20th anniversary of ‘comfort women’ protests

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20th anniversary of ‘comfort women’ protests


Former ‘comfort women’ cut rice cakes yesterday to mark the 20th anniversary of protests in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. [NEWSIS]

A group representing former Korean “comfort women,” who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II, marked its 20th anniversary yesterday with a weekly protest in front of the Japanese Embassy demanding an apology from Tokyo.

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan has been staging protest rallies in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul every Wednesday demanding the Japanese government admit its role in the drafting of sex slaves before and during the war.

Tokyo acknowledges recruiting the comfort women, mostly from Korea but also from Taiwan, the Philippines and China, but insists that it was done by private agencies and not the government.

“When we started this, we thought it would be resolved in five years, 10 years at the longest. It was a really naive idea,” Yun Mi-hyang, the council’s representative, said in a recent interview.

None of the women’s demands - which also include an official apology and compensation, full disclosure of Japan’s wartime sex slavery, construction of a memorial and the inclusion of the Japanese wrongdoings in textbooks - has been accepted.

“We couldn’t change Japan, but we never gave up in the face of the giant wall of [Japanese] nationalism and spearheaded this movement on our own,” Yun said.

This year also marks the centennial of Japan’s forced annexation of Korea in 1910, which was followed by colonial rule that ended in 1945 with Japan’s defeat in World War II.

Since its foundation, 234 former sex slaves have registered with the organization. The majority have since died, including six this year. Only 82 are alive. Historians say more than 200,000 women fell victim to the Imperial Japanese Army, which forced young girls to work at brothels.

In July 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution condemning Japan and demanded it “formally apologize, and accept responsibility” for its role. The move was followed in the European Parliament later that year.

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