Assembly designates day for ‘comfort women’

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Assembly designates day for ‘comfort women’


Family members of Sewol ferry victims and toxic humidifier sterilizer victims stand on the main stairs of the National Assembly on Friday as the legislature passed a disputed bill aimed at setting up special panels for re-investigating the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster and the humidifier sterilizer scandal. [YONHAP]

South Korea’s parliament on Friday passed a bill aimed at designating a special day commemorating the victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery.

The revision to the law on support for the women forced by Japan’s military to serve at front-line brothels during World War II calls for designating Aug. 14 as the day for remembering their suffering.

On that day in 1991, Kim Hak-sun, a former sex slave, made the first-ever public testimony on the wartime atrocity. She was praised for her brave revelations, as few victims at the time dared to speak out about the humiliating chapter of their lives.

The bill also includes a clause to provide funeral service expenses for victims in low-income brackets.

Since the Moon Jae-in administration took office in May, Seoul has paid more policy attention to the wartime humanitarian issue involving the former sex slaves, euphemistically called “comfort women.”

In particular, it has been reviewing the legitimacy of a 2015 deal with Tokyo to settle the comfort women issue “finally and irrevocably,” noting victims and citizens cannot “emotionally” accept it. Critics argue that it was settled without consultations with the victims and lacked the Japanese government’s recognition of its legal responsibility.

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced into sexual servitude during wartime. As of Nov. 13, the number of surviving South Korean victims stands at 33.

Also on Friday, the legislature passed a long-disputed bill aimed at setting up special panels for re-investigating the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster and the long-running toxic humidifier disinfectant scandal.

The proposal was automatically tabled for a floor vote as the ruling and opposition parties designated it as a “fast-track” bill for the first time in December. A fast-track bill can be put to a vote after 330 days of parliamentary deliberations.

The bill had faced resistance as the main opposition Liberty Korea Party argued that the reopening of a probe into the maritime disaster that left more than 300 people, mostly young students, dead could trigger social and political conflicts.

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