of a barefoot teenage girl, symbolizing the women forced to work in the Japanese brothels.

Weekly rallies have been held outside the embassy since 1992 to demand a sincere Japanese government apology and reparations for victims.

For Japan, the statue, erected in 2011, has become a symbol of South Korea’s unwillingness to lay the issue to rest.

Strains between Japan and South Korea have prevented them from signing an agreement to share sensitive military information.

A year ago, they signed a three-way pact under which South Korea routes its information to the United States, which then passes it on to Japan, and vice versa.

Scholars debate the question of how many women were exploited.

South Korean activists say there may have been as many as 200,000 Korean victims, only a few of whom have ever told of the abuse they endured at the hands of Japanese forces before or during the Second World War.

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Japan considers ‘comfort women’ statue removal a precondition for providing 1 billion yen

For Japan, the ball is now in South Korea’s court to cement the Dec. 28 landmark agreement on resolving the “comfort women” issue.

Tokyo believes that South Korea has accepted the removal of a controversial statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul as a precondition for Japan providing 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) in government funds for a foundation to help former comfort women.

Several Japanese government sources said that South Korea provided behind-the-scenes confirmation about the precondition.

But when he read out details of the agreement on Dec. 28, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se only said that Seoul “will make efforts to resolve the issue in an appropriate manner by holding discussions with the related organization on what response was possible.”

Japanese government sources said they are well aware that South Korean government officials have much work ahead of them.

The statue of a girl representing the comfort women, a euphemism for women forced to provide sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II, was set up in 2011 by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a private organization.

The council has shown no signs that it will remove the statue.

“It is unthinkable that the South Korean government would become involved in the moving of the statue,” a council official has said.

South Korean officials had long insisted that they would be unable to do anything about the statue because it had been erected by a private organization.

But in the final stages of negotiations on resolving the comfort women issue, Japanese officials made clear that moving the statue would be necessary if Japan was to put up the 1 billion yen for a foundation to be established by South Korea to provide support to the former comfort women and to pass on the history of what they went through to future generations.

In addition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had made known to close associates that his conservative supporters would not stand for any agreement on the comfort women issue without the statue being properly dealt with.

Japan’s adamant stance led to the mention of the statue in the agreement read out on Dec. 28 by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Yun.

By HAJIMU TAKEDA/ Staff Writer, Asahi Newspaper

For whom the agreement between Japan and Korean governments for?

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The statue facing the Japanese Embassy in Seoul

Korea and Japanese governments announced that they finally reached an agreement to compensate and acknowledge the comfort women(sex slaves) from the World War 2. However, after the details of the agreement were presented, the surviving comfort women have been devastated. In the agreement, Japanese government did not mention legal responsibility on the matter. Also, Korean government has not consulted the victims prior to the negotiation, which invites doubts on the sincerity of each related government.

Asahi newspaper reported that the agreement from Japanese party requires the removal of the comfort women statue, which is facing the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

After the controversy and outcry from the surviving comfort women and general Korean public, Korean government has tried to calm down the issue.

A surviving comfort woman asks the vice minister of Foreign affairs,visiting to explain Korean government’s position,

“I do not need any money. I want that our part of history is recorded officially and acknowledged legally.For whom this government is existing? For whom this agreement is for?”

 

Former brothel a memorial to WWII’s ‘comfort women’

A MEMORIAL for “comfort women” during World War II opened to the public in east China’s Jiangsu Province on December 2, 2015.

It is the first in China’s mainland dedicated to the group, and was identified by victims as a military brothel run by the invading Japanese more than 70 years ago.

The memorial in Nanjing, Jiangsu’s capital, covers more than 3,000 square meters and comprises eight two-story buildings.

The Japanese took the city, then China’s capital, on December 13, 1937, where they killed 300,000 people within six weeks in what was later dubbed the Nanjing Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking.

The brothel is the largest former “comfort station” still standing.

An estimated 200,000 women from China and many others from the Korean Peninsula, the Philippines, Indonesia and some other countries, euphemistically known as “comfort women,” were forced into sexual servitude by Japanese troops.

In Nanjing alone, there were more than 40 military brothels.

In the courtyard of the memorial, there are sculptures of three “comfort women,” including one who is pregnant.

That woman was Pak Yong-sim from Korea. Once living in Room 19 of building No. 2, Pak revisited the site on November 21, 2003. She died in 2012.

More than 1,600 artefacts and 680 photos are on display, including potassium permanganate given to the memorial by late victim Lei Guiying. The powder was used in the brothel for disinfection..

