Tag Archives: World War2

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

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‘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

‘Balsamina: Touch-Me-Not’ now in Kindle version

‘Balsamina:Touch-Me-Not’ is now at the Kindle book store. You can click the bottom link to have a free give away  download.  Please kindly share the link so the voice of surviving comfort women can reach broader audience over the world. Thank you.

‘Balsamina:Touch-Me-Not’ Kindle Version

DMZ Film Festival,Special focus on ‘Comfort women’

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.

 

Living with the “Memories” by Doi Toshikuni

Film information & Trailer

Karayuki-San, the Making of a Prostitute by Imamura Shohei

Film information & Trailer

Song of the Reed by Wu Hsiu-Ching

Film information & Trailer

DMZ

DMZ International Documentary Film Festival Official Site

 

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