Remembering the Comfort Women

October 31, 2016
Dowon Jake Kim  Beverly Hills High School 12th Grade

Dowon Jake Kim
Beverly Hills High School 12th Grade

The 5th Annual Commemoration of Comfort Woman Day was held on July 30th, 2016. The event was held to celebrate the House Resolution 121, which declared that the Government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as “comfort women”, during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II.

But who are the comfort women? They were the victims of forced sexual slavery during the time of Imperial Japan. Imperial Japan believed that prostitution raised the morale of Japanese soldiers at the war front.

As the war front widened and colonization increased, the Japanese military headquarters forced young girls to serve as sex slaves, some of them as young as age 12. Many were deceived into thinking that they would receive high salaries in factories, and many others were simply kidnapped. Many of them were from Korea and China, but some were from Philippines, Burma, Thailand and many other Japanese occupied territories. Chinese and Korean historians estimate that about 200,000 served as comfort women.

Imperial Japan faced defeat after defeat towards the end of the war. As the military retreated, headquarters ordered to kill all comfort women and destroy all comfort stations to conceal the atrocity. Very few comfort women survived. However, they lived traumatized and shamed until Grandma Kim Hak-Soon broke the silence.

The organizing committee of The 5th Annual Commemoration of Comfort Woman Day in Glendale has prepared an art exhibition as well as other cultural events to communicate the comfort woman issue with global denizens.

“Various artists have created valuable cultural content that can overcome the barrier of language and reach the heart of individual audience,” the committee explained in its brochure.

The art exhibition took place in LA because of the Glendale comfort-women statue, which has caused many international disputes. Nonetheless, many artists have presented their artworks, and each artwork contains a profound symbolism supporting comfort women.

The committee plans to exhibit the art until August 3rd. Afterwards, art pieces will be moved to Beijing for another exhibition to encourage global cooperation between nations to resolve the comfort women issue.

The committee invited several guest speakers, including Glendale City Mayor Paula Devine and Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee Edward R. Royce.

Mayor Paula Devine, as one of the biggest supporters of comfort women, explained the significance of this issue: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. We must never forget that.”Edward R. Royce, a longtime supporter of comfort women and a co-sponsor of House Resolution 121, also emphasized, “We cannot get the future right if we get the past wrong.” The audience all stood up and clapped at this remark.

He continued, “None of us, none of us who know better should remain silent in terms of those who deny the Holocaust, those who deny the genocide of Armenians, those who deny what happened in the Rape of Nanking or what happened to the comfort women.”The audience, most of whom were long supporters of comfort women, shared a common feeling. They urged for proper compensation and an apology.

One of them, a past president of Korean Women’s International Network, revealed, “Comfort women means anger to me. It is very upsetting. How dare they take 13, 14, 15 years old and force them to have sex with 40 men a day? It makes me so angry.”“When I go to Auschwitz, Germany, I see that Germany has admitted their past misdeed and apologized for it. Why can’t Japan apologize? It needs to admit it and apologize properly.”



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