“Women’s Column of Strength,” a bronze statue by artist Steven Whyte, at St. Mary’s Square in San Francisco, California, on Nov. 1, 2017. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file
Two California non-profits are planning to distribute across school districts in California a teacher’s resource guide about “comfort women,” the mostly Korean women who were forced into Japanese military-run brothels during World War II.
The guide was commissioned by the Korean American Forum of California (KAFC) and the Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC), which spearheaded the creation and installation of a comfort women memorial in San Francisco in 2017, as part of their efforts to educate the world about this chapter of World War II history in Asia.
“We need to do that in order to make sure that this kind of history will never be repeated again,” Lilian Sing, a retired San Francisco judge and co-chair of the CWJC, said. “And hopefully the historical atrocities like ours, like comfort women, as well as American slavery, the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, will never happen again.”
During World War II, an estimated 200,000 women from countries including Korea, the Philippines, China, and Indonesia were forced into sexual slavery and “served” between five to 60 soldiers per day, according to research referenced by professors from Vassar College and Shanghai Normal University.
The guide contains primary documents about Japan’s comfort women system, information about comfort women memorials in the United States, brief lesson plans with discussion questions and group exercises, comfort women testimonies, and the text of a congressional resolution asking the Japanese government to acknowledge, apologize for, and accept responsibility for its comfort women system.
The debate around discussion of comfort women has been a controversial issue. Advocates of discussion say that the Japanese government has long denied justice to comfort women, while opponents say there is no evidence supporting the claim that women were forced into sex slavery and that Japan has already apologized for its actions.
Despite the controversy, California’s State Board of Education in 2016 approved a history-social science framework for California Public Schools that includes comfort women in the 10th grade world history curriculum. The year before, the San Francisco Board of Education approved a resolution to teach staff and students about human trafficking, including the history of comfort women.
After California approved the new framework, the KAFC and CWJC commissioned lesson plans for teachers to use in their classes and printed 1,000 hard copies of the material, according to Phyllis Kim, executive director of KAFC. The lesson plans, written by three scholars and reviewed by two veteran educators, is also available on a website dedicated to comfort women education that KAFC launched in September.
Kim said that the KAFC and CWJC plan to pitch the book to every school district in California, but will also provide any educator regardless of geographic location with materials as long as they’re able to to teach in English. She added that she’s had requests for material from as far as Germany.
Last month, the KAFC and CWJC provided copies to at least 20 Southern California teachers who attended a comfort women workshop for high school history teachers, Kim said.
One school district that will take the material into consideration is the Glendale Unified School District, which is slated to review it in February to see if it meets the requirements of the new history-social science framework. The district will begin the process of adopting new instructional materials for social science in two years, which will include information on comfort women, Kristine Nam, communications director at the Glendale Unified School District, said in an email.
Thank you very much for agreeing to the interview with Justiceforcomfortwomen.
We have the following questions. In addition to these questions, if you have anything else you would like to say, please kindly let us know.
1. What do the surviving comfort women in the House of Sharing think of the ‘Foundation for Reconciliation and Healing’ by Korea & Japan’s governments?
Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ was a war crime committed by Japan, and the worst abuse of women’s rights in the history of mankind. Japan used women as a tool of war. This was a crime against humanity. To regain the honor of these women and reinstate human rights, the victims have held a Wednesday Demonstration every week in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul since February 1, 1992. The women have demanded that the Japanese government to make an official apology and legal reparations by visiting major cities around the world, e.g. the US, Canada, Japan, Germany and France, to give testimony.
The term Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ was coined by the perpetrator Japan. The victims argue that Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ should be used instead. The perpetrator-oriented term should not be used. It’s high time to use the term that correctly expresses the essence of this issue, i.e. victims of Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’.
As the agreement between South Korea and Japan, signed on December 28, 2015, was reached without giving any explanation to the victims and obtaining their consent, it lacks legal validity in terms of its procedure. Furthermore, the perpetrator-centric coercive undemocratic procedure infringed on the fundamental rights of the victims. So this agreement, not including an official apology and legal reparations, must be abolished.
The agreement did not state an official apology. It excluded the Japanese Army’s role as the main culprit, and instead used ambiguous words like the involvement of the military without admitting responsibility. To ensure veracity, the prime minister representing Japan must apologize in person. The foreign minister’s apology is not an official apology.
The victims did not consent to the agreement, yet it was presented as a final and irreversible resolution. Over the years, the Abe government has denied the Kono Statement of 1993, which indirectly apologized to the victims under the Murayama government. The Abe government has attempted to distort and modify history.