“My mom was raped at the age of 9, and became a ‘comfort woman” at 13,” said Tang Jiaguo, Lei’s adopted son. “She didn’t want to talk about her past until 2006, when she testified for the crime of Japanese.”

Lei died in 2007. In her will she wrote, “May the tragedy not be repeated. May there be no more wars.”

“For a long time, the history of ‘comfort women’ was buried,” said Su Zhiliang, a professor at Shanghai Normal University.

“In recent years, the Japanese made repeated attempts to tamper with history. The move angered many whose countries had been plagued by the ‘comfort woman’ system. That is why countries like China research and protect the history.”

Yun Ju-Keyng from South Korea, president of the history museum Independence Hall of Korea, was at yesterday’s opening ceremony.

“This year marks the 70th anniversary of China’s victory over Japanese invaders, and also independence of the South Korea,” she said. “Denial of the Japanese government over the past crimes hurt the victims, who are elderly now, a second time. China and South Korea should join hands in exposing the atrocities of the Japanese imperial army, so former ‘comfort women’ can live to see the offenders apologize.”

Filipino veterans, comfort women remember Japanese invasion

MANILA – Former Filipino World War II fighters and victims of Japan’s military brothels remembered on Tuesday the 74th anniversary of Japan’s invasion of the Philippines and the start of the greatest war in the Pacific.

“On Dec. 8, 1941, I was a fourth year student. One day, when the war broke out, we were told, ‘get out,’ and we joined the Hunters,” recalled Proculo Mojica, 92, a former member of a paramilitary service composed of students that fought against the invading Japanese soldiers until the end of the war in 1945.

The Hunters ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) guerrillas were one of the armed groups that resisted the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. It was formed in January 1942, a few weeks after Japan’s invasion of the country, growing from an initial 70-member force to more than 25,000 in its final form.

Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 8, 1941 was immediately followed by attacks on what was then a U.S. colony, the Philippines, leading to its occupation through 1945.

Speaking in a forum, Mojica, who has authored a book on the group’s struggle, was joined by fellow Hunter member Domingo Reyes, 88, Chinese guerrilla Dee Kong Hi, 92, and former comfort women Hilaria Bustamante, 89, and Estelita Dy, 85.

The Chinese guerrilla group was called the Wha Chi, or the Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Squadron, and was formed in May 1942. Playing key roles in various anti-Japanese battles in the country, the group was only demobilized in September 1945 after Japan’s announcement in August that year of its unconditional surrender.

The two “comfort women,” a euphemism for women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during the war, meanwhile, are members of Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Grandmothers).

“We should remember that today is the 74th anniversary of the start of World War II in the Philippines, and we are meaningfully commemorating it with our very special guests in order to help build peace all over the world and in Asia,” forum organizer and moderator, Wilson Lee Flores, said.

In his testimony, Dee recounted the abuse he experienced and witnessed from Japanese soldiers, as well as the hardships, mainly due to lack of food, faced during wartime.

Bustamante and Dy, for their part, reiterated their demand for an official public apology and just compensation from the Japanese government, as well as the inclusion of sexual slavery during the war in Japan’s historical accounts.

They also lamented over the lack of support from the Philippine government for their struggle.

“Our struggle is against the Japanese government. The lolas (grandmothers) wanted compensation from the Japanese government…it was perpetrated by the soldiers, and it was policy from the top to the bottom of the Japan Imperial Army. So the responsibility lies with the government. We want the Japanese government to recognize, accept and be accountable,” Rechilda Extremadura, executive director of Lila Pilipina, said.

Of the estimated 200,000 victims of Japanese military sexual slavery in Asia during World War II, some 1,000 were from the Philippines, she said.

The forum revealed the difference between the status of comfort women, a number of whom are still crying for justice to this day, and Filipino war veterans, who, aside from enjoying continuing aid from a bank set up using part of the war reparations from Japan, were also able to get assistance from the government of the United States.

Miguel Angelo Villa-Real of the Philippine Veterans Bank said his organization is willing to help document and propagate the stories of comfort women, as they did for war veterans, while Philippine Sen. Cynthia Villar expressed approval of the possibility of congress helping comfort women get compensation from the national budget.

It is estimated that more a million Filipinos died during the war, the bulk of whom died during the major battles leading to the end of the war. Thousands of foreigners, including American and Japanese soldiers, suffered the same fate.

After the war, the Philippines’ capital Manila was said to be second only to Warsaw in Poland in a list of Allied capital cities which sustained the most damage.

By Kyoto News