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Sexual slavery victims to be remembered

Aug. 14 rallies will be held worldwide and throughout Korea
Aug 12,2019
Commemorations for the August 14th International Memorial Day for the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Victims are being held in 10 Korean cities and eight additional cities worldwide including Oxford, England, Taipei and Sydney, Australia on Wednesday, according to a civic group that has been hosting weekly rallies in Seoul to call for an official apology from the Japanese government for 27 years.

“On Wednesday we will be holding a rally in front of the former location of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul,” announced Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group based in Mapo District, western Seoul, in a statement earlier this month. “It will be a commemoration of the seventh anniversary of the August 14th International Memorial Day for the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Victims as well as the 1400th time we’re holding the regular Wednesday rallies to call for a resolution of the Japanese military sexual slavery issue.”

The weekly rallies have been led by Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan since 1992, with attendees demanding an official apology from Tokyo for the Imperial Japanese Army’s recruitment, under false pretenses, of tens of thousands of young women into sexual slavery during World War II.

The weekly rally began after a victim, Kim Hak-soon, stepped forward to make a public testimony as a victim of the Japanese military sexual slavery on Aug. 14, 1991, marking the first time a victim had done so. Kim died in 1997 at the age of 73.

Aug. 14 was designated International Memorial Day for the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Victims during the 11th Asian Solidarity Conference on Resolution of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery in 2012.

Although the Japanese Embassy moved its location to the Twin Tree Tower in central Seoul in 2015, just a few minutes walk from its former location, the rallies have continued to be held in front of the former location of the embassy.

The rally in Seoul on Wednesday, to be held from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., will be attended by members of some 60 civic groups and will include speeches as well as performances, exhibits and possibly a video conference with the rallies being held in other cities at the same time.

Rallies and commemorative events will also be held in Anyang and Suwon in Gyeonggi; Iksan and Jeonju in North Jeolla; Jinju in South Gyeongsang; Wonju in Gangwon; Asan in South Chungcheong; and Ulsan and Busan on Wednesday. Cheongju, North Chungcheong, held a rally on Thursday and Jeju held a rally on Aug. 4.

Outside of Korea, rallies and events including panels, documentary screenings and performances to commemorate the International Memorial Day for the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Victims will be held in Oxford, England; Taipei, Taiwan; Sydney and Auckland in Australia; and Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Hanshin in Japan.

Organizations taking part include the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, the Korean Women’s International Network, the Search Foundation, the Exodus Foundation, the Triple A Project and a student group at Oxford University.

“This movement has been organized to remember the survivors who came forward and told their stories in these cities,” said the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan in its statement. “They will honor the victims who have continued to fight for their rights and call for the prevention of similar atrocities taking place in the world.

“The movement also brings together efforts throughout the world calling on the Japanese government to admit its wartime crimes,” the group said. “And for the Japanese government to issue an official apology and compensation plan.”

On Dec. 28, 2015, Korea and Japan’s foreign ministries struck an agreement to resolve the issue, which included an apology from the Japanese prime minister and a plan to establish a 1 billion yen ($9.46 million) fund for the victims to be taken from Japan’s state budget. The agreement was deemed at the time as final and irreversible as long as Japan faithfully followed through with its promise.

But some civic organizations and victims criticized the deal and said that the Japanese government did not take sufficient responsibility for its wartime atrocities.

The Moon Jae-in government, inaugurated in May 2017, told the Japanese government in June that year that the deal was not accepted by the majority of the public of Korea.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]