By Andy Jackson
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan* has been protesting outside Japan’s embassy in Seoul since 1992.
The protests have evolved into a weekly event, with former Korean “comfort women” (the Japanese euphemism for the sex slaves) and their supporters chanting slogans and demanding that Tokyo formally apologize and provide compensation for the comfort women and their families. The women claim to have forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese government during World War Two.
Korean “comfort women” at an American POW camp in the border area between Burma and China. (photo provided by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan)
Yun Mi-hyang, the group’s secretary general, says that things will be different this Wednesday:
“We’ve decided to replace the 961st Wednesday gathering set for this Wednesday with a gathering of mourning to pay respects to the victims of the earthquake that hit northeastern Japan.
“Instead of chanting slogans urging Tokyo for an apology and compensation, we will hold a memorial ceremony for the Japanese who fell victim to the massive earthquake and then disperse.”
The group also expressed their sympathy for the Japanese suffering from the effects of the earthquake and tsunami:
“We are one creation under one heaven. Everyone is precious … We express sympathy towards Japanese victims who are suffering from the massive earthquake.”
The comfort women have sought to make it plain that their issue is with the Japanese government, rather than the Japanese people (a position somewhat complicated by the fact that the Japanese government has been democratically elected since regaining self-administration from the American occupation following World War Two). They held a similar memorial after the Kobe earthquake in 1995.
There are only 74 known Korean comfort women alive today and those remaining are dying off rapidly. 88-year-old Jang Jeom-dol died last week, the fifth Korean comfort woman to die so far this year. She had served as a sex slave for Japanese troops in China and Singapore. She has testified in Canada in 2007 in a bid to get the Canadian government to pressure Japan on the comfort women issue.
*The Korea name is 한국정신대문제대책협의회