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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 December 23 - 2016 January 5  > Japan-ROK agreement on ‘comfort women’ insufficient for victims to feel ‘real freedom’
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2015 December 23 - 2016 January 5 [SOCIAL ISSUES]
column 

Japan-ROK agreement on ‘comfort women’ insufficient for victims to feel ‘real freedom’

December 30, 2015
Akahata 'current' column

“If I were in her position, I would be too scared to speak out.” “Although I have never met her, I admire her greatly.” These were what Japanese and South Korean students said in a rally held in August 2015 in Seoul to pay tribute to a woman who raised her voice in protest 24 years ago.

The woman, Kim Haksoon, was the first of those who publicly claimed that she was victimized by the wartime Japanese military’s “comfort woman” system. She decided to stand up as a witness of history because the Japanese government at that time denied involvement of the Japanese government and military in the wartime sex slavery system and tried to shift the blame onto private contractors.

It was on August 14, 1991 that Kim held a press conference to come out using her real name. In order to honor her courage, the students are now working to have the day designated as a UN day to commemorate the victims of the “comfort women” system.

In December 1991, Kim and two other victims launched a court battle demanding apology and compensation from the Japanese government. In the following year, the three women and their supporters started to hold a weekly protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. On every Wednesday, regardless of the weather, they called on Tokyo to take measures to restore the victims’ human rights, honor, and dignity.

On December 28, 2015 the foreign ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea jointly held a press conference to announce that they reached an agreement on the issue of the “comfort women”. In the press conference, Japan’s Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio used words and phrases such as “an involvement of the Japanese military authorities”, “(the Japanese government’s) responsibilities”, and “(Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s) apologies and remorse”. However, he stopped short of promising to further investigate the facts of the matter and to have history textbooks include descriptions of the military brothel system, both of which are long-held demands of the South Korean victims.

Asked by the press about the agreement, Yi Yong-Su, one of the former “comfort women” victims, said, “I have yet to be freed.” Currently, 46 Korean former “comfort women” are living in South Korea and their average age is 89.2. The Japanese government must hurry to take measures to fully settle the issue so that all the victims can recover their honor and dignity and be genuinely freed.
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