Korean ‘comfort women’ held their 1,000th and final weekly protest today outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul to demand an apology for atrocities committed against them during World War II.
They were joined by other sexually abused women in Asian cities including Manila, where their supporters also held demonstrations to denounce the atrocities by the Japanese Imperial Army and to demand that Toyko right the wrongs of the past.
The Korean group, now in their late 80s and 90s, say they must end their regular weekly protest now after almost 20 years as they are too frail to continue.
“In order to resolve this issue we have to go out there and fight,” Pak, 87, told the Korean Herald.
“I go out there because it is the only way to resolve this issue. The Japanese government needs to apologize and give reparations to survivors. The Japanese people also say they want to resolve this issue but the government refuses.”
There are approximately 2,000 women victims in the Philippines, according to lawyer Virginia Pinlac, president of Unity of Women for Freedom in Manila.
“Many among us are now getting sick. Only a few remain strong,” said 81-year-old Isabelita Vinuya, who led 12 similarly abused women and more than 100 supporters in the rally in Manila.
“They killed our parents and siblings, burned our houses, looted our belongings; we were miserable,” Vinuya said.
In 1943, at the age of 13, Vinuya and some 100 young women from a town in Pampanga province were detained for a night in brothels and raped.
“We were not fed. They did not give us even a single drop of water to drink. Some women became insane because of the trauma. Later they also died,” she recalled. “It hurts so badly. We were afraid, hungry and powerless.”
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan told the Korean Herald that the “comfort women” system was “a systematic and deliberate crime” committed by the Japanese government.
According to official records, 50,000-200,000 women from Japan’s occupied territories were forced into sexual slavery.
Young women from Korea and other Asian nations were transported to Japan’s front lines ― in places like China, the Philippines and Taiwan ― where they were raped up to 40 times a day, starved, beaten, tortured and forced to have abortions if they fell pregnant, said the report.
There were no reports today of any reaction from Japanese embassies in the protest cities.
ucanews.com Asia Desk, Bangkok and John Francis Lagman, Manila