Comfort women shrine dedicated

Updated: 2014-06-02 11:38

By Liu Chang in Virginia (China Daily USA)

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When the flock of colorful butterflies opened their wings and embraced the sunny sky, it was supposed to be a moment of pure happiness. As symbols of the Comfort Women of WWII, butterflies spreading their wings signify a desire for the freedom from discrimination. But Kang Il Chul lowered her head gently, and with tearful eyes stared into the distance. For her, it was a sorrowful moment of reflection rooted in torture and horror.

Chul, 87, is one of 57 survivors of the House of Sharing in South Korea, one of the comfort women who suffered under the Japanese army during WWII. She flew in from South Korea a few days ago to attend the dedication of the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden in Fairfax County, Virginia on May 30.

"A 13-hour trip can take a toll at her age, but she is standing high to witness this historic moment," said Sami Lauri, vice-president of the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues.

Mark Keam, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said the memorial ceremony was created in the face of lots of pressure. "This is the sixth memorial that the Japanese government has fought every single time," Keam said.

"We don't think this is about us versus them; this is about human rights, and exposing the truth. So the only people who oppose it are the people who don't want to see the truth," Keam said.

Hundreds and thousands of women and girl victims from South Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries have been taken from their homes by the Japanese army and coerced into prostitution during WWII.

In Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking, she wrote "what the Japanese did to the women of Nanking cannot be computed on a tally sheet. We will never know the full psychic toll." The estimate of the number of women raped in Nanking alone ranges between 20,000 and 80,000. Chang said that the nature and scale of the rape was difficult for people to comprehend.

Susan Lee, a member of the Maryland General Assembly, said although it is the 21st Century, human trafficking is still going on, adding that "it is wonderful that we have this sort of ceremony highlighting the plight of comfort women because we should not repeat this again".

With her grey hair shining in the sun, Chul looked at the memorial stone surrounded by an ovation of supporters from both the public and Fairfax County officials.

The inscription reads: "In honor of the women and girls whose basic rights and dignities were taken from them as victims of human trafficking during WWII."

"I am so grateful and excited to see you all, but somehow I feel a little grief," Chul said.

(China Daily USA 06/02/2014 page3)