DC Korean Americans to stand in protest against Abe in a call for apology

April 28, 2015
In this March 10, 2015 file photo Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo. Abe will become the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress in late April, the House speaker has announced. Foreign leaders have been accorded the honor 111 times since World War II, but not Japan, despite the tight alliance forged with the U.S. in the 70 years since 1945. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

By The Korea Times Washington DC staff

The Korean American community in Washington, D.C., have gathered this week to request a long-ignored apology from visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will meet President Barack Obama Tuesday and give an unprecedented speech, for a Japanese leader, to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Led by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, about 30 organizations will protest in front of Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday.

They seek an apology for Japan’s wartime history, in particular its soldiers’ use of “comfort women,” or sex slaves, during the second World War.

Abe, who has refused to directly address the issue, referred to comfort women as victims of human trafficking during a speech Monday at Harvard University.

“My heart aches when I think about the people who were victimized by human trafficking and who were subject to immeasurable pain and suffering, beyond description. On this score my feeling is no different from my predecessor prime ministers,” Abe said during his talk to students, according to Reuters.

The controversy over Japan’s refusal to acknowledge its history has not only been confined to Asia, where comfort women were taken from countries including South Korea, China, the Philippines and Indonesia.

In 2007, Congress passed House Resolution 121, which called for Japan to “formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner … for its coercion of young women into sexual slavery.”

Lee Jung-sil, an organization leader said the goal of the protests is to use the Japanese government’s apology and remorse as a base toward worldwide peace. He said they plan to hold a peaceful protest to deliver their message.

Korean Americans in Los Angeles, where Abe will arrive May 1, are preparing a silent protest for the prime minister’s visit; In Chicago and New Jersey, many in the Korean American community, including KAVOICE and the Korean American World Forum, denounced Abe’s Congress speech, calling it an act of pardon for Japan’s wartime history.