Friday, June 27, 2014

Seeking Justice—Or at Least the Truth—for “Comfort Women”

Christine Ahn
June 24, 2014.

A growing global movement is ensuring that if the Japanese government won't hold itself to account for its crimes against women, then history will.

Former comfort women and their supporters dedicate a memorial to 
victims of the Japanese military’s sex trafficking of women 
and girls during the Second World War. 
(Photo: Melissa Wall / Flickr)
On June 9, outside of Seoul, 91-year old Bae Chun-hui took her last gasp of air at the House of Sharing, a communal home established for former “comfort women” in South Korea to live out their remaining years in peace.

Bae was kidnapped at the age of 19 and taken to Manchuria, where she was forced into sexual slavery until the end of the Second World War.

Not only did Bae die without achieving justice. In her final days, she also witnessed Japan’s shameful efforts to wring its hands of war crimes its military committed against an estimated 200,000 women and girls from throughout Asia during the Pacific wars of the 1930s and ’40s.

Bae was among the Korean women who spoke out after the former comfort woman Kim Hak-sun broke her silence in 1991 and publicly recounted her abduction and sexual torture by Japanese soldiers. In her testimony, Kim painfully recalled: “A commissioned officer took me to the next room which was partitioned off by a cloth. Even though I did not want to go he dragged me into the room. I resisted but he tore off all of my clothes and in the end he took my virginity. That night, the officer raped me twice.”

Kim lifted the floodgates for other Korean women to come forward. Burmese, Chinese, , Japanese, Filipina, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and Pacific Islander women also verified that their experiences were not isolated, but were the outcome of a systematic, well-organized government program to establish “comfort stations” for Japanese soldiers throughout Asia and the Pacific.

The Japanese government has vigorously resisted calls to repent for its actions. But a growing global movement is ensuring that if Japan won’t hold itself to account for its grievous crimes against these women, then history will.
Read the rest here.
Comment: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is key among those who would rather round-up a revisionist history than confront what Japan did to the so-called "comfort women".

It is shameful nationalist politics and it won't make the past disappear.

I have followed this story for many years here on the blog and elsewhere in my academic work.  And for this reason I look forward to the forthcoming film "Within Every Women: Secrets, Shame and Strength. A story of three grandmothers enduring and unending war".  See a sample reel here.

I also find the struggle story of the golden bronze statue - the Pyeonghwa-bi (the Peace Monument) - absolutely remarkable in the manner that it presses political consciousness.  The article above describes it so:
Since 1992, at noon on every Wednesday, irrespective of rain or snow, Korean comfort women and their supporters have stood across the street from the Japanese embassy in Seoul, calling upon the Japanese government for justice and reparations.

On December 14, 2011, to commemorate the 1,000th protest, they installed Pyeonghwa-bi, or the Peace Monument—a golden bronze statue of a barefoot teenaged girl sitting in a chair with her hands gently resting on her lap. On her left shoulder rests a small bird symbolizing the innocence of the young girls and women forced into sexual slavery.
In the coming year or so I would like to travel to Seoul and watch this struggle at noon on a Wednesday.


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