After the announcement of the agreement, politicians denied coercion, and thoughtlessly called the victims prostitutes. There is nothing we can do when such absurd remarks are made about the victims in Japan. The expression ‘final and irreversible’ pales into insignificance beside these remarks, and it are nothing more than a one-way declaration for the benefit of the perpetrator. It is a pathetic agreement that cannot be fulfilled. Furthermore, we cannot understand why research and education, which were included in the Kono Statement, are missing. This would seem to indicate the intention of Japan to hide the facts of the case forever.
So, the victims are opposed to the agreement, and for that matter, they are also against the establishment of the Foundation for Reconciliation and Healing. Nevertheless, the government has pushed ahead with it, and launched the foundation. The victims did not entrust their individual rights to the claim and the right of representation to the foundation; yet, the foundation received the money that Japan gives to the victims. This was illegal.
It is not a matter of money being given to the victims. No matter which government is in power in Japan, the victims want Japan to take legal responsibility, i.e. not denying or modifying this issue. The victims are seeking legal reparation. The Japanese government’s contributions have come from the government’s reserve funds in the government budgets, i.e. money for international relief.
2. Recently many victims have passed away, and as they are all elderly women, time is limited. What kind of help can you give them?
Japan argues that Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages in 1965 put an end to the issue, and thus the claim expired, and the statute of limitations has expired.
When the Treaty on Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan was signed in 1965, however, Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages concerned the property rights under colonial rule. It was not therefore a claim against the war crimes committed on the battlefield by Japanese soldiers. The state cannot exercise individuals’ rights of claim on their behalf, and the issue of Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ was known to the international community in the early 1990’s,. Japanese civic groups and conscientious scholars have stated the same. The argument that individuals’ claims were included in Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages in 1965, and thus they are all resolved is an empty Japanese claim and nothing better than sophistry. War crimes do not have a statute of limitations. Do you think the victims will want a humanitarian resolution for these crimes t? Naturally they demand a legal resolution.
We must let the citizens of the world know Japan’s alteration of the true history.
3. Movies were made based on the victims’ stories(e.g. ‘Spirits’ Homecoming,’), and they are introduced in various ways, such as TV dramas, plays and dance, but unfortunately they seem to be concentrated in a certain period around the National Liberation Day. Do you want anything from the media or related organizations?
In 1993 under the Murayama government of Japan, the Kono Statement acknowledged the issue of Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery,’ and in 1995 Japan established the Asian Women’s Fund to ‘give consolatory payments to Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims. In 2007, the US House of Representatives adopted Resolution HR121 to urge Japan to apologize, and various UN organizations tried to record history and educate people so as not to forget the history. This agreement lacks history education, and used the term ‘final and irreversible.’ This was a malicious attempt to erase history forever.
1. Recording in textbooks and education
2. Many researches and distribution of materials
3. Forming a consensus through movies and documentaries
4. There is a saying ‘A history forgotten is a history repeated.’ The Japanese government is continuously trying to erase the history of the victims. Japanese right-wingers send anti-Korean mails to my blog. How do you think we can bridge this gap in history, and concentrate on the real issue of human rights?
Human rights and history issues are important to all states and nations. To resolve this issue, we must demand with one voice that the Japanese government should make legal reparations and an official apology. In particular, individuals must join in with efforts to resolve these issues with a clear understanding of human rights and history. To try and resolve this issue, the civilian sector must work tirelessly to erect the Statue of Peace. This is the best thing we can do to resolve the issue. Korea and Japan must make a joint textbook and resolve this human rights issue together.
Again, thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us. We wish the very best of everything for surviving comfort women at the House of Sharing, and we will keep supporting them in anyways.
12 Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims 12 sued the Korean government for compensation worth KRW100 million each. They say that they would not accept a single penny from the Japanese government if it is not legal reparations.
The Korean government must provide compensation for the damages they inflicted on Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ as it did not carry out the decision of the Constitutional Court in 2011. 12 Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims, including 6 in the House of Sharing, filed a compensation suit in the court of the Republic of Korea against the Korean government on August 30 (Tuesday) 1:00pm. They claimed KRW100 million in damages per person.
What Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims demanded was the Japanese government’s ‘legal responsibility,’ i.e. that Japan should clearly acknowledge their crimes, make an official apology and legal reparations, continuously work to acknowledge the truth, remember the victims, provide history education and punish criminals. The victims refused the ‘Asian Women’s Fund,’ which Japan established in 1995 to give KRW50 million per person, even though they were badly off and needed money. They refused this fund because it expressly denied ‘Japan’s legal responsibility.’
