“Korea-Japan had a historical agreement about the issue of ‘comfort women’. On December 28th 2015, the Korean government officially ended negotiation on the issue of ‘comfort women’ with the condition that once the Korean government establishes a foundation to support surviving ‘comfort women’, the Japanese government should give one billion yen as a support fund. Conflict between surviving ‘comfort women’ whose youth had been trampled asking for Japanese government compensation, has ended with only one billion yen - just 10 billion won. The Korean government’s passive stance is largely responsible for this outcome of the negotiation, which means that they didn’t have a clear position on ‘comfort women’. Such frustration as this makes people more miserable. Most of people only pay attention to the issue of ‘comfort women’ whenever big events happen and they are not deeply aware of this matter. It’s a very unfortunate reality to see surviving ‘comfort women’ who are lonely, tragic victims of the Japanese military and the Japanese government. Therefore, I am starting to shed a new light on the life of ‘comfort women’ and tlk about the ways to bloom the flowers that haven’t blossomed.
‘Comfort women’, the precise and historical meaning that they have
‘Comfort women’ refers to the women who were forced into sexual slavery by the imperial Japanese army during the period of Japanese colonial rule. The Japanese Empire sexually exploited 14 to 16 year old girls until 1945 when they lost the Pacific War, in the name of going into war ‘effectively’. In the past, ‘comfort women’ were known as ‘Jeongshindae’ or ‘military sexual slaves’. However, Jeongshindae actually means a unit dedicated to Japan and organized to mobilize women for munitions factories. Therefore there is a distinct difference between them, because ‘Jeongshindae’ takes on the character of labor and ‘comfort women’ take on the character of sex slavery. Besides, military sexual slavery has a catch in its wording; that is the word ‘military’. There is a voluntary participation meaning such as military correspondent or military nurse. These words should not be used because it conceals the historical responsibility of the Japanese who forced ‘comfort women’ into sexual slavery. Therefore, Korea is currently using the word Japanese military ‘comfort women’. It is a more accurate expression to write single quotation marks like ‘comfort women’ as it was not called by the women but rather by the Japanese military. First, we must correct the expression of ‘comfort women’ so as not to break their hearts again.
Furthermore, sexual abuse of ‘comfort women’ has significant historical meaning in that mass rapes of women occurred systematically by the nation as an excuse for war. The pains of sexual victims have been foregrounded in the world since the late 1980s when the feminine movement was emerging. If it had not been for the courage of these women, the issue of ‘comfort women’ would have been buried in the shadow of history forever.
Flower could not come into bloom – I was non-human
There was not only cruelty but ugly brutality by the Japanese Empire against women’s lives who were sexually exploited by the Japanese army. The women who were taken to the brothels had to have compulsory sex with an average of 15 Japanese soldiers but a maximum of 70 Japanese soldiers. They suffered from sexually transmitted diseases because of the unsanitary conditions but if any woman was detected with a sexually transmitted disease, she was immediately buried alive or executed in a brutal way. When it came to pregnancy, the woman’s uterus and fetus were wholly taken out of her body by a Japanese soldier’s hand, finishing the little life. Jung Ok Soon, who was taken at 14 by Japanese soldiers said that she had a severe uterine hemorrhage as she had to deal with about 40 Japanese soldiers per day. One day, a soldier armed with a sword said “who can deal with one hundred soldiers?” and 15 women who didn’t raise their hands were killed in front of the other women as an example. It was not just simple killing but it was done in cruel manners, such as holding naked woman’s head and legs and rolling them on nailed boards. They were nothing more than a lump of flesh on the board, blood spurting out. Then the Japanese soldiers cut off the head of the dead body lying on the nailed boards. A Japanese commander said, “sex slaves are crying because they want to eat meat”. After saying this they put the dead woman’s head on a boiling pot and forced the women to drink it. Ms. Jung told this story with a very tough mind at the interview on one press saying it’s heartbreaking to think of that moment. Likewise, Japanese soldiers committed atrocious acts that cannot be spoken, trampling on women’s rights. Bearing their deep sorrow, the ‘comfort women’ speak with one voice that we were non-human at that time. This is part of the letter written by one of the victims – “I have lived in a living hell for decades. It was a long time ago for me, when I let go of me. It was a long time ago that I was a woman. There is no place to bring a new life on my body as they ate everything in my body. All I want is to wake from this nightmare and let my soul rest in peace.”
