Woman en­slaved by Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary mourned near protest site

Sun.Star Pampanga - - WORLD! - (AP)

SHun­dreds of mourn­ers, many dressed in black and hold­ing pa­per cutouts of yel­low but­ter­flies that the 92-year-old had adopted as a sym­bol, crowded around a bronze statue of a girl rep­re­sent­ing the thou­sands of Asian women ex­perts say the Ja­panese mil­i­tary forced into front-line broth­els as it pur­sued colo­nial am­bi­tions.

The me­mo­rial, which mixed grief with sim­mer­ing anger to­ward Tokyo, was the cul­mi­na­tion of an hours-long march that wrapped up a five­day com­mem­o­ra­tion of Kim, who had reg­u­larly led ral­lies at the site to de­mand that Ja­pan more fully ac­knowl­edge the suf­fer­ing of the so­called “com­fort women,” the eu­phemism given to the women and girls en­slaved by the Ja­panese and a term em­braced by some of the dwin­dling num­ber of vic­tims over “sex slave.”

Ja­panese lead­ers have pre­vi­ously of­fered apolo­gies or ex­pres­sions of re­morse, but many of the women and their sup­port­ers want repa­ra­tions from Tokyo and a fuller apol­ogy. Of the 239 Korean women who have come for­ward as vic­tims, only 23 are still alive.

Kim, who died Mon­day and had been suf­fer­ing from can­cer, had been a beloved leader of the protest move­ment, of­ten sit­ting be­side the bronze statue at weekly ral­lies that have been held since 1992 on a strip of side­walk across from the site of the em­bassy.

Her death has been met with grief around South Korea, with Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in cred­it­ing her re­lent­less ad­vo­cacy for giv­ing South Kore­ans the “brave­ness to face the truth.”

As the limou­sine car­ry­ing Kim’s re­mains slowly rolled up to the statue Fri­day morn­ing, mourn­ers car­ried 94 ver­ti­cal fu­neral ban­ners that rep­re­sented Kim’s age when counted in the tra­di­tional Korean man­ner and were marked with phrases thank­ing Kim and de­mand­ing Ja­panese repa­ra­tions and re­morse.

Many peo­ple cried dur­ing the march that started at City Hall. Led by an ac­tivist who shouted into a mi­cro­phone from a truck, the marchers chanted anti-Ja­pan slo­gans such as “Ja­pan for­mally apol­o­gize!” and “Ja­pan pro­vide for­mal com­pen­sa­tion!”

“You al­ways looked out for her and now grandma (Kim) is in a good place,” said a tear­ful Lee Yong-su, an­other former sex slave, as she sat be­side the statue and stroked its cheek and arms. “I feel very sorry and sad. We all know that voice that would shout (dur­ing the ral­lies). She can shout no more and she never re­ceived a for­mal apol­ogy.”

Yoon Mee­hyang, who heads an ac­tivist group rep­re­sent­ing South Korean vic­tims of Ja­pan, said Kim “over­came the war and also Korean so­ci­ety’s pa­tri­ar­chal prej­u­dice” with her cam­paign to high­light women’s suf­fer­ing dur­ing war.

Born in the South Korean town of Yangsan, Kim was dragged away from home at the age of 14 and forced to have sex with Ja­panese soldiers at mil­i­tary broth­els in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, In­done­sia and Sin­ga­pore from 1940 to 1945. She was one of the first vic­tims to speak out in the early 1990s and break decades of si­lence over Ja­pan’s wartime sex­ual slav­ery.

Kim trav­eled around the world tes­ti­fy­ing about her ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing at the United Na­tions World Con­fer­ence on Hu­man Rights in 1993 and at a U.N. Hu­man Rights Coun­cil panel in 2016.

Kim never mar­ried or had chil­dren.

“It’s heart­break­ing and I feel sorry that she died with­out ever get­ting what she pushed for,” said Kim Hyeon-ah, 37, who said she went in late to work to par­tic­i­pate in Kim’s fu­neral. “We come from a gen­er­a­tion that didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence war, and we are grate­ful that Kim taught us how women’s hu­man rights be­come vul­ner­a­ble dur­ing wartime.”

A 1991-1993 Ja­panese gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­cluded that many of the women were re­cruited against their will, lead­ing to a land­mark Ja­panese apol­ogy, although the in­ves­ti­ga­tion found no writ­ten proof in of­fi­cial doc­u­ments.

Many South Kore­ans say past Ja­panese apolo­gies didn’t go far enough. There’s also a sen­ti­ment that Tokyo’s past state­ments have been weak­ened by con­ser­va­tive Ja­panese lead­ers who have ar­gued that the women weren’t co­erced into the broth­els.

Ja­pan in­sists that all wartime com­pen­sa­tion is­sues were set­tled in a 1965 treaty that re­stored diplo­matic ties be­tween the coun­tries and was ac­com­pa­nied by more than $800 mil­lion in eco­nomic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul, which was then un­der a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship. In re­cent years, South Korean courts, which are now fully in­de­pen­dent, have ruled that the treaty can­not block the con­sti­tu­tional rights of in­di­vid­u­als seek­ing repa­ra­tions from Ja­pan.

Kim’s death comes as re­la­tions be­tween South Korea and Ja­pan have sunk to their low­est point in years amid dis­putes over wartime his­tory, which also in­cludes Ja­pan’s re­fusal to com­pen­sate forced Korean la­bor­ers dur­ing its colo­nial rule of the Korean Penin­sula from 1910 through 1945.

Moon’s gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber an­nounced plans to dis­solve a foun­da­tion funded by Ja­pan to pro­vide pay­ments to South Korean sex­ual slav­ery vic­tims, which if car­ried out would ef­fec­tively kill a con­tro­ver­sial 2015 agree­ment be­tween the coun­tries to set­tle a decades-long im­passe over the is­sue.

Many in South Korea be­lieved that Seoul’s pre­vi­ous con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment set­tled for far too less in a deal where Tokyo agreed to fund the foun­da­tion with 1 bil­lion yen ($9 mil­lion). There’s also crit­i­cism that Ja­pan still hasn’t ac­knowl­edged le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity for atroc­i­ties dur­ing its colo­nial oc­cu­pa­tion of Korea.

Ja­pan had said it didn’t con­sider the money it pro­vided to the fund as for­mal com­pen­sa­tion, re­peat­ing its stance that all wartime com­pen­sa­tion is­sues were set­tled in the 1965 treaty.

EOUL, South Korea (AP) — The fu­neral pro ces­sion of a woman sex­u­ally en­slaved by Ja­panese soldiers as a girl dur­ing WWII con­cluded Fri­day near the Ja­panese Em­bassy in Seoul, where Kim Bok-dong had protested for decades against what she called Ja­panese fail­ure to come to terms with its wartime bru­tal­ity.

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Mourn­ers hold yel­low but­ter­fly cutouts ded­i­cated to Kim Bok-dong, a former South Korean sex slave, dur­ing her fu­neral cer­e­mony in front of the Ja­panese Em­bassy in Seoul, South Korea, Fri­day, Feb. 1, 2019. Hun­dreds of mourn­ers gath­ered Fri­day near the em­bassy for the fu­neral of Kim forced as a girl into a brothel and sex­u­ally en­slaved by the Ja­panese mil­i­tary in WWII.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.