Renegotiation of 'comfort women' deal pursued

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-16 12:02

As the numbers of "comfort women" dwindle, activists are urging the South Korean government and its newly elected President Moon Jae-in to renegotiate its 2015 "comfort women" agreement with Japan.

"Time is of the essence. Every month we hear of another grandma's passing," said Phyllis Kim, a "comfort women" advocate and executive committee member of the San Francisco- based Comfort Women Justice Coalition, on Monday, a day before the 72nd anniversary of Japan's unconditional surrender in World War II.

"We know justice delayed is justice denied, and the longer justice is denied, the fewer former 'comfort women' will be alive to see it," said Kim.

On Saturday, Huang Youliang, a former "comfort woman", died at 90 at her home in China's Hainan province, bringing the total number of survivors to 14 in China.

During WWII, an estimated 400,000 girls and women were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military. Half of them were from China, 140,000 to 160,000 from Korea, and the rest were from Japan and other Asian countries.

Grassroots organizations, including the San Francisco-based Comfort Women Justice Coalition, have been raising voices and visibility for the "comfort women" justice struggle to preserve history and to seek redress for the human rights violations.

Last month, those groups drafted a statement containing "seven demands" to resolve the "comfort women" issue according to international standards.

The demands include a full acknowledgment of Japan's crime, an official apology, direct and legal reparations, a thorough investigation of the crime, prosecution of any surviving perpetrators, ongoing education in Japan's public schools, and the building of memorials and museums.

"In December 2015, the Japanese and South Korean governments colluded and struck a deeply problematic deal that they said would 'finally and irrevocably' resolve and end the issue," said the joint statement.

"However, not only were the Korean survivors never consulted during the negotiation, the survivors in all other affected countries were ignored completely, as were the Seven Demands," says the statement.

The groups demand that the South Korean government "take necessary steps to declare the current agreement null and void" and renegotiate with Japan in a manner that meets the survivors' demands.

The joint statement has been signed by more than 70 organizations in the US, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, Germany and the Philippines.

"A former 'comfort woman' said, "Our worst fear is that our painful history during World War II will be forgotten," said Lillian Sing, co-chair of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition. "We will never allow that to happen. Our San Francisco Comfort Women Memorial will forever bear witness to the sufferings of those women."

The memorial's design and inscription in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages have recently been finalized.

"This monument bears witness to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, euphemistically called 'Comfort Women' This dark history was hidden for decades until the 1990s when the survivors courageously broke their silence. They helped move the world to declare that sexual violence as a strategy of war is a crime against humanity..."

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