Small movement to recover their human rights
Eventually, did heaven know the countless tears that these ‘comfort women’ dropped? Lately there have been some small movements to help them regain their human rights. On December 14th, 2011, 20 years after the 1992 Wednesday demonstrations had begun, a monument for ‘comfort women’ was set in front of the Japanese embassy to press for problem solving of the issue of ‘comfort women’. This monument was made from the 30 million won-fund raised by citizens, which remembers the 14 to 16 year old girls, who were exploited by the Japanese army. Roughly cut hair symbolizes breaking connection with their parents and home. A bare foot with floated heel represents the victims’ wandering in anxiety even though they already returned to their home. And the chair next to the monument gives people a chance to understand the heart of the victims. In addition, some products and companies are appearing to support the ‘comfort women’. One representative is ‘Heeum’, which has a meaning of ‘blooming with hope’. Heeum is a company that allows people to access the issue of ‘comfort women’ in everyday life by creating products using the pressed flower ‘comfort women’ have made. The projects of Heeum try to solve the issue of ‘comfort women’ and to build a ‘comfort women’ museum of history. In addition, the issue of ‘comfort women’ is being gradually reviewed through a movie to inform the public, The Last comfort women and The homecoming.
A nation that forgets its past has no future
However, despite all these efforts, it seems we still have a long way to go to root out the issue of ‘comfort women’ completely. And the lukewarm attitude of the government has to do with reality. In the meantime, the South Korean government had been maintaining the principle that 'we will not demand satisfaction’ about the issue of ‘comfort women’ until 2011. Therefore, the government did not respond to Abe’s refusal to answer our demand for an apology at Yasukuni Shrine. Even the government has taken rather an indifferent attitude to the extent that errors were found about the ‘comfort women’ in such standardized textbooks as the Kyohaksa-textbook. But the negotiation about ‘comfort women’ moved swiftly in the past two years. And last December 28, as soon as Christmas was over and as if from secret negotiations, the government announced the solution to the problem. And when the government announced the solution to the problem, it was dishonored as a solution without the consent of the parties. "We think that Korea will never list the issue of ‘comfort women’ on the UNESCO's Memory of the World Register." “We know the 'comfort women' statue in front of the Japanese embassy will be moved to another location.” It is suspicious that the Japanese government’s assertion contains an apology for ‘comfort women’.
But the government is not the only target of criticism. Koreans have the pot nature, so when something happens we tend to spread it all around the country but we tend to naturally forget it after a time. It is the same for the issue of ‘comfort women’. Whenever Abe’s outrageous remarks on the issue of ‘comfort women’ or the news of a ‘comfort woman’s death becomes a hot issue, only then are we concerned with the issue of ‘comfort women’. An investigation carried out by the Trend Monitor revealed that in 2014, only one in four Koreans are thinking that Koreans have a high historical awareness. It means that Koreans’ historical awareness-levels are not high. But we should realize that without history, the present and the future would not exist. In this sense, the issue of ‘comfort women’ must be settled urgently and properly for our future.
Blooming their hopes with you!
So what is the real way for the ‘comfort women’? It is only the Japanese government’s sincere apology. That is only natural but we have never received it from them. The Japanese government has avoided an apology for ‘comfort women’ by changing the subject. In addition, they have been deceitful in its payment of donation, not of compensation. This means that they do not definitely acknowledge their atrocities. Therefore, now the state and the people must step up to the platform and receive Japan’s legal recognition and sincere apology. It is the minimum amount of apology for the 192 blossom-flowers that did not bloom, who didn’t even hear “sorry” and the 46 blossom-flowers crying because of their stolen youth.
Mrs. Kim Soon-duk ended her life by saying in 2014, “I want to be born in Korea, even in another life. And I will not let my descendants go through what I experienced.” However, meanwhile, do we still protect them? We did not protect the lives of the 15 to 16 year-old girls to care about their looks full of romance. Even though we do not protect the rest of their life which was saved from the jaws of death. But, it is never too late. If there is just one person who feels aggrieved with the issue of ‘comfort women’ being unresolved, we can bloom with hope. March, the time of blossoming, we hope they will have a big smile at being blooming flowers.
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