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South Korea’s surviving ‘comfort women’ spend final years seeking atonement from Japan

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Lee Yong-soo, one of less than 30 known surviving South Korean victims of Japan’s wartime brothels, displays a photograph in Daegu. (Photo: Reuters)

 

DAEGU, South Korea: When 17-year-old Lee Yong-soo returned home to South Korea in 1945 after being forced to serve in a brothel for Japanese troops, her family, having given her up for dead, thought she was a ghost.

“When I returned, I had a deep wound,” Lee told Reuters, holding a black and white photo of herself in a traditional Korean dress, taken in her first year back home.

She still remembers the blue and purple fabric of that dress, but other memories from those years are more traumatic.

“I thought I was going to die,” Lee said of the abuse and torture she endured in a brothel at an airfield in Taiwan used by Japanese kamikaze pilots in the final years of World War II.

Now 90 years old, Lee says she feels like a sincere apology from Japanese authorities for the wartime exploitation of so-called “comfort women” is no nearer now than when she returned home more than 70 years ago.

Japan says the claims have been settled by past agreements and apologies, and that the continued controversy threatens relations between the two countries.

Some historians estimate 30,000 to 200,000 Korean women were forced into prostitution during Japan’s occupation from 1910 to 1945, in some cases under the pretext of employment or to pay off a relative’s debt.

The term “comfort women” is a wartime euphemism translated from Japanese for the women, many from Korea, who were forced into prostitution and sexually abused at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.

A 1996 UN human rights report concluded that the women had been “military sexual slaves”. Japan contests that finding, and a 2015 compensation agreement between Japan and South Korea did not address the issue of whether coercion of the women was a policy of imperial Japan.

Now with only 25 registered South Korean survivors still alive, there is a sense of urgency behind efforts by the women to receive a formal apology as well as legal compensation from Japan while their voices can still be heard.

Just days before Reuters interviewed Lee at her one-room apartment in the southern city of Daegu, a fellow victim had died, one of eight so far in 2018.

Another survivor, Kim Bok-dong, said she wanted to share her story, but suffering from cancer and expected to live only a few more months, she was unable to find time to speak.

“SINCERE APOLOGY”

Under the 1965 treaty, Japan reached a deal with South Korea to provide an US$800 million aid-and-loan package in exchange for Seoul considering all wartime compensation issues settled.

A South Korean panel late last year concluded the 2015 deal between South Korea and Japan had failed to meet the needs of former “comfort women”.

Acting on that conclusion, the South Korean government this week shut down a fund created under the 2015 deal and vowed to pursue a more “victim-oriented” approach, a move Japan said threatened the two countries’ relations.

A sense of shame and secrecy meant most tales of abuse and coercion at the brothels for Japanese troops were never discussed publicly, until Kim Hak-sun, one of the South Korean victims, came forward in 1991.

She and two other former comfort women joined a class action lawsuit against Japan, which prompted the Japanese government to acknowledge its role for the first time in 1993. The case was eventually dismissed by Japan’s highest courts in 2004.

Lee was one of the survivors emboldened by Kim’s move, and has since worked to raise awareness, including meeting the Pope and travelling to North Korea to meet other victims.

“Since 1992, I had been asking Japan to make sincere apology, that is what I want,” Lee said. “I have been doing this for 27 years, it doesn’t matter whether it was raining or snowing, or the weather was cold or hot.”

UNRESOLVED DISPUTE

From 1995 to 2007, Japan created a fund from donations to make payments to women throughout Asia, budgeted money for their welfare support and sent letters of apology from successive premiers.

While a number of survivors have accepted compensation over the years, many South Koreans see the issue as unresolved because of what they consider a lack of sincerity from the Japanese government.

Despite apologies from Japan, for example, the first comfort women fund was criticised in South Korea for not being direct compensation from the state, and the 2015 deal was faulted for failing to include a clear statement of the Japanese government’s legal responsibility.

Japan says South Korea had waived all claims in the 1965 pact, and that under the 2015 deal, Japan agreed to provide the funds to help the women heal “psychological wounds”.

Critics of South Korea have also accused it of ignoring the complicity of some Koreans in the sex trade at the time.

