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Germany’s Schroder embraces ‘comfort women’

Sept 11,2017
Former Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schr?er holds hands with Lee Ok-sun, a victim of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, at a center for the survivors in Gyeonggi on Monday. [YONHAP]
Former Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schroder embraced victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, euphemistically referred to as comfort women, at their home in Gyeonggi on Monday, voicing his support for their struggles.

“Your suffering and what you went through is equal in its magnitude to what Anne Frank had to go through during the Holocaust in Germany,” Schroder told four victims he met at the House of Sharing: Lee Yong-su, Lee Ok-sun, Park Ok-sun and Ha Jeom-yeon.

“While the sacrifice of the Jews in the Holocaust and your sacrifice in this country’s past took place in different historical contexts, the world needs to know the struggles that some women went through during the war,” he said. “You are the ones who are writing the future on human rights.”

In regard to Japan’s apology for its treatment of the women, Schroder added, “I had heard that what the victims want is not some revenge, but Japan’s clear acknowledgement and apology for what happened. I also hope that many victims will be able to see this happen in their lifetime.”

Schroder presented the House of Sharing with framed photos of Anne Frank and 10 million won ($8,846).
The House of Sharing presented him with a painting by Kim Sun-deok, a victim who died in 2004, and a book written by victims.

“We are thankful for the former chancellor of Germany for coming all the way here to see us,” said Lee Yong-su.
“I have met victims of the Holocaust before. I cried when I saw the way Germany apologized to them for what happened. They are blessed to have received a sincere apology.”

Schroder and the four victims embraced each other.
Schroder told the JoongAng Ilbo before the visit that it was to “show that people care about the victims and their fate and that they are interested in knowing something that factually took place.”

“Even if some [Japanese] didn’t take part in the actual act of crime, the following generations must take responsibility for what happened in their past,” he said.

“In Germany, we make sure to educate the young on what their forefathers did wrong to make sure that they do not repeat the same mistakes.”

A “final and irreversible” deal struck by the Korean and Japanese foreign ministries on Dec. 28, 2015, was intended to end the long-running diplomatic battle over the comfort women with a Japanese government apology and a multimillion-dollar fund for the victims.

But some survivors and civic organizations have not accepted the agreement, claiming Japan needs to take clearer legal responsibility and offer formal reparations.

Earlier on Monday Schroder spoke at a forum at the National Assembly in which he said South Korean President Moon Jae-in should continue to press for dialogue with North Korea despite its incessant threats.

“As I understand it, President Moon said that he is open to dialogue with the North if Pyongyang ceases its military provocations,” he said. “North Korea continues its military threats incessantly, but South Korea is keeping its dialogue option on the table, and it should continue to do so, regardless of how rocky the road gets.”

Schroder spoke at a forum organized by the National Assembly’s research group on East Asia’s coexistence and economic cooperation and the Future Consensus Institute, a think tank based in Seoul.

The former chancellor of Germany agreed that the international community must press for strong sanctions on the North.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, CHU IN-YOUNG AND KIM SANG-JIN [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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