South Korean Human Rights Monitor

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Wednesday Demonstration: Over 20 Years of Protest by Former Sex Slaves

Ekaterina Mozhaeva March 12, 2014
Protesters holding up signs that say "War Criminals Admit"

Protesters holding up signs that say “Recognize War Crimes”

March 5th, 2014, Seoul – For the last 22 years, the same scene has played out every Wednesday at noon in front of the Japanese Embassy and last week was no different. Two elderly women silently looked on at the blind covered windows of the Embassy as supporters from various civic groups and churches called for the Japanese government to acknowledge its role in the war crime of military sexual slavery.

Since January 8th, 1992 survivors of sexual slavery in Japanese military brothels, or, as they are better known, “comfort women,” have held demonstrations in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. At these events hosted by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, Comfort Women and their supporters have demanded a formal apology for the war crime from the Japanese government, for both Korea and Japan to teach correct history, and for the Korean government to sincerely work toward the resolution of this issue. March 5 marked the 1,116th demonstration.

Ms. Gil Won-Oak, a surving "comfort woman" listens to  a speech by a supporter

Ms. Gil Won-Oak, a surving “comfort woman” listens to a speech by a supporter

As the issue continues to remain unresolved time is running out for survivors to see the justice which has eluded them for so many years. Only 55 survivors of the 234 women are left who came forward and registered with the Korean government as former sex slaves in the 1990’s. Most of them are now in their late 80’s and early 90’s, and as tensions rise between Korea and Japan over the issue of comfort women and other historical legacies of the 20th century, a resolution for these women find satisfactory seems far from reach.

Last February Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, stated that Japan will re-examine the testimony of comfort women victims and review the landmark 1993 apology from then Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. In January 1992 the Japanese government acknowledged the involvement of the Japanese Army in forcing tens of thousands of women to work in military brothels during World War II. A year later, Mr. Yohei Kono issued an apology for those actions based on the testimonies of 16 Korean victims of the “comfort women” system.

On March 10th, Mr. Suga told reporters that the Japanese government plans to stand by its 1993 apology, but reiterated that the Japanese government will review and verify the testimony given by former comfort women and make results of the Diet’s findings available upon request.

While political battles over this and many other historically potent issues continue between the two governments, the elderly comfort women survivors continue their weekly demonstrations, braving the cold Seoul weather, hoping that their voices and requests for justice will be heard.

For more information on the Wednesday Demonstrations please visit the  Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan

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