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최종편집 : 2019.11.29 금 15:13
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Their Suffering Has Not Ceased
Kim Kyu-hyun  |  Moderato92@naver.com
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승인 2011.11.02  19:03:40
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This December, the people who were forced to become comfort women for the Japanese army will have demonstrated in front of the Japanese embassy for the 1000th time. This demonstration was started in January 1992, after Kim Hak-sun’s (a comfort woman survivor) testimony in 1991. The comfort women survivors are demanding that the Japanese government acknowledge the fact that Korean women were forced to go to Japan, make an official apology, disclose the full account of their brutality, make a monument for the victims, and compensate the survivors and families of those who were sacrificed.
The Japanese Third Opposition Party had submitted a bill containing resolutions to the comfort women problem as many as 8 times, but was rejected every time. To make matters worse, after the ruling party was changed from the Liberal Democratic Party to the Democratic Party, the act of submitting a bill related to the comfort women problem has become even harder. However, the Japanese government does not show this sort of attitude towards all the comfort women survivors. While they are very insensitive about compensating the Asian women who were harmed, there have been cases where Japan’s government compensated and apologized immediately to the Caucasian victims from Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Japan’s attitude is often compared with that of Germany’s. In 2005, prime minister Gerhard Schröder stood in front of a monument (built for the Jews who were murdered) and acknowledged the fact that Germany should take responsibility in taking care of past war crimes. Germany’s government and businesses also gathered about 6 trillion dollars and established a foundation in order to compensate for the victims during the Second World War. Their sincere and active actions are something Japan should follow after.
The comfort women problem was mentioned at the UN Human Rights Council last year, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland. A report was given out, stressing the need for Japan to acknowledge their faults regarding the comfort women problem. The victims have been demanding an official apology as well as individual compensation through government funding. However, the Japanese representative responded by saying that Japan has already thoroughly investigated the problem and is aware of their moral responsibility. Whenever the issue of compensation comes up, Japan always mentions the Asian Peace National Fund for Women. However, the money from this fund is not supplied by the Japanese government, but by several businesses. For this reason, the fund has been deemed as an insufficient means of compensation that does not meet the expectations of the victims.
Recently, former representative Jeong Mong-jun sent a letter to the Japanese prime minister, Kan Naoto, containing the names of 130 politicians, pressing the Japanese government to solve the comfort women problem. Jeong also attended the weekly demonstration held by the comfort women survivors. 130 is not a small number of people; big enough for the Japanese government to take notice of the letter. However, many people speculate that Jeong is being so forward with this problem because of the upcoming presidential elections. Japan probably knows of this hidden purpose, so it is highly likely that the Japanese government won’t take the letter too seriously.
Our government only turns their attention briefly to the comfort women problem whenever there is a conflict with Japan or uproar in the public sentiment. Our government may be offering a certain amount of welfare for the comfort woman survivors, but other additional support is not taking place. Since 2004, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has been providing economic support for those who are in need of life-support, as well as psychotherapy. However, what the survivors really need is for our government to take a firm stand and notify the international community of our statement.
In order to take a firm stand, sufficient research and investigation must take place, but these projects have been stopped. Currently, only the commemoration and memorial projects are left, and the recent Museum on War and Women’s Rights was built mostly from individual funds, with no particular help from the government or businesses. Only when various government departments and big enterprises cooperate to actively supply funding will the research projects be able to continue. After this is done, we can apply for a trial at the International Court of Justice in order to alert the international community of our official statement. The UN Human Rights Committee notified us of this method in 1996, but our government has not shown signs of carrying it through. If our government just shows the will to use this method, the UN can help us just as they did with the Khmer Rouge (also called the Killing Fields trial, regarding an incident that happened between 1975 and 1979 in which about 2 million people, one-fourth of Cambodia, were killed) International Criminal Court. The UN spent about 100 million dollars to start trials of the people involved in the killing. The trials are still ongoing, but a man who was a prisoned governor, involved with slaughtering and torture received a sentence of 30 years.
Recently, an exhibition about comfort women took place at the Holocaust Center (a memorial hall built in order to inform the general public about the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis) in New York. 7 Koreans and Americans took part in this exhibition, and one of the artists, Steve Cavalro, first heard of comfort women in 1991 and has been working to spread word of this problem ever since. The people involved with the Holocaust Center expressed great anger at the fact that there are still people who deny the problems related to the comfort women. There is a project in progress to invite the comfort woman survivors to the center and let them meet with some Holocaust survivors. This project is being led by Kim Dong-seok (chairman of the Korean American Voters’ Council) who has constantly been putting forth great effort to shed light on this issue within American society. Since there are many influential Jews in US politics, the Japanese government will feel great pressure if the meeting between the Holocaust and comfort women survivors becomes politicized. This method of politicizing an issue in such a powerful country can be an effective, if not better method, to draw interest to problems that do not show signs of being solved.
The American press is already taking notice of the upcoming meeting between the two groups of survivors. If this meeting actually does take place and influential Jewish politicians start paying attention to the comfort women issue, it won’t be so easy for the Japanese government to neglect this problem. The fact that a bill regarding solutions to the comfort women problem was submitted 8 times means that there are some politicians in Japan who want to solve this issue. Concern and criticism coming from the international community will help these bills to be passed.
Due to old age, there are only about 70 comfort woman survivors left. The efforts that Koreans abroad are putting in, such as Kim Dong-seok, will definitely help bring light to the issue of comfort women. However, this problem cannot be completely solved without the help of the government. The Korean government needs to get rid of its current passive attitude, actively intervene in this problem with sufficient funding, and notify the international community of our stance. The survivors will continue to suffer from this problem until our government steps up to take care of this issue.

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