House of Representatives Approves Measure Calling for Apology from Japan to Surviving 'Comfort Women'
V-Day and the Korean Council for Women Drafted into Military Sexual Slavery by Japan proclaim a new victory for the 'comfort women' survivors in their struggle for justice.
On Monday, July 30, 2007, the US House of Representatives passed a formal resolution calling on the government of Japan to apologize for the abduction and serial rapes of tens of thousands of girls and young women across Asia and the Pacific, forced into ongoing sexual slavery in 'comfort stations' serving Japanese soldiers between 1932 and 1945.
One of the most horrendous war crimes and crimes against humanity of the 20th century, these atrocities nevertheless remained silenced until the early 1990s. Since then, groups such as the Korean Council have supported the former 'comfort women' in their struggle for justice, survival, and their demand for apology and reparations despite the increasing revisionism of nationalist politicians in Japan, some of whom deny that the 'comfort stations' ever existed.
In response, every Wednesday for more than 15 years, elderly survivors have demonstrated in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, Korea, demanding a formal apology and legal reparation from the Japanese government.
Their struggle shines a spotlight on the absence of justice for wartime sexual violence in every era, experienced by women today in Congo, Sudan, and Iraq, to name just a few.
When V-Day turned its focus on the issue of redress for former 'comfort women,' a research gathering period was the first step in order to proceed with absolute respect for the survivors and their own steps already at work. Given that the issue has been controversial and painful, V-Day’s strategy from the very beginning has been:
1. To go slow, to listen, and to support the efforts of the activists on the ground
2. To explore the possibilities of doing something that would give maximum exposure to the issue, only if the activists felt it would make a difference
3. To meet with the activists and advocates to discuss how to proceed.
V-Day joined efforts with the Korean Council in 2004 to create a Global Campaign for Justice to 'Comfort Women,' bringing together advocates for the survivors from South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Timor L'este. Together with these partners the Korean Council and V-Day launched the campaign at the UN in 2005 and mobilized a Global Day of Action around the world.
V-Day culminated the campaign in an International Spotlight on 'comfort women', featuring information about their struggle and adding the monologue "Say It" by Eve Ensler in more than 2000 benefit performances of 'The Vagina Monologues” in 2006. To increase the impact, V-Day and the Korean Council held a speaking tour of 'comfort women' survivors and advocates, who visited US colleges and gave testimony at a Congressional briefing in February 2006. The Capitol briefing was attended by key Congressional legislative aides, broadening support for the Resolution from two co-sponsors to 39.
With Nancy Pelosi's ascension to Speaker of the House, and Congress' transition from Republican to Democratic, the Korean Council doubled their efforts to get the long-standing resolution to the floor of the House for a vote in 2007. Through grassroots fundraising by the US-based Support 121 Coalition, to which V-Day belongs, Korean 'comfort woman' survivor Yong Soo Lee was able to testify at the hearing, together with Ms. Jan O’Herne and Ms. Gun Ja Kim, and to be present in the Capitol on July 30 for the historic moment when the voice vote resounded in favor of the long-sought resolution, now supported by 165 co-sponsors.
House Resolution 121 calls for “the Government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its (Japan) Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women and girls into sexual slavery during World War II.”
V-Day and the Korean Council commend the US Congress for passing this resolution. But much work remains to be done, in order to secure justice and to document the immeasurable crimes committed against untold numbers of women 60 years ago. The long shadow of violence is still felt in many parts of the world today.
Toward that end and the struggle forward from today, V-Day announces a donation of $50,000 for the Korean Council and other advocates working tirelessly on behalf of the 'comfort women' survivors and their legacy. The Korean Council seeks to build a permanent exhibit in a Museum of Women and War in Seoul, to secure inclusion for the 'comfort women' in Japan's history textbooks, and to press for the long-awaited official apology and reparations. In light of this great victory in the US Congress, acknowledging that what happened to the 'comfort women' did in fact happen, together we want to memorialize the history so it is forever remembered and never repeated.
Ms. LEE, Yong Soo (born on 13 December 1928, in Taegu, Korea):
At the age of 15, Yong Soo Lee was forcibly drafted by the Japanese soldiers. It was autumn 1943. She was transported through Kyung Joo to Taiwan, where she was kept for 2 years in sexual slavery for the Japanese soldiers until the end of WWII. When she was 17, the war was over. At the age of 18, she was able to return to her home, it was 1946. She lives alone in Taegu.
"Although filled with agony, I've constantly been searching for the truth and justice for the past 60 years of my life. The passage of H.Res.121 is proof that truth and justice do prevail. All sexual crimes against women and any human rights violation against children must not be tolerated anywhere in the world. ... Everyday, I remember the victims that are not with us any longer. Again, I think of those precious 200,000 teenage girls who had been abducted and forced into sexual slavery for Japanese Army. I'd like to share today's victory with them." – July 30, 2007
To read the remarks of Chairman Lantos on H. Res. 121, regarding Comfort Women please click here
To read 'Say It' By Eve Ensler, please click here
For more background and information, please visit:
Korean Council for Women Drafted into Military Sexual Slavery by Japan
please click here
Support 121 Coalition
House Seeks Japan's Apology on 'Comfort Women'
Los Angeles Times:
Wartime Victim Makes Heartfelt Plea For Redress
V-Day Brings 'Comfort Women' to the U.S. for Speaking Tour as Part of the 2006 Global V-Day Campaign for Justice