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More and more comfort women statues springing up, in and out of South Korea

comfortwomen stateus
By bong9@hani.co.kr

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Comfort Women statue, facing the Japanese embassy in Seoul, S.Korea

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

Street of Munich fill with support for comfort women

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The streets of Munich, Germany, were filled with the voices of people declaring that imperial Japan’s comfort women system was a war crime and a crime against humanity and that the comfort women issue could not be resolved until the Japanese government offered a sincere apology.
There is ongoing criticism of the behavior of the South Korean and Japanese governments, which are attempting to use an ambiguous grant of 1 billion yen (US$9.9 million) to close the book on the comfort women issue as if it had been “finally and irreversibly” resolved.

On Aug. 15, the European Network for Progressive Korea, a reform-minded group of ethnic Koreans living in Europe, posted pictures and a message on Facebook to share the news that they had joined with artists and human rights activists from around the world to call for a real resolution to the comfort women issue in Munich, Germany, on Aug. 13.
The group held placards that said, “[A] Crime Against Humanity is Everyone’s Business” on the streets of Munich as they urged locals to pay attention to the comfort women issue. The event coincided with [a similar event held in Seoul called] Global Action on the 4th Day of Remembrance for Comfort Women around the World.
“The surviving comfort women, who were the victims of daily rape and violence during World War II, are still waiting for an official apology from the Japanese government, and most of them don’t understand why this issue isn’t being widely discussed inside Japan,” said Bjorn Jensen, a German film director who attended the event.
“Even if the current Japanese government is not directly responsible for something that happened 70 years ago, it is responsible for taking appropriate measures for the former comfort women and for future generations so that the history of the comfort women is not forgotten,” he said.

In June, Jensen released a documentary titled “Forgotten Sex Slaves: Comfort Women in the Philippines” at the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival.
“Remembering the crimes that humans have committed in the past is very important for commemorating the victims and for preventing those crimes from happening again. The Japanese government needs to clearly apologize for its comfort women crimes and to provide legal compensation to the surviving comfort women,” said Corina, a Chilean women’s rights activist and painter.
“I’m reminded of Brazil’s unfortunate past. During the military dictatorship between the 1960s and 1980s, many women were tortured and sexually assaulted in prison,” said Christopher, a human rights activist from Brazil. “Violence against women in a patriarchal society is an issue that the whole world should be interested in.”
“I truly respect the former comfort women for fighting for 25 long years not only to restore their own reputations but also to create a society in which human dignity is respected. I hope the day will soon come when the former comfort women can see for themselves justice being done,” the European Network for Progressive Korea quoted one person in Munich as saying.

From HanKyoRye NewsPaper

‘Guihyang'(Spirit’s homecoming), a movie about an abducted girl’s journey as a comfort woman

Teaser of ‘Guihyang’ on Youtube

Official movie website: http://www.guihyang.com

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/makingguihyang

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The film ‘Spirits’ Homecoming’ is based on the true story of Kang Il-chul , who was forced to become sex slave for the Imperial Japanese Army during the 1940s.

Born in 1928, she was taken by force to Comfort Stations by Japanese army in 1943, when she was only sixteen years old. This movie portrays a teenage girl’s struggle who was stripped of her human rights and dignity in the name of war and the militarism.

Unlike Germany, modern day Japan government has not made amends for their war crimes of the past. Rather, the Rightist faction, which influences great control over Japanese politics insists on unacceptable arguments as they deny the forced conscription of Comfort Women along with other historically known war crime facts.

The film does not seek simply to criticize the Japanese government nor does it seek to provide shallow comfort for the victims. Instead it aims to highlight the devastation and tragedy of the history caused by the military of Imperial Japan, and to heartily send out the message that this cannot be repeated. So, we dare say that this is not the story of the ‘past’ but of the ‘future’ for all. Furthermore, this is a ‘healing movie’ that focuses on alleviating the pain of the past.

Today, only a small number of victims remain alive. It is imperative that their stories be recorded and told to the world.

