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V-Day Brings 'Comfort Women' to the U.S. for Speaking Tour as Part of the 2006 Global V-Day Campaign for Justice



February 14, 2006 – From February 17-22, V-Day is hosting two South Korean 'comfort women' survivors for a U.S. speaking tour to coincide V-Day's 2006 benefit season and spotlight campaign. Kim Ok Sun and Yong Soo Lee, will visit Congress and colleges in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, along with V-Day Special Representative Hibaaq Osman and the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery's Kyang Joo Hye and Heisoo Shin.

The euphemism 'comfort women' was coined by imperial Japan to refer to young females of various ethnic and national backgrounds who were forced to offer sexual services to the Japanese troops during the Asia/Pacific Wars between 1932 and 1945.

The tour is the result of years of collaboration between V-Day and 'comfort women' activists in their struggle for justice. As part of the V-Day 2006 Spotlight: Global V-Day Campaign For Justice To 'Comfort Women,' the tour will provide the 'comfort women' with the opportunity to take action in the U.S., to generate direct support of their goal to sink Japan's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council until a formal apology and reparations have been made, and to speak to college students, community audiences, and press.

The U.S. speaking tour will kick off with a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill, sponsored by Rep. Lane Evans (R-IL) to be attended by lawmakers and legislative aides. The tour will visit colleges in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, magnifying local V-Day organizer's focus on the Global Campaign's actions with public speaking engagements recounting riveting personal accounts of Japan's human rights abuses, and linking to local benefit performances of "The Vagina Monologues."

Each year, V-Day spotlights a particular group of women who are experiencing violence with the goal of raising awareness and funds to put a worldwide media spotlight on this area and to raise funds to aide groups who are addressing it. This year, the issue of the comfort women will reach benefit performances in 1150 colleges and communities in 54 countries. Local organizers will highlight the issue in a variety of ways including the performance of a new monologue written by Playwright/V-Day Founder Eve Ensler based on 'comfort women' testimony and entitled "Say It," documentary film screenings, educational materials, and the donation of 1-10% of their proceeds to the spotlight campaign. (A copy of the monologue follows below.)


Congressional Briefing, 2pm
Location: Room 1116 Longworth HOB, Capitol Hill

V-Day NYC event, 3:00PM
Tagine Restaurant
Documentary screening of "Until the Violence Stops" and Q&A with the survivors, and photo exhibition
Location: 537 Ninth Ave. (bet. 39th & 40th Sts.) New York, NY, 10018

NEW YORK – SUNDAY February 19
V-Day Marymount Manhattan College event, 3:00PM
Documentary screening of "Until the Violence Stops" followed by Q&A with the survivors, and photo exhibition
Location: Regina Peruggi Room, 221 East 71st Street (bt 2nd & 3rd), 2nd floor of the Main Building

V-Day Roger Williams University event, 7:00PM (Reception, 6:00PM)
Short film followed by panel with survivors and local experts from RI, Q&A, and photo exhibition
Location: University Lecture Hall, Bristol campus

Westfield State College V-Day event, 4:00PM
Panel and discussion followed by reception
Location: Scanlon Banquet Hall

For interviews with Ms. Ok Sun Kim, and Ms. Yong Soo Lee, please contact Susan Celia Swan/Kate Fisher at (212) 253-1823. (Translation is required.)

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The Global V-Day Campaign for Justice to 'Comfort Women'
In 2002, local organizers of V-Day Philippines honored 'comfort women' survivors in their V-Day benefit performance of "The Vagina Monologues" for an audience of 8,500. After the show, Eve Ensler promised the Filipina survivors that V-Day would work with them until justice was served. Eve's interview with them is featured in V-Day's award-winning documentary film, "Until the Violence Stops."

The Women's International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan's Military Sexual Slavery yielded additional links across East and Southeast Asia, and V-Day Special Representative Hibaaq Osman convened organizations from eight countries in Seoul in November 2004 to discuss how V-Day could support the ongoing advocacy for 'comfort women' survivors. Hosted by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted into Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, the international planning meeting culminated in the declaration of the Global V-Day Campaign for Justice to 'Comfort Women.'

Since February 2005, the Global Campaign member organizations have held events at the UN Commission of the Status of Women, presented a petition with 550,000 signatures to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, sponsored a Global Day of