The Japanese government and court argued that the Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages in 1965 resolved all issues. As the Korean government did not make an authoritative interpretation of the victims’ rights of claim, 109 victims urged the Korean government on June 5, 2007 to resolve the issue of Japanese Army Sex Slavery’ according to the dispute resolution procedure set forth in the Settlement Agreement between South Korea and Japan of 1965, and filed a constitutional appeal.
On August 30, 2011, the Constitutional Court said, “There is a Constitutional demand to help Korean nationals, whose human dignity and value were seriously harmed by the organized and continuous illegal acts perpetrated by Japan, to exercise their right to demand compensation, and protect them.” It ruled that the Korean government’s failure to follow the dispute resolution procedure set forth in Article 3 of theTreaty on Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan of 1965 to hold the Japanese government liable for damages infringes on the victims’ fundamental rights of the Constitution.
According to the decision of the Constitutional Court, the victims requested that the Korean government resolve the issue of Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ in accordance with the procedure set forth in Article 3 of the Settlement Agreement between South Korea and Japan, including the arbitration procedure. On December 28, 2015, however, the Korean government agreed to ‘a final and irreversible resolution,’ ‘refraining from reproaching and criticizing Japan in the international community,’ and ‘efforts to address Japanese government’s concerns about the Statue of Peace.’ Nevertheless, the Japanese government refused to acknowledge its ‘legal responsibility’. The victims believed that the Korean government signed an agreement in violation of the decision of the Constitutional Court, and caused additional mental and physical damage to them, and filed a lawsuit against the Korean government.
On August 30 (Sunday), 6 Japanese Army‘Sex Slavery’ victims in the House of Sharing refused to receive KRW100 million in consolation money that the Japanese government said it would pay in accordance with the agreement between Korea and Japan. 10 of the 40 surviving comfort women are living together in the House of Sharing. Their ages range between 87 and 101, and their average age exceeds 90. They suffer from geriatric diseases, and the trauma of having been gang raped at an early age. To resolve this issue, they visited Tokyo and Osaka, Japan in January 2017, New York and Dallas, US in April, and are set to visit Okinawa and Fukuoka, Japan in October to provide testimony.
The Japanese government remitted￥1 billion, i.e. about KRW10.87 billion to the foundation for supporting comfort women, i.e. the ‘’Foundation for Reconciliation and Healing.’ It has been 25 years since the comfort women issue was first publicized in 1991 by the testimony of the late Kim Hak-soon. However, a humanitarian support fund, not legal reparations, will not help resolve this issue at all. It is not until the victims receive a single penny in legal reparations that the Japanese government acknowledges legal responsibility and no Japanese government will make reckless remarks like prostitution.
The Abe government has sought to nullify the Kono Statement of 1993 which admitted this issue. The actions of the Abe government have met with strong resistance from historians around the world. As this distortion and alteration of history continue, Japan must make legal reparations. Japan’s unilateral remittance is nothing but a trick to erase history. That’s why the 6 victims in the House of Sharing refuse to receive KRW100 million in cash.
When it comes to human rights, particularly the issue of history, the ruling and opposition parties cannot be different. Past governments tried many things to resolve this issue, but as Japan did not make legal reparations and an official apology that the victims want, they could not reach an agreement. The National Assembly must now demand with one voice that the agreement should be nullified and renegotiated. In particular, the National Assembly members must work together with an awareness of human rights and history. The private sector cannot but continuously erect the Statute of Peace at home and abroad to resolve this issue. In summary, then, the Statute of Peace is the best thing we can do to resolve this issue.
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Launched in 2009, the DMZ Docs has developed into the country’s largest festival of documentary films themed on “peace,” “communication” and “life.” The festival has the unique concept of combining the documentary genre with the demilitarized zone, the world’s last remaining symbol of the Cold War.
