“The war is over but still no liberation.”
At noon of last wednesday on the 8th when the cold swept the country, the weekly demonstration to solve the Japanese military ‘comfort women’ issue marked its 22nd anniversary. About 300 people gathered in front of the Japanese embassy in Jongno-gu, Seoul. People have gathered from every corner of the country to provide support for the elderly who suffered as Japanese military ‘comfort women.’ The embassy’s window with its fluttering Japanese flag, facing the comfort woman statue, was firmly shut as usual. 77 years have passed since the Japanese military comfort women first suffered; however, there are still no words from Japan.
Kim Bok-dong(89) who has kept her seat for 22 years seemed even more determined that day. Kim Bok-dong lamented the passing of the time saying "When the protest started, I was a 60 year-old, young, middle-aged woman, but now even though I am a bent old woman, nothing has changed.” Kil Won-ok(87) joined in. Although Kil is hospitalized for diabetes and pancreatitis, she joined the protest with the will to solve this comfort women issue.
‘Military Sexual Slavery by Japan' is a sex slavery system made to promote the spirits of Japanese soldiers in the battlefield in 1937, unprecedented in the 21st century. During World War, 200,000 young women from Korea, China, Thailand and other countries were lured with trickery, kidnap and human trafficking and became victims of imprisonment, violence, torture, compulsory abortion, amputation and murder.
Even after the war was over, the comfort women victims who have been undergoing torment for 70 years simply requested Japan’s sincere apology, compensation and leaving a correct record of history for the future generations. In order to carry this out, they have visited the Japanese embassy every Wednesday. However, despite all the years passed, none of the requests has been accepted.
People who gathered together to solve the comfort women issue expressed their opinions on our society’s lukewarm attitude. Yoon Mi-hyang, Representative of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, who has joined the comfort women Wednesday demonstration since 1992, said “Just listening to the pain the victims went through is so heartbreaking, but the fact that the society will listen only when the victims request for a resolution is not normal. Even if the victims do not speak up, the National Assembly, women’s organizations, other civic groups and intellectuals must actively engage in solving their torment. It is a pity that the victims must cry out and wander the streets to solve it.”
Moreover, the comfort women issue should not be understood as an individual's problem but as a social problem. Ahn Shin-kwon(53), Director of the House of Sharing, stressed that “Although we raise our voice for gender equality, a sexist aspect still exists. It is an outdated concept to recognize the problem as the elderly’s individual problem when anyone could have suffered it if they were born at that time. When their human rights are recovered, women rights movement on the whole will be improved.”
Now only the two comfort women victims, Kim Bok-dong and Kil Won-ok, are able to come out and keep the place. When the protest first started in 1992, about 10 comfort women victims could join, but after 22 years, one by one they passed away. Among the 237 victims that are registered by the government, only 56 survive. Nonetheless, there is only a handful able to carry on outside activity.
Song Do-jah(52), Representative of Tongyeong Geoje Citizens’ Association Supporting Japanese Military Comfort Women Victims, plans to include the global citizens’ voice in order to stop Japan’s distortion of history before it is too late. She said “Because there was no proper historical severance, history is still being distorted in Korea. Japan is showing antihistorical conduct, making absurd remarks and dreaming of military power again. Now we cannot simply depend on the government. I hope this will be the first year that gathers people’s capabilities to solve this issue by engaging UN or the international society as active arbitrators while the victims are still alive. I am seeking to prepare a movement that includes the voices of not only overseas Koreans but also foreigners and other global citizens.”