In September this year 90 year old survivor of WW2 Japanese military sexual slavery Kim Bok-dong gave two public talks in London, at the Korean Cultural Centre and at Goldsmiths University. She said she had come, ‘not as a victim but as a human rights activist’, and explained that the surviving ladies were not just seeking justice for themselves but also for women and girls subject to rape and sexual abuse in subsequent wars and conflicts. Ultimately she said they wanted to see and end to war itself. It was incredibly moving to listen to and to meet this wonderful woman.
There has been quite a lot of discussion in this group about the deal reached on 28th December, supposedly settling the ‘comfort women’ issue between Japan and South Korea. The voices of survivors and their campaign groups were excluded from government talks, and ignored or marginalised in most news reports, giving the misleading impression this was a victory for the women.
Here is part of Kim Bok-dong’s response to the deal. It is well worth reading.
“Do they think we’ve been doing this for this long for money? We’ve been getting living expense support from our government and NGOs are taking care of us. We’re not asking for money. What we want is a legal reparation. That is to admit that they committed the crime as a criminal state. Without even talking to us victims about what the two governments have discussed, I really can’t understand how they can say that they came to an agreement.
We are not beggars. We live decently with the living expense support from the government. We are not fighting for money. About what Japan had done wrong in the past, it would be acceptable only if Abe apologizes and settles things legally and educate their students the truth and fix their textbooks.
However, without even a word, they talk amongst themselves and now this? Are they giving pity money to the poor? Giving kids candy money? And it’s not even a reparation. I really don’t understand why they are doing this.
And about the Peace Statue, both of the governments should leave it alone. The citizens erected it across the embassy on the peace street to teach our future generations of the tragedy that our nation once suffered. They have no rights to say anything regarding the Statue.
And I can’t accept this kind of apology. Why would we have been fighting until now if it was going to be settled ambiguously like this? If they are going to apologize, then do it properly, and if the Korean government wants to resolve the issue, then do it properly. If they are doing this for peace, then I hope they will do it the right way instead of hurting our feelings.”
- For English language news items on this issue, see https://www.facebook.com/womenandwar and https://www.facebook.com/thehouseofsharing/
- UN chief welcomes agreement between Japan and Republic of Korea on ‘comfort women’, UN News Centre, 28 December 2015
- 25 years of progress on comfort women issue “wiped out” by new agreement, Hankyoreh, 30 December 2015
- ‘Comfort women’ funds won’t be paid until sex slave statue outside Japanese Embassy removed: source, Japan Times, 31 December 2015
- South Korea’s Betrayal of the “Comfort Women”, K.J. Noh, Counterpunch, 31 December 2015.
- UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: Concluding observations on the combined seventh and eighth periodic reports of Japan, 7 March 2016 (See under Japan, Concluding remarks. Alternatively, pdf download here.) Paragraphs 28 and 29 are the pertinent ones.
- Suga slams findings of U.N. panel on discrimination, cites U.S., U.K. support for ‘comfort women’ deal, Japan Times, 8 March 2016
- Voices of survivors must be heard, UN chief says after meeting ‘comfort women’ victim, UN News Centre, 11 March 2016