Learning from a survivorLee Yong-soo, a 91-year-old survivor of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, made two suggestions through a press conference on Monday. She called on the prosecution to investigate lawmaker-elect Yoon Mee-hyang and the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group Yoon had led. She also advised that civic activity on the so-called comfort women should be devoted to educating the young population of Korea and Japan. We should be embarrassed by the clear-cut solution and wisdom from an elderly victim.
She said she was not aware of Yoon collecting donations from overseas activities of past victims. Although she did not outright accuse her of embezzlement, she said it would be the prosecutorial duty to investigate criminal charges if they are made. She was speaking common sense. The prosecution is an establishment to investigate criminal allegations and seek punishment if wrongdoings are found. Ruling party politicians should feel ashamed for their remarks about “suspicious intent” by the prosecution for its raid on the council.
Lee also has laid out guidance for future work on past issues. She suggested platforms to bring together young people of the two nations to address the past and seek a new path for the future. Past wartime issues were mostly centered on seeking an apology and compensation from Japan. Protest rallies mostly made up civilian activities. There had been little discussion on healing or moving forward. When activists made suggestions, the government would try to address them through subsidies and civilians through donations.
Past issues went nowhere, partly because the Japanese government has never made a truthful atonement. But Korean society, too, has a lot to regret. Blinded by ideological differences, society was neglectful of the voices of victims like Lee who wished to see the future remember past wrongdoings and cooperate to never repeat them.
Lee pointed out victims of Japanese military sexual slavery had often served as political tools for anti-Japanese campaigns.
But the issue goes beyond the past of the two nations as it involves universal human rights violations. The comfort women issue must be addressed as historical awareness on crimes against women. The education Lee has mentioned is a wise suggestion to find a lasting lesson from past sufferings for the future generation.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 26, Page 30