[EDITORIALS]700 demonstrationsA Wednesday demonstration by elderly women who were sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II was held for the 700th time yesterday. The demonstrations take place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Korea every Wednesday and almost everyone in Korea knows about them. That means 15 years of demonstrations in the hot sun of the summer or in the biting cold winds of winter. We bow our heads to the elderly women who take the time and strenuous physical effort to report the crimes that the Japanese committed and ask for apologies and compensation.
Although Japan has not answered their cries, the Wednesday demonstrations have been surprisingly effective and influential. For one thing, international society including the United Nations has acknowledged that the acts that the Japanese government committed were overt crimes and violations against women. The elderly women spoke of how their lives were destroyed in a terrible manner and how they were raped during war, becoming sex victims and enduring forced pregnancies. The Wednesday demonstrations are also acting as pressure on the Japanese government, which dreams of getting a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
The greater significance of the demonstrations is that they have helped heal the comfort women. Before they became a social issue in 1991 through the public testimony of Kim Hak-sun, one of their number, the women lived in half a century of silence. They could not speak of the past because of their shame despite their fury. Even in the early demonstrations, the women hid their faces.
But as time passed, their attitude changed. The women realized that they were victims of war and became more open in reporting that Japan was a country guilty of this crime against them. They were reporting that those acts should never be repeated.
During the 15 years of demonstrations, 105 comfort women died of old age. Not only the Japanese government but the Korean government as well has been ignoring their testimony. As the demonstrations become prolonged, the interest of the general public begins to fade as well. How long will the women be ignored?
We urge the Japanese government to repent, instead of avoiding responsibility as it is now, citing the Korea-Japan Normalization Treaty as its grounds. The Korean government should also present a solution instead of being so obsessed with cleansing errors in Korea’s modern history.