Japanese Citizens go on March to Remember Late Korean Comfort Woman

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[A ceremony to commemorate the testimony of late Korean comfort woman Kim Hak-soon was held in Tokyo on August 14. Japanese citizens held a street demonstration protesting against the landmark agreement between the governments of Seoul and Tokyo on comfort women issue./ Photographed by Um Soo-ah]

By Um Soo-ah, Tokyo correspondent, AsiaToday - Over 200 people, including Japanese citizens and international activists, gathered at the Japan Education Center on August 14, the day before Korea's National Liberation Day, to mark the Memorial Day for the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Victims.

The day was designated to remember Kim Hak-soon, a deceased victim, who first testified the wartime atrocities committed by the Japanese military on August 14, 1991.

The participants looked bright, but immediately took the smile off their faces when the seminar commenced. Although they have been dealing with comfort women issue in Japan for the past twenty years, they seemed preoccupied with the landmark agreement reached between the governments of South Korea and Japan to end their dispute on December 28, 2015.

They claimed that this agreement cannot bring true reconciliation and healing. The government of Seoul and Tokyo said they will establish an organization (tentative title: Reconciliation and Healing Foundation) using 1 billion yen (KRW 10.8 trillion) funded by the Japanese government, intended to support former wartime sex slaves. Rada Boric, a leading Croatian feminist activist who gave a presentation in the seminar, said, "Most of the victims of wartime sexual violence don't want to be compensated with money. They want to regain their dignity and recover their original position as human beings."

Boric founded the Zagreb center for women war victims in 1992, and brought the nation's responsibility regarding women victims of wartime sexual violence. During the war, sexual violence was common that over 20,000 people were found to be victims. She repeatedly brought out this issue and played a part in passing law that defines the government and military as perpetrators and supports victims in July 2015.

She emphasized that women should be subject of the whole discussion in order to heal the female victims. She said, "While I was preparing for law enactment. the minister in charge said that there was no evidence except the words of women victims and that they could lie. But they are not just victims, but also witnesses who will provide legal evidence called truth."

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[A picture criticizing the agreement reached between the governments of Seoul and Tokyo./ Source: The Nationwide Action to Resolve Comfort Women Issue]

Shin Hye-bong, a Korean immigrant professor of Aoyama Gakuin University who attended as a presenter, said, "There is no precise documentation for the agreement, and there is nobody who really knows about the fund of one billion yen, which is actually not a big sums of money. It is questionable whether the agreement could be properly published in textbooks that children will learn from. It's not a good agreement."

The Nationwide Action to Resolve Comfort Women Issue, a Japanese civic group that jointly organized the event, issued a joint statement with 107 organizations nationwide, and criticized, "Who would believe the Japanese government if its only concern is demolishing Statue of Peace (also known as Comfort Woman Status) while shifting the responsibility to other government." It also warned to the Korean government, stating, "If the Korean government sets up Reconciliation and Healing Foundation and propel the 'final and irrevocable' resolution compulsorily, it will leave irreparable source of trouble in the history."