The Special Focus of this year has the opportunity to reflect on the issue of the ‘Comfort women for Japanese soldiers’ through the documentary, which has become the big social issue due to the Korean Comfort Women agreement at the end of the year 2015. It presents the documentary films by Japanese Filmmakers, devoted to the Comfort Women such as Karayuki-San, the Making of a Prostitute by Imamura Shôhei, Okinawa no Harumoni by Yamatani Tetsuo and Living with the “Memories” by Doi Toshikuni. And also present two documentaries that depict the testimonies of Taiwanese Comfort Women and their current life of healing the trauma, and The Silence that was made by Park Su-nam, a second-generation Korean Japanese director in China. Trough all these films, we could not only pay attention to the voice of the Comfort Women as victims in the countries of Asia, but also confirm that the women’s experiences of war and violence are limited to the problem of the individual countries but are connected with each other crossing the borders of the countries in Asia. Along with screening them, the Special Focus will hold a forum to examine the collective memory and representation of the Korean Comfort women for Japanese soldiers and the past and present of the representation of Comfort women in Asia. In addition Peasant revolutionary dynamics, Pepper and Rifle, a documentary that reveals that Japan suppressed Peasant revolutionary army in the process of colonization of Joseon, was received the special production support of the DMZ Doc Fund and will also be screened in the Special Focus.
While the Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe puts pressure on the South Korean government under President Park Geun-hye to remove or relocate the comfort women statue from in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in connection with the agreement the two countries reached about the comfort women on Dec. 28, 2015, even more comfort women statues are appearing both inside and outside of South Korea.
This month alone – which includes the International Memorial Day for the Comfort Women on Aug. 14 and Liberation Day on Aug. 15 – new comfort women statues will be unveiled in 10 more locations. There are 20 other locations that are taking steps toward installing a comfort women statue, though the unveiling has yet to be scheduled.
“Starting with Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 6, unveiling ceremonies for the Monument to Peace will be held in 10 locations both in Korea and in other countries just this month,” said Ryu Ji-hyeong, an activist, on Aug. 2. Ryu is in charge of matters related to the comfort women statue – officially known as the “Monument to Peace” – for the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop).
“All 10 of these locations are working with Kim Un-seong and Kim Seo-gyeong, the husband-and-wife team of sculptors who cast the Monument to Peace that is in front of the Japanese Embassy to South Korea. If other areas that are working with other artists are included, you might have an even bigger number,” Ryu added.
The first unveiling ceremony this month is being organized by the Statue Establishing Committee in Sydney, which is supported by the Korean community there. The unveiling ceremony will take place at the Sydney Korean Community Center on Aug. 6, with former comfort woman Gil Won-ok, Jeongdaehyeop co-representative Yoon Mee-hyang and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung in attendance.
The statue will be kept at the Korean community center for one year before being permanently installed at the Ashfield Uniting Church (led by Pastor Bill Crews), which is located in Sydney.
This is the twelfth memorial to the comfort women overseas (including both the comfort women statues and commemorative stones), joining one in Japan, nine in the US and one in Canada.
“These Korean anti-Japan activities are being utilized as a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s information operation attempting to cut the ties of the alliance between Japan, the US and Australia” and involve political operatives “connected with North Korea,” a Japanese group was quoted as claiming in an Aug. 1 report by Australia broadcaster ABC.
In South Korea a series of comfort women statue unveiling ceremonies are scheduled for this month. The first will be held at Dangjeong Park in Gunpo, Gyeonggi Province, on Aug. 9, followed by ceremonies at the South Jeolla Province Office, Gimpo and Osan on Aug. 14; at Nonsan, Guro Station, Sangroksu Station and Heukseok Station on Aug. 15; and at Siheung on Aug. 20.
While local governments and local legislatures – including South Jeolla Province, the South Jeolla Province legislature and the city of Gunpo – have been involved in some of the comfort women statue construction projects, the majority of them have been funded by donations from the local community.
The first comfort women statue is the “Young Woman Statue for Peace” that was installed on Peace Street in front of the Japanese Embassy to South Korea. This statue was set up to commemorate the 1,000th weekly Wednesday comfort women demonstration on Dec. 14, 2011, with the goal of remembering the former comfort women and establishing a proper understanding of history.
To date, comfort women statues and memorial stones have been set up in a total of 51 places around the world, 40 of which are in South Korea and 11 of which are in other countries.
The first monument for the comfort women to be built inside South Korea was the “Pagoda of Peace,” which was erected in Chwigan Woods (located in Pyeongsari Park, Hadong County, South Gyeongsang Province) on May 26, 2007, by the Committee to Commemorate Former Comfort Woman Jeong Seo-un. The first monument outside of South Korea was a memorial stone set up in Miyako-jima, an island that is part of Japan‘s prefecture of Okinawa, on Sep. 7, 2008, by Korean and Japanese civic groups.