Shutting the Japan-funded foundation is one of the most significant steps President Moon Jae-in’s administration has taken as it revisits the comfort women controversy.

In the past year, South Korea has also opened a new research centre aimed at consolidating academic study of comfort women, named the first Comfort Women Day and unveiled a new memorial in Cheonan, a city south of Seoul.

“We cannot ignore the truth just because it hurts,” Moon said this week. “For the sake of sustainable and solid Korea-Japan relations, we must face up to the truth.”

Lee said she thinks Moon is “trying his best,” and in a statement released from her hospital bed this week, Kim said the move to close the foundation restored her trust in the South Korean president.

Moon’s efforts, however, have faced pushback from Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Earlier this year, Japan formally complained after South Korea’s foreign minister raised the issue in a speech at the United Nations.

Japanese officials have expressed frustration at what they see as the South Korean government’s changing positions and efforts to revisit settled agreements.

For survivors like Lee, Japan’s protests ring hollow.

Lee said she was 16 when she was forcibly taken to Taiwan by a Japanese man in a “sort of military uniform”. When she first balked at entering the brothel, she said she was beaten and tortured with electric shocks. She was released in 1945, after about two years as a captive.

“The survivors of the heinous crimes the Japanese committed are dying day by day, and I bet Abe is dancing for joy,” Lee said, becoming animated as she described her frustration. “They should apologise, tell the truth, and pay the legal compensation.”

 

Source: Reuters

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South Korea Decides to Dismantle ‘Comfort Women’ Reconciliation and Healing Foundation

South Korea Decides to Dismantle 'Comfort Women' Reconciliation and Healing Foundation

Wikimedia Commons / YunHo LEE

 

The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, established in 2016 to support the victims of Japanese wartime sex slavery, often referred to as “comfort women,” will be dismantled after just two years. The foundation took center-stage in a major controversy that has left Korea and Japan divided more than ever in recent years following an agreement signed in 2015.

South Korea sent an official notification to Japan on the dismantlement of the foundation, the process of which is expected to take somewhere between six months and a year. Experts argue that Korea and Japan will engage in constant exchanges during this period as they collide over the matter of preserving or dismantling the foundation as well as the agreement itself.

Japan raised immediate concern following the South Korean decision. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party adopted a resolution criticizing the move, asking the Japanese government to call on Korea to retract its decision. The resolution was submitted directly to Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

“We criticize South Korea’s constant act of violating international vows with utmost outrage,” the resolution said.

The foundation was a result of an agreement that was signed between the two countries in December 2015 under the Park Geun-hye administration in South Korea. The accord stipulated the intention of both states to “establish a foundation whose purpose is to support former sex slaves,” and to “dispense all funds necessary from Japan’s government budget to restore honor and dignity of the victims.”

The success of the agreement depended not only on the establishment of the foundation, but also on an apology given by the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation began carrying out its official responsibilities in July 2016 using the 10 billion won ($8.8 million) budget provided by the Japanese government to pay compensation to the victims and their families. The result was 4.4 billion won given to 34 survivors and the families of 58 who had passed away.

Abe made it clear in October 2016 that he had “not even a single bit” of intention to send a letter of apology that was to be provided in accordance with the agreement.

Without an apology, the sex slave victims and advocates in turn refused to accept the agreement along with the compensation, and the position of the foundation naturally began to crumble.

Then came South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had previously made clear his opposition to the agreement. The South Korean government soon brought back the agreement for reconsideration, deciding to replace all of Japan’s 10 billion won fund with South Korea’s own government funds. By the end of 2017, all board members of the foundation had resigned, leaving the foundation empty.

The South Korean government then asked victims and advocates to help decide on the fate of the foundation, which led the government to make a final decision on November 21 to dismantle the foundation.

“We will strive to restore honor and dignity of the sex slave victims,” said Jin Seon-mi, South Korean minister of gender equality and family as she delivered the official decision for the dismantlement.

“Under the ‘victims first’ principle, we have decided to dismantle the foundation based on the feedback we’ve collected about the foundation.”

South Korea’s decision is a clear refutation of the Korea-Japan agreement which, from a South Korean perspective, lacks sufficient sincerity.

There is still a long way ahead until any form of dismantlement is achieved. The foundation will now begin to take settlement procedures which is expected to take at least six months, perhaps as much as a year, before it is finally dissolved.

