Wednesday, December 14, 2011

1000 Demonstrations!

In 1991 the first former "comfort woman" Kim Hak Sun spoke out about her sexual abuse by the organized Japanese government in their brothels to maintain the "comfort" of the Japanese troops and keep them fighting. The following year on January 8, 1992 some of the former "comfort women" and other Korean citizens waged a protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Since that protest on a Wednesday, the former "comfort women" have faithfully protested every Wednesday. And today, December 14, the 1000th protest was enacted. This is the longest recorded protest in history! [Some halmoni demonstrating pictured below.]

Not many of the halmoni (only 5), the preferred term used for referencing the women now, are healthy enough to attend the demonstration but the crowds of other demonstrators made a strong presence and a loud voice in making the on-going demands on the Japanese government. And because this was the symbolic 1000th demonstration held in front of the embassy, the women brought along a statue of a young girl to place in front of the Japanese embassy [read the news report here]. The young girl, symbolizing the young virtuous girls forcefully taken in rape, is dressed in a hanbok, evoking traditional Korean clothing, thoughts and traditions. The Japanese government requested the Seoul/Korean government to deny the statue's placement in front of its embassy but the Korean government has denied the petition.

The demonstrating halmoni want to release their on-going shame, which will never happen if the Japanese government does not admit their fault. The halmoni want an apology, amongst other points. The demands made by the halmoni are seven-fold:
(1) That the Japanese government admit the compulsory drafting of Korean women as Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.
(2) That an official apology be made.
(3) That all the atrocities be fully disclosed.
(4) That a memorial be built for the victims (not just the one that volunteers of the halmonis commissioned to be made for this on-going protest).
(5) That the survivors or their bereaved families be compensated.
(6) That the facts and truth about Military Sexual Slavery by Japan be taught in Japanese history classes so that such inhumanities (crimes against humanity) are not repeated.
(7) Punish the war criminals (who incidentally are lauded as war heroes at Tokyo Shinto shrines).
Time is running out for the halmoni. Just two nights ago, the 12th of December, 박서운 할머니 (Park Seo Woon), the oldest living recorded survivor of the comfort station system passed way. The next morning (yesterday), 김요지 할머니 (Kim Yo Ji), a resident at 우리 집 (Our Place) in Seoul passed away. The moral indecency of raping hundreds of thousands of young girls, denying such an action, lauding the perpetrators and not acknowledging shame in the act but transferring that shame to the victims is exciting more of the public to demand apologies and recognition of war crimes .... but will it happen before the halmoni all die? And does the Japanese government hope that with the last dying voices of the remaining halmoni, the issue will forever be lost?

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