The Reason to Never Forget – origins of our tale
In the winter of 2002, when Director Cho visited ‘The House of Sharing’ to perform as a traditional Korean drummer for ‘Japanese Military Comfort Women’ victims who reside there, he met Kang Il-chul.

Ms. Kang, one of the Comfort Women victims, born in 1928, was only 16 when she was forcefully ‘recruited’ by a Japanese officer. She was taken to a Comfort Station in Mundanjiang, China, and was forced to work as a ‘sex slave’ for Japanese Soldiers.

Towards the end of war, after years of indescribable torment and abuse, she was diagnosed with typhoid. She was then, transferred outside the army camp, along with other girls who were also considered ‘useless’, to be thrown into a fire pit for disposal.

Right before she was thrown into the fire pit, she was able to make a dramatic escape thanks to a surprise attack from the Korean Independence Army at the time. From then on, she dwelled in China, with no way to go home but longing to return. In 1998, after years of waiting she was able to come home, and decided to reside in ‘the House of Sharing’ along with other victims.

In 2001, during an art psychotherapy conducted at ‘the House of Sharing’, she drew ‘Burning Virgins’ which depicts her own experience. After encountering her picture, Director Cho, shocked by the horrible truth and tragedy young girls’ lives trampled brutally, grieved deeply and wrote a scenario which gave life to the movie – Spirits’ Homecoming.

From the ‘Guihyang’, official site.

China, Taiwan Apply Pressure to Japan Over ‘Comfort Women’ Issue

 

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A Chinese girl from one of the Japanese Army’s “comfort battalions” sits on a stretcher, awaiting interrogation at a camp in RangoonA Chinese girl from one of the Japanese Army’s “comfort battalions” sits on a stretcher, awaiting interrogation at a camp in Rangoon

Image Credit: UK Imperial War Museums

On December 28, Japan and South Korea announced a landmark deal to resolve the issue of “comfort women,” the euphemism used for women forced to sexually service Imperial Japanese Army troops during World War II. The deal announced last Monday sees Shinzo Abe apologize, as Japan’s prime minister, for the women’s suffering. Japan’s government also pledged to provide 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a fund for the women, to be established by the South Korean government.

The “comfort women” issue, and the degree to which Japan’s government will (or won’t) accept responsibility for the forced recruitment of the women, has been a major flashpoint in Japan-South Korea relations. However, South Korea isn’t the only country from which “comfort women” were drawn, and the deal between South Korea and Japan has sparked mixed reactions from other states — most notably China and Taiwan.

China (along with South Korea) has been the most vocal in accusing Japan’ of “whitewashing” history. Unsurprisingly, then, Beijing adopted a cautious stance on the comfort women deal, insisting that it would have to “wait and see” whether Japan’s actions matched its words. When the deal was announced, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang spent more time highlighting the historical issue than addressing the deal. “The forced recruitment of the ‘comfort women’ is a grave crime against humanity committed by the Japanese militarism during the Second World War against people of Asian and other victimized countries,” Lu said, urging Japan to “face up to and reflect upon its history of aggression and properly deal with the relevant issue with a sense of responsibility.”

The general consensus in Chinese state media is that the comfort women deal does not go far enough. Xinhua in particular has repeatedly called Japan’s sincerity into question in its articles on the agreement (see here, here, and here for examples). In particular, Xinhua argued that by making a deal specifically with South Korea, Japan was not acknowledging the full extent of the “comfort women” issue. “Apart from Korean women, victims also include the women of China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, who also deserve an apology and compensation,” one Xinhua editorial pointed out.

The last surviving member of a group of Chinese comfort woman seeking to sue the Japanese government passed away in November at the age of 89. Yet the issue continues to live on, with China’s first memorial to the comfort women opening in December in the city of Nanjing. Beijing also sought to have documents related to the comfort women issue inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, though that attempt was unsuccessful.

When asked if China would hold its own talks with Japan on the comfort women issue, Lu simply repeated China’s call for Japan “to face squarely and reflect upon its history of aggression and deal with the relevant issue in a responsible manner.” Though Chinese state media has called for Japan to apologize to and compensate comfort women of all nationalities, there’s no indication the that government is seriously negotiating on the issue with Japan.