Another major question is what to do with the 10 billion won fund given by Japan. The South Korean government has indicated that the 4.4 billion won already distributed to victims and their families cannot be annulled. As an alternative, the government raised a separate 10.3 billion won budget to return the Japanese fund.

Many expect that Japan will not accept the foundation’s dissolution, since the fund is the focal point of the final resolution of the sex slave issue for Tokyo. Accepting the fund will impose Japan with another round of tasks to engage with South Korea to discuss the matters of a formal apology and compensation.

“We will listen to the victims and advocates as we come up with measures to deal with the 10.3 billion won budget,” said Roh Kyu-deok, spokesperson for South Korean Ministry of foreign affairs.

“We will continue to negotiate with the Japanese government based on those measures.”

 

By Hyunmin Michael Kang, The Diplomat

 

UN Declares Japan’s Compensation to Comfort Women as Inadequate

Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer

 

The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) said that the Japanese government’s view that the comfort women issue has been resolved denies the rights of the victims and contended that Japan’s compensation has been inadequate. The comments represent the committee’s final opinion on this issue.

In a post on its website on Nov. 19, the UN committee expressed its regrets about the Japanese government’s opinion that the comfort women issue has been finally and irreversibly resolved. The committee also voiced its concerns about the fact that Japan has not provided adequate compensation to the victims as required by the international convention on enforced disappearances.

The committee said that the Japanese government’s position that the issue had been finally and irreversibly resolved permanently blocks the prosecution of the perpetrators and denies the victims’ right to justice and compensation and to receive a guarantee that such acts will not reoccur and the public’s right to know the truth. The committee also expressed its concerns about the lack of statistical data about the number of comfort women who might have been victims of enforced disappearance and the lack of any investigation or indictment of the perpetrators.

The committee, which reports to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reviews conditions in signatories to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which prohibits states from abducting foreigners. The committee reviewed Japan at the beginning of this month.

During the review process, the Japanese government contended that the issue of the comfort women had been finally and irreversibly resolved by an agreement that it reached with South Korea in 2015. Japan also argued that it’s inappropriate for the committee to deal with matters that occurred before the convention came into force.

When the Japanese government provided 1 billion yen (US$8.86 million) to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation that was established in accordance with its agreement with South Korea, it described this as a “donation,” and not “compensation.”

The committee’s announcement recognizes the injustice of the Japanese government’s position and attitude in regard to the comfort women issue.

But the Japanese government expressed regret about the committee’s judgment and assessment and refused to give its assent. Kyodo News quoted an official with Japan’s delegation to international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, as saying that “the committee’s final opinion is extremely regrettable, being unilateral and based on misunderstandings and bias.” The wire service reported that the Japanese delegation has also lodged a protest with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In a related story, Kyodo News reported that the Japanese government has resolved to lodge a sharp protest to the South Korean government if the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation is dissolved. Even so, the Japanese government will not say that the dissolution of the foundation constitutes the abrogation of the agreement between the two nations. The Japanese government appears to have concluded that maintaining its position that the comfort women agreement remains valid while urging the South Korean government to implement that agreement would be in its diplomatic interest.

S. Korean prime minister urges Foreign Ministry to adopt sterner stance

As Japan maintains a hardline attitude on issues affecting its relations with South Korea, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon apparently addressed the ramifications of a recent decision by the South Korean Supreme Court ordering that Korean victims of slave labor during the Japanese colonial occupation of the peninsula should be compensated by the companies where they worked. In remarks made during a meeting of senior officials at the Office of the Prime Minister on Nov. 15, Lee reportedly reprimanded the South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ministry responsible for dealing with this ruling, for its passivity and ordered it to make a sterner response.

After the Foreign Ministry briefed Lee on its plan to post an English language translation of the government’s position statement on its website, Lee met with Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun to let him know that that plan was inadequate and to instruct him to make a more aggressive response, officials at the Office of the Prime Minister said on Nov. 20.

Senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by saying that they had not been reprimanded by the Prime Minister. “The Ministry is actively working with related agencies to prepare countermeasures, but it’s necessary to exercise caution,” they said.

