I was 15 when I first learned about ‘comfort women.’ I thought it was a fictitious story; I thought, “That’s unbelievable. How is that even possible?” Tragically, it happens and is still happening in different forms. I know there will come a day when my kids will learn about things that happened in my generation and will wonder, “Why didn’t anyone [including my parents] do anything about it?” That will be another occasion I will be tempted to hide. The issues of human rights, children’s right, women’s rights, and global peace must still be forefront in our hearts.
I was 22 when I “heard” the story of one ‘comfort woman’ – first hand at a gathering in New York City. This Korean grandmother couldn’t make eye contact as she was addressing the crowd. She kept sobbing. I will never forget the story she shared… I share this not to perpetuate anger against Japanese people but rather, against evil and hatred that we as people and governments choose to commit. In my opinion, the cruelest form of our ‘human depravity’ is when we choose to exploit others for our self gain. I want to make this very clear that this isn’t a “Korean” issue as women from many nations including the Philippines, Taiwan, Dutch East Indies, Korea, China, and Japan were exploited.
While conversations of ‘reparations’ are important, the single largest request and issue is for the Japanese government to acknowledge all that has transpired and make a heartfelt apology. What incredible impact it would make for their government to simply say: “We acknowledge these stories, pictures, testimonies, and tears to be true. We acknowledge these women – every single one of them…and we are truly sorry.” And don’t let me even start with Japan’s historical documents and books pertaining to the atrocities committed.
So, Japanese Prime Minister Abe is visiting President Bush at the White House tomorrow. He pissed off many people when he suggested that comfort women weren’t ‘coerced’. Many responded with, “S*%^, not again.” For what it’s worth there will be a peaceful march called “Dignity Walk” in front of the White House during Abe’s visit. There are reports that some in their respective major cities will gather around the Japanese Consulate Buildings as well. While you may not be able to fly out to DC, here are four things you can [must] do:
- View the Video above
- Read this article [published in today’s NY Times]
- Visit support121.org
- Contact your congressman.
update: you’ll also want [but won’t enjoy] to read this about US’s involvement.
From the Associate Press article [ny times]:
“It was not directly from the Japanese government; that is why I did not accept it,” said Ellen van der Ploeg, 84, a Dutchwoman who was taken from a prisoner of war camp in Indonesia and forced to work in a Japanese military brothel for three months in 1944. “If you have made mistakes in life, you must have the courage to say, ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me.’ But the Japanese government to this day has never taken full responsibility.”
“If this were a pure government fund, I could have accepted it,” Ms. van der Ploeg said in a telephone interview from Houten, the Netherlands. “Why should I accept money from private Japanese people? They were also victims during the war.”
And from the Support 121 Website:
Japanese Imperial Army enslaved 200,000 girls and women of Asia during WWII and exploited them as “comfort women.” But there is no comfort in military organized rape. And many were not women. They were girls under sixteen as young as twelve. These girls and women were victims of months and years of gang rape and brutal torture that resulted in death, dehumanization and disease.
Despite testimonies of survivors and historic documentation, Japan has made only vague apologies and has never taken full responsibility for this crime. Right now, Prime Minister Abe and the Japanese government are engaged in a campaign to deny any responsibility and to claim there is no evidence of rape.
H.Res. 121, introduced by Congressman Mike Honda, calls upon the Japanese government to make an unequivocal and official apology for this atrocity.
Support H.Res. 121 and defend human rights, women’s rights and global peace.