By contrast, Taiwan is preparing to enter negotiations with Japan, seeking a deal similar to the one announced with South Korea. On December 29, President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated his government’s stance on the comfort women issue, saying, “The Republic of China government has always said that Japan should apologize to Taiwanese comfort women and offer compensation to them.” The same day, Foreign Minister David Lin said Taiwan would “continue negotiating with Japan to restore the dignity of Taiwan women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army.” He said Japan had agreed to adopt a “flexible” stance and conduct negotiations, which will start in January in Tokyo.

On Tuesday, a cross-agency working group (which including a comfort women advocacy group, the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation) met to hammer out a strategy for negotiations with Japan. According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Taipei will ask Tokyo to “issue a formal apology to Taiwanese comfort women, offer compensation to the surviving women, and restore their reputation.” Taiwan’s top representative in Japan, Shen Ssu-tsun, met on Monday with the head of Japan’s Interchange Association, which handles relations with Taiwan, to discuss the issue.

Charles Chen, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, confirmed on Tuesday that Taiwan wants the same deal that Japan offered to South Korea. However, Taiwan was unnerved by comments from Japan’s chief cabinet secretary that Tokyo does not, in fact, intend to start a new round of negotiations with other countries based on the South Korea deal. Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan has dealt with the issue “in a sincere manner considering each circumstance” in different countries. He indicated that the situations in other countries were “different” from the one in South Korea, suggesting that Japan will not extend to same offer to other governments.

According to the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, there were around 2,000 Taiwanese women forced into sexual slavery during World War II. Of the 58 who came forward to demand an apology and compensation from Japan, four are still alive.

By Shannon Tiezzi from The Diplomat

Hiring at a sawing factory turns into a military brothel in China

Park, Ok-sun, 91 years old
Park, Ok-sun, 91 years old

When she was 14 years old, her father died. Her elder brother’s business went wrong as well.

To help her family, in 1941, at 17, she went to a place with friends to get hired as a sawing factory worker. However, right at the spot, she and her friends were shipped to China by train.  She remembered the day still vividly.

“I was so scared and kept saying, please I don’t want to go but nobody listens to me. All my friends were trembling with fear..”

Girls still did not know what and where they were shipping to. When they arrived Heirungjian Prefecture in China, girls first day started by beatings from the person in charge at the Japanese military brothel.

After 4years, Japan surrendered and the war was over. However, her ordeal had not stopped. She did not have money to go home and she involuntarily settled at a country village in China. Even in China, she could not get out of poverty.

She said, “I think my unfortunate life is my own destiny. But my children who have been suffering with me, I take that as my fault..”

U.S. Emerges as Central Stage in Asian Rivalry By The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — The political and historical war of words between Japan and South Korea has found another battleground: the United States.

One of the first volleys in the battle for America’s sympathies was played out in a park in New Jersey in 2010, where Korean-Americans in Palisades Park won the right to install a plaque memorializing “comfort women,” many of them Korean, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II. Since then, more Korean communities — sometimes backed by activists and even diplomats from South Korea — have begun their own campaigns either to acknowledge the suffering of the comfort women or, more recently, to win recognition for the country’s arguments that a nearby sea should not automatically be named after Japan, its onetime colonial ruler.

Legislators in Virginia passed a bill this month requiring books mentioning the Sea of Japan to also use its Korean name, the East Sea. New York is considering a similar measure. The ambassadors of South Korea and Japan visited the governor of Virginia in January to press their countries’ cases. Japan also hired four lobbyists to argue that the name change was unnecessary.

As the issues mount, the United States, which has labored to remain an impartial friend to both nations, has found itself in the middle of a fight between its two main Asian allies at a time when it wants their cooperation to face a resurgent China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

“There is not one tenured professor on the East Coast who has not been contacted” by one or both of the countries, said Jonathan Berkshire Miller, chairman of the Japan-Korea Working Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Pacific Forum in Honolulu.

The Obama administration seemed to succeed in getting the two estranged allies to at least temper their bickering last week, arranging the first meeting between the Japanese leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea on the sidelines of an upcoming nuclear summit in the Netherlands.

