Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery
Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery
Why has the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan been made?
From before World War II to 1945, the Japanese government forcefully conscripted or abducted Korean and other Asian women, turning them into sex slaves for the Japanese military. We launched “The Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan” (hereafter, the Korean Council) on November 16, 1990, in order to recover the human rights of the “comfort women”, victims of Japanese military sexual slavery, and to correct the distorted history between Korea and Japan. Currently, efforts are being made by the 22 member organizations of the Korean Council to resolve the comfort women issue and to correct the historical wrong. The Japanese government is still refusing to make formal apologies and pay reparations. We, therefore, are calling on the Japanese government to meet the seven demands. We are asking them to reveal the truth about the crime of military sexual slavery by Japan and acknowledge the war crime and punish the war criminals. Also, the Japanese government has to make formal apologies. It should erect a memorial tablet and establish a museum to honor the victims. Last, as record of the truth is in the textbooks, let next generation in Japan learn what their ascendents did wrong. They will learn about the wrongs done in the past, and try not to repeat same tragedy too.
I heard there are regularly Wednesday Protests Calling for Reparations and Punishment of Those Responsible. When did they start and what does your organization ask for?
The weekly demonstration that first took place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Korea at noon on a Wednesday in January 1992 marked its 349th session as of February 10, 1999. Our 22 member and 15 cooperative organizations systemized the Wednesday protests, which have been staged for over seven years. The weekly demonstrations represent a long struggle for the human rights and peace of women, and provide a forum for on-site education about human rights.
What are “Welfare activities for the victims”?
We carried out activities to help the former military sexual slaves, now mostly in their old age, including the provision of counselling, medical support, arrangements and counselling for funeral procedures, as well as consolation dinners. Besides, it plans to provide a place of repose where these elderly women can rest, offering them various health care programs.
Activities Vis-a-vis the Korean Government?
As most of the survivors of the military sexual slavery were living in poor financial conditions, we called for the legislation called the “The Social Security Law for the Comfort Women of the Japanese Army During the Period of Japanese Colonial Rule”. The law, passed in 1993, guarantees each survivor a renting priority in government housing (11-18 pyongs, or 36-59 sq.m), among other things. In addition, we launched active efforts to ensure the enactment of “The New Immigration Law to Prohibit Japanese War Criminals from Entering Korea” in 1997. In particular, we carried out nation-wide fund-raising campaigns on two occasions (1997, 1998) as a countermeasure against the Asian National Peace Fund for Women, a private fund established at the initiative of the Japanese government in May 1998 to provide atonement money to the victims of military sexual slavery. As a result of these fund-raising efforts, each of the victims received 7,608,000 won, in addition to the government subsidies of 31,500,000 each.
Does this solidarity have any relationship with international Human Rights Organizations?
Voices of conscience calling for the resolution of the “comfort women” issue are spreading throughout the world. We have been making efforts to get attention from the whole world. Since the Korean Council brought the issue to the attention of the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in 1992, the UNCHR, the International Commission of Jurists, and the ILO Committee of Experts have issued recommendations to the Japanese government to fulfill its legal responsibilities. We also hold an Asian Women’s Solidarity
Conference almost every year with other victimized Asian nations to launch a joint effort to resolve the issue of military sexual slavery by Japan.
What was the plan for the ‘Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery’ in 2001?
To open a new era of human rights and peace in the 21st century, a civilian tribunal is planned to be held in 2001 in solidarity with the related organizations of the victimized countries and the Violence Against Women in Wartime (VAWW-Net). It is aimed at revealing the truth about the military sexual slavery of the Japanese Army, the cruelest case of infringement on women’s human rights in the 20th century, and to punish those responsible for the crime. The tribunal, to be held jointly by all the victimized countries of Asia, will mark a significant milestone in the history of the international movement on women’s human rights.
What is the Education Center to Teach History and Women’s Human Rights?
The survivors, as living historical witnesses, are aging. More than 40 of them have died since 1990. What is important at this moment is to teach our future generations, in order to recover the human rights of women that have been trampled on by war. It is with this in mind that we opened “The Education Center of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan”.
The Education Center features are as follows: there is the Place of Repose, which provides education and health care programs for the former MSS in a warm room with a Korean traditional ondol floor. Then, there is The Education Room. It provides education about history and human rights, with a seating capacity of 30-40 people. The Exhibition Room displays the articles formerly owned by the deceased MSS, historical photographs and photographs of the human rights movement, showing that the history of the cruel violation of human rights is not just confined to the past but represents an ongoing violence against women. The last is The Library, which preserves and lends domestic and foreign documents, pictures, and films.
Also, we have various educational programs. These are categorized in four parts. The first one is education programs on peace and human rights for middle and high school students, university students, civil organization activists and teachers. The next one is education for domestic and foreign visitors to help them wake up to the historical truth. The third is education on women’s human rights on a group-by-group basis. The last consists of testimonies of the former MSS, our movements seen through video, and lectures on the human rights of women with respect to the comfort women issue.
How many victims are alive?
At present there are about 199 victims registered, and among them, 141 are alive. Most of them are 78-82 years old.
Thank you for the interview. Last, could you give us some information about the activities in 2001?
We had a seminar in March to correct the abused textbook, for which many people are responsible. We will continue to ask the head of the Japanese government to admit the facts and make amends, and continue our Wednesday protests. A core achievement is opening the center of war and women’s human rights, the movement for legislation through the Commission, and the activities toward government. There are special programs for victims to let them remarry in each region where they are related with each other. At the end of this year, there will be ceremony to cherish the memory of victims who died already. Also, we will prepare the camp for learning about human rights for victims in Summer. For the next 10 years, the human rights program about MSS will continue. We will attend the ILO general meeting this June.
“We believe ‘A Small Stream Will Make the Sea'”, she said.
The Korean Council Education Center is run by means of many people’s continued interest and support. Hoping that the Education Center will serve to enable a true understanding of our history and a true recovery of women’s human rights, we sincerely ask for their support.
Interviewed by Lee, Jae-Eun (Volunteer, PSPD)
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