South Korea Marks First ‘Comfort Women’ Day and the Controversies That Surround
Between 1932 and 1945 Japan forced women of the countries she occupied to become servicemen prostitutes. These countries include China, Korea and other countries in Southeast Asia. Although it is almost a century from the time first women were forced into prostitution for imperial Japan, their servitude details are painful and cause a division in Japan and those countries she occupied. Few survived the war; an estimated 90 percent of comfort women did not.
On Tuesday, people from South Korea and Taiwan staged protests and unveiled monuments. It was to mark Japan’s forced use of girls and women to work in military brothels.
The new monument unveiled in South Korea is part of the country’s first Memorial Day for Japanese Forces comfort Women Victims. The move by South Korea may stir a sensitive diplomatic issue with Japan. Japan and South Korea border each other and Japan is a United States vital alley in an attempt to contain North Korea nuclear ambitions.
Speaking on the fateful day, South Korean President, Moon Jae-in had the following to say:
- He hopes that the issue of the commemoration of Japanese wartime comfort women will not result in a diplomatic dispute. Moon Jae-in was, however, quick to add that he does not think the issue is resolvable by a bilateral diplomatic solution.
- The issue involves the whole world and is inclusive of women human rights. He thus pledged that South Korea government would respect women as main parties to the matter. He promised to pursue projects that will restore honor and dignity which includes;
- Preservation and,
- The propagation of records
Japan, however, claims the issue was solved in 2015. Japanese government claims the previous Conservative South Korean administration struck a deal. Under the said deal, Japan apologized and compensated the victims with one billion Yen (an equivalent of 9.3 million US dollars).
President Moon Jae-in’s administration has kept on revisiting the issue which is emotional. Despite backing down from renegotiating the deal, Moon asks Japan to do more to the victims.
In March 2018, by what was termed as regrettable by Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary; Yoshihide Suga, the South Korean President, described use of Comfort Women by Japan as crimes against humanity.
Japan has not been in support of the establishment of the monuments in South Korea dedicated to Comfort Women. Indicators are;
- Japan protested elevation of a memorial stone outside its embassy in Seoul.
- Rejecting a move to establish a day to remember girls and women, coerced into working as prostitutes in Japanese military blocks.
August 14 was found an ideal date to remember comfort women. It is on August 14, 1991, that a South Korean Comfort women victim, Kim Hak-sun, gave public testimony about her experience; information released by South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
Comfort women have been an issue and have caused contention between Japan and her neighbors who include North and South Korea and China from wartime.
In Taiwan’s capital, over fifty activists joined a sit-in protest in front of Japan’s de facto embassy, on Tuesday Morning. They were asking for a formal apology and demanding monetary compensation to Taiwanese who were forced to work in Japan wartime brothels.
Wearing black shirts while covering faces by white masks, they marched on shouting that the Japanese government should apologize. They went ahead to unveil a bronze monument, which symbolizes comfort women, in Tainan, Southern Taiwanese city. In attendance was Taiwan’s former President Ma Ying-jeou.
Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945. Before and after the war, Japan occupied parts of China.
On her part, Japan says compensation matter for South Korean Women was settled in a 1965 treaty. To heal psychological wounds, Japan agreed to provide funds to comfort women victims in the year 2015.
In conclusion, this matter is far from the end. If disputing countries do not act, it may end up breaking their diplomatic ties. Being neighbors this is not their wish. Let us not forget Japan is a UN aid in checking North Korea nuclear activities. Japan’s best bet is for North Korea not to use Comfort women as an issue and create enmity.