 

By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent, and Park Min-hee, staff reporter, HanKyoReh

‘It Is Not Coming Down’: San Francisco Defends ‘Comfort Women’ Statue as Japan Protests

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

The monument has stood in San Francisco for a year. It depicts young women from Korea, China and the Philippines standing on a pedestal holding hands, while a statue of Kim Hak-sun, a Korean activist, gazes up at them.

But the view from Osaka, Japan, of the memorial, which commemorates the tens of thousands of “comfort women” who were detained and raped by Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, has been critical. This week, the controversy boiled over as Osaka officially severed its sister-city partnership with San Francisco.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Osaka’s mayor, Hirofumi Yoshimura, followed through on a threat issued a year ago to end his city’s longstanding relationship with San Francisco in protest of the monument, saying it presented a one-sided message.

“I earnestly request that you promptly remove” the memorial and an accompanying plaque “without further delay,” Mr. Yoshimura wrote, according to an emailed copy of the letter. He added that he would revive ties with San Francisco if they were removed from city property.

That is not going to happen, according to Judith Mirkinson, the president of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, an alliance of immigrant women’s groups that worked for years to erect the statue and funded it through private donations.

“It is not coming down,” she said.

Jeff Cretan, a spokesman for Mayor London Breed, told local news outlets on Tuesday that he expected some of the ties between the two cities to continue through members of a citizens’ San Francisco-Osaka sister city committee and their counterparts in Osaka.

On Thursday, Ms. Breed said in a statement that one mayor could not unilaterally end a relationship that has existed between the two cities for more than 60 years.

She described the memorial as “a symbol of the struggle faced by all women who have been, and are currently, forced to endure the horrors of enslavement and sex trafficking.”

“These victims deserve our respect and this memorial reminds us all of events and lessons we must never forget,” she added.

Japan’s position on comfort women has been evolving for decades. In 1993, it officially acknowledged that its wartime military had forced women to work in brothels. Former comfort women began to speak out about being forced into brothels, euphemistically called “comfort stations,” in territories occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army.

A United Nations investigation in the 1990s found that comfort stations were in use as early as 1932 and that as many as 200,000 women had been enslaved by the time the war ended in 1945. Most of the women are thought to have been Korean, but some were from China, the Philippines and other countries.

The issue still strains the relationship between South Korea and Japan, two key United States allies whose cooperation is vital to checking North Korea and to balancing China’s power in East Asia.

The sister-city partnership was established in 1957 between Osaka and San Francisco, a city with an Asian population of about 40 percent. In recent years, it has supported student exchanges and cultural events, said Julie Tang, a chairwoman of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition.

But it also set the stage for the monument, known as “Comfort Women: Pillar of Strength,” to become a lightning rod between the two cities.

Several years ago, the coalition and 11 human rights groups organized a grass-roots campaign to build the memorial. In 2015, the city’s board of supervisors approved the construction of the mostly bronze monument.

Despite several letters from Mr. Yoshimura and his predecessor objecting to the statue, it was unveiled in downtown San Francisco on Sept. 22, 2017, the first such statue in a major city in the United States. A city resolution later proclaimed that date to be known as Comfort Women Day to honor the victims.

In November 2017, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco signed a resolution to formally designate the statue a city monument. The controversy widened. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said the move was “not only deeply regrettable, but it also opposes the views of the Japanese government.” Mr. Yoshimura said he would scrap the sister-city ties by the end of the year.

But in December, Mr. Lee died in a hospital after collapsing at a supermarket, and Mr. Yoshimura held off until July, when he sent a letter outlining his objections to Ms. Breed.

In his letter on Oct. 2, with no action taken on the statue, Mr. Yoshimura said the two cities’ official ties were no longer possible, and he highlighted one of his objections over the inscription, which says in part:

“This monument bears witness to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, euphemistically called ‘Comfort Women,’ who were sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces in thirteen Asian-Pacific countries from 1931-1945.”

He said he would support an inscription that raised awareness about sex trafficking “equally applicable to all countries.”

“He wants to remove the memorial because he is afraid of the truth,” said Lillian Sing, a retired Superior Court judge and a chairwoman of the coalition. “Removing it does not eradicate history.”

 

By Christine Hauser, The New York Times

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

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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.