But the slight thaw comes after months of some of the most bitter divisions between the two countries in years, brought on in part by Japan’s election of a prime minister South Korea considers to be a dangerous revisionist of his country’s wartime history and the election in South Korea of a president whom the Japanese see as stubbornly demanding endless apologies.

The conflict is rooted in grievances going back to Japan’s brutal colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and its attempts to extinguish the Korean culture. Experts say this internationalization of what had been bilateral disputes reflects the shifting balance of power in a region where a wealthier South Korea is challenging Japan’s century-long dominance. At the same time, Japan is showing more willingness to push back under the leadership of Mr. Abe, who has argued in the past that Japan’s wartime history has been depicted too negatively.

“There’s propaganda to depict Japan in a way that’s far from the truth,” Mr. Abe told Parliament last month. “There is a danger that such propaganda will have a huge influence on our children’s generation. I want to think of a strong public relations counterstrategy going forward.”

The Koreans have gained the upper hand, experts say, partly by casting issues like the women forced into sexual servitude more broadly, as violations of universal standards of human rights. Koreans are planning a permanent exhibit on the comfort women that likens Japanese wartime actions to Nazi atrocities, at a Holocaust resource center at the Queensborough Community College in New York City.

South Korea recently sent its gender equality minister to Columbia University with an animated movie about Japanese war atrocities that shows a “comfort woman” in traditional Korean garb raped by Japanese soldiers.

Japan, meanwhile, has sent veteran America handlers to universities and research groups to warn that South Korea was out to settle old scores, and might be tilting dangerously toward China.

While Japan officially apologized in 1993, and set up a fund with private donations to compensate some of the 80,000 to 200,000 women believed to have been forced to work in wartime brothels, South Korean activists want a more repentant attitude. Tensions increased sharply last month when Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, responding to growing calls by nationalist lawmakers to scrap the apology, said the Abe government would review the testimony of women used in compiling it. Mr. Abe later said he would uphold the apology.

Experts say that each side has the same goal: cajoling Washington into pressuring the other to make concessions.

“The U.S. is the main battlefield in Japan’s global public relations warfare against South Korea and China,” said Hiroshi Nakanishi, a professor of international politics at Kyoto University. “They are trying to reduce Japan’s global influence, and the perception is that they are winning.”

Experts said they expected the campaigning to only intensify ahead of President Obama’s visit to Asia next month, which the Americans hope will help mend fences.

Instead, the visit itself has become a new cause of one-upmanship between the nations: when a draft itinerary showed Mr. Obama spending two nights in Tokyo with no stopover in Seoul, Korean officials said they successfully demanded that the time in Japan be reduced and a visit be added to Seoul to meet with President Park.

“We warned them that China is being very friendly toward Park Geun-hye,” said Han Suk-hee, an associate professor of international studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, who was part of a three-day mission to Washington last month to explain the grievances against Japan. “Korea believes we have the moral justification to ask the U.S. to change Japan’s stance.”

The campaigning in the United States had begun heating up last summer, when Korean-American groups persuaded the city of Glendale, Calif., near Los Angeles, to build a bronze statue of a “comfort woman” similar to a statue activists erected on a sidewalk outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Alarmed, Japanese right-wing politicians visited to press for removal of the statue, which the city has refused to do.

Activists in South Korea fought back by supporting Korean-American groups with historical literature and other evidence, including a visit by an 87-year-old comfort woman to the city for the statue’s unveiling. Japanese and Korean officials said the campaigns were independent and were not financed by their governments.

Still, South Korea’s Parliament voted this year to provide about $100,000 to help comfort women activists pay for travel, printing photographs and booklets and other activities abroad.

South Korean officials have also increasingly taken a public role in supporting the “comfort women’s” cause. That included the visit this month to New York by the gender equality minister, Cho Yoon-sun, who said she had also traveled to Europe to raise awareness of her nation’s position.

“The comfort women issue is still not as widely known to the ordinary public in the world as the German Holocaust,” Ms. Cho said. “We have to continue our efforts to make this known, and persuade Japanese political leaders to change their unforgivable attitude.”