North and South Korea Meet to Resolve the Issue of Comfort Women
North and South Korea Meet to Resolve the Issue of Comfort Women
  • Reported by Lee Jung-joo
  • 승인 2002.05.22 00:00
  • 수정 2013-07-12 16:27
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 Activists and victims from North and South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and China, as well as Korean activists living in the US and Japan and American lawyers gathered in Pyongyang on May 3 and 4 to participate in the 'Asian Regional Conference for the Redress of Japan's War Crimes.' The Conference, organized by North Korea's 'Committee for Compensation for Comfort Women and War Victims in the Asia Pacific,' held discussions on several issues, including comfort women, forced military enlistment, and distortion of history and rising militarism of Japan.

 On May 10, the 'Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan' published a report on the Conference and its outcome.

 First of all, the Council emphasized the significance of the fact that victims from North and South Korea had met each other for the first time. The victims of sexual enslavement and forced enlistment by Japan raised their voices as one in testifying the war crimes of Japan during its war in the Asia Pacific and demanding that the Japanese government offer apologies and official compensation to the victims while they are still alive.

 Second, the Conference participants agreed that the Conference should not be a one-time event, and resolved to launch an "International Alliance for the Redress of War Crimes by Japan.' A tentative schedule was also set for the next meeting - on October 26 in Japan. In the future, this Alliance will extend its activities beyond Asia to embrace all individuals and groups demanding justice against Japan's war crimes, and will join hands with international organizations like the UN and ILO in pressuring the Japanese government.

 Third, the participants concluded the Conference by adopting letters to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Japanese Prime Minister, as well as a joint statement by Koreans in North and South Korea and overseas.

 American attorney Barry Fisher (Senior Vice-President of the Human Rights Advocates International), who also participated in the Conference, is currently preparing litigation against the Japanese government for its war crime of sexual enslavement of women. Based on the Act on Compensation for Damage to Foreign Citizens, Koreans living in the US are using the litigation process to increase international pressure on Japan, forcing it to offer apologies and compensation for its war crimes. Chung Yeonjin, in charge of organizing this action in the US, says, "Litigations in the US are in the form of class actions suits, and so if we win the case, the court's ruling will apply not only to the plaintiffs but to all the victims in Korea." In other words, it is possible for the victims of forced enlistment and military sexual slavery to find redress through a third party country's courts.

 That is why North Korea has long expressed an active interest in taking legal action in the US. North Korea's Association of Democratic Lawyers held an in-depth discussion on this matter with Barry Fisher during the Pyongyang Conference. In contrast, the South Korean government seems passive, showing little interest in the US litigation or in enlisting the help of the American law team involved. Now that a framework for solidarity between North and South Korean victims and between Korean and Asian activists has been established, what remains is for the South Korean government to take a more aggressive stance in vindicating the victims of Japanese war crimes and redressing the past misdeeds of Japan.

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