70 years on, ‘comfort women’ still waiting
On the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, people gathered together in Qing Cheng ( ) park in Taipei, Friday, to participated in the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women.
Wearing yellow and purple ribbons symbolizing peace and a stance against sexual assault, people joined together to participate in the memorial ceremony to mourn, while demanding that the Japanese government apologize for its actions. Through poetry, music and theater, people commemorated the comfort women, many of whose names have already been forgotten.
These women were forced to work in military brothels for the Japanese army in World War II. Estimates indicate there could be over 200,000 women from Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and other regions who were forced to participate in a massive sexslave network.
Huang Shu-ling ( ), chairman of the Taipei Women’s Recue Foundation, stated that debate during the recent protests against high school curriculum guideline changes over whether comfort women acted voluntarily raised public awareness, yet “what’s more important is that people learn to take history and feminist human rights seriously.” The memorial event is not only about comfort women, Huang added, but also about preventing sexual assault in the Armed Forces, and banning sexual slavery in current times.
“They ( the comfort women) are precursors of the modern feminism movement,” Huang said, stating that standing out as victims and fighting the Japanese government for over 20 years, they have let the world know and attach importance to this historical fact.
NGOs demanded that Japanese authorities apologize for the brutal act, yet after 70 years, the government has yet to give a clear answer that has satisfied the groups. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a statement on Friday, expressing “utmost grief” for the suffering Japan inflicted in World War II, and made reference to “women whose dignity was denied,” yet he did not specifically mention comfort women.
There have been movements supporting comfort women in Taiwan for 24 years. Fifty-eight comfort women, who are now senior citizens, stood up for each other, telling the public about their tragic experiences and raising awareness. However, only four are now left, still awaiting an official apology.
On Aug. 14 1991, Kim Hak-sun, a Korean victim of sexual slavery, accused the Japanese government of the atrocities committed against Asian women and set out to prove to the public that the system of comfort women truly existed. The memorial day was established to honor Kim and continue the protest, hoping for an open apology from the Japanese government.