U.S. activist seeks a new voice behind Korean issues

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U.S. activist seeks a new voice behind Korean issues

In a letter sent last month to the Japanese ambassador to the United States, a group of 25 bipartisan American lawmakers urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reaffirm and validate the apologies expressed by previous Japanese leaders for the country’s past wartime transgressions. Kim Dong-suk, the executive director of the Korean American Civic Empowerment, was part of those efforts.

Appealing to the U.S. House of Representatives, he also led a campaign petitioning for Abe to apology to Japan’s wartime victims. In conjunction with other organizations, including the Korean-American Association of the Washington Metro Area and the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, he encouraged Korean-American voters in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and California to participate.

During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official visit to the United States, he also contributed to discussions on the issue in the United States.

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo this week, Kim emphasized that Korea has to find a solution to the “comfort women” issue, in which tens of thousands of women and girls, mostly Korean, were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.

Q. Why do American voters have to call out on the Japanese government’s apology for the victims of comfort women?

A. Calls for an apology from the Japanese government [must be supported by] American society. Above all, Korean-American voters’ participation is required.

The U.S. media, in large part, seems to pitch the issue as a conflict between the two countries.

Japan wants it to be seen as a power game with Korea. Seeing Korea stick to the past, in that sense, means Japan can appear future-oriented.

Then how should Korea approach the issue?

The issue should be seen as a human rights violation. Without considering the victims’ nationality - Korean or Dutch - [the issue should be seen] as a human rights problem committed during World War, and it needs a perspective we know to bring justice to it. Then Congress and America can add a voice to the issue and not feel pressured to support a side.

BY PARK SUNG-KYOON [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]
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