Comfort women statues were only built intermittently at first, with one in 2007, one in 2008, and one in 2010. But since the comfort women statue went up in front of the Japanese Embassy in 2011, the statues have been increasing exponentially. There were three in 2012, five in 2013, 11 in 2014 and 23 in 2015.
So far this year, additional comfort women statues have been erected at five locations, including Busan’s Choeup neighborhood. Including the 10 sites where statues will be unveiled this month and the 20 or so places that are still finalizing their plans, the number of statues this year is expected to be nearly double last year’s figure.
“There were a lot of Monument to Peace construction projects last year since it was the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan,” Ryu said. “This year, we were expecting the construction trend to slow, but we’re actually seeing an increase since the Dec. 28 agreement between the South Korean and Japanese governments.”
“The Monument to Peace is not simply a reminder of Japan’s war crimes. It also expresses a firm commitment to the idea that there must not be any wars or war crimes in the future, either. Since the Dec. 28 agreement, it appears that more people think that it‘s important to make an effort not to forget these issues,” she said.
Jeongdaehyeop announced that it has declared Aug. 1 to Aug. 16 to be the “4th Week of the International Memorial Day for the Comfort Women.” The group is planning to hold solidarity events to call for the Dec. 28 agreement to be scrapped and that a just solution to the comfort women issue be found. These events, which include the World Solidarity Assembly on Aug. 10 and the Butterfly Culture Festival on Aug. 14, will take place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
International Memorial Day for the Comfort Women was selected and announced during the 11th Asia Solidarity Assembly for Resolving the Comfort Women Issue which took place in Taiwan in Nov. 2012.
The day was chosen with the hope of moving toward an appropriate solution to the comfort women issue in accordance with the wishes of Kim Hak-sun (Oct. 20, 1924-Dec. 16, 1997). On Aug. 14, 1991, Kim became the first former comfort women to testify in South Korea about the suffering that she and others like her had endured.
By Han-Kye-Re Daily News, Lee Je-hun staff reporter
A special rapporteur for the UN has expressed serious concern about the Japanese government’s attempts to influence how textbooks describe the issue of the comfort women for the Imperial Japanese Army.
During a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Apr. 19, David Kaye, Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council, said that the Japanese government must both be careful about meddling in the interpretation of historical incidents and be diligent to try to inform its citizens about severe crimes such as the comfort women system.
Kaye arrived in Japan on Apr. 12 to look into the critical situation surrounding the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in the country, and on Tuesday he publicly announced his provisional findings.
After Kim Hak-sun first testified in Aug. 1991 that she had been a comfort woman for the Imperial Japanese army, Japanese middle school and high school textbooks written in the mid-1990s gave substantial coverage to the comfort women issue.
But following an overall rightward shift in Japanese society, descriptions of the comfort women for the most part disappeared from middle school textbooks in 2006. The high school textbooks that will begin to be used next year have significantly watered down their description of the compulsory nature of the comfort women system. The phrase “rounded up by Japanese troops” is being replaced by “women who were recruited,” for example.
Addressing such trends in Japanese society, Kaye noted that he had heard about the removal of descriptions of the comfort women. “Government interference with how textbooks treat the reality of the crimes committed during the Second World War undermines the public’s right to know and its ability to grapple with and understand its past,” he said.
Kaye also addressed the hate speech and discrimination against minorities that is widespread in Japan today.
“Japan does not have comprehensive legislation to combat discrimination,” Kaye said. “Such legislation is the critical first step toward dealing with hateful expression: Japan must adopt a broadly applicable anti-discrimination law.”
The Liberal Democratic Party is currently drafting a bill related to this, but it would not explicitly forbid racially motivated hate speech.
The attacks on Takashi Uemura, former reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, who first covered the testimony of Kim Hak-sun, and comments by Japan’s Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi that the government could shut down broadcasters who continue to air politically biased programs are threats against the press, Kaye said.
By Gil Yun-hyung, Tokyo correspondent, Hankyure Newspaper, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 20, 2016, another ‘Wednesday Protest’ was held in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul, S.Korea to acknowledge surviving comfort women in history and asking genuine apology from Japanese government.
Kim, Bok-dong(90) and Kil, Won-ok(87), surviving comfort women attending the protest, donated $1300 for recent earthquake victims and their families in Japan.
“We are not fighting against Japanese people. We are simply asking to acknowledge the dark part of history and its victims, us, during World War2.”
“We sincerely hope the victims from the earthquake will get back to their lives soon..”
Asked for an interview, the old ladies talked earnestly. Also, during the protest, on-site donation was held among protesters.