North, South resume joint pressure on sex slavery

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North, South resume joint pressure on sex slavery

North and South Korean civilian organizations, show in a united front, adopted a joint resolution to step up pressure on Japan to resolve the issue of Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. They met at a forum in Shenyang, China, over the weekend.

The forum, the first of its type in seven years, was attended by representatives of both North and South Korea, including elderly women who were victims of sexual slavery by the Japanese military. The so-called comfort women were recruited, often by force, as prostitutes for the Japanese military. Twenty women’s and religious organizations from both Koreas, including the North’s Korean Democratic Women’s Union, were represented at the “North-South Forum to Resolve the Issue of Sexual Slavery by the Japanese Military” on Saturday.

They unanimously approved a resolution to “publicize the Japanese military’s crimes of sexual slavery to the international community” and further agreed to strengthen cooperation and solidarity in order to demand an apology and compensation for the victims from the Japanese government.

Yoon Mi-hyang, who heads the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, said, “There is great significance that we can show one voice and solidarity in regard to the Japanese military’s comfort women issue, setting aside the North-South political situation.”

Kil Won-ok, an 86-year-old and one of 55 surviving comfort women in South Korea, shared her story of being forced into sexual slavery in her early teens from 1940 to 1945. “It was so hard to endure, and I cried out, ‘mother, mother,’” she said, bringing tears to many eyes at the forum.

The South’s Ministry of Unification last week said it had approved the travel of a 24-member South Korean delegation to attend the weekend conference in Shenyang.

The last such forum to include North and South Korean representatives on the comfort women issue was held in May 2007, in Seoul. Subsequent meetings, including one slated for 2010 in Pyongyang, were canceled as inter-Korean relations deteriorated because of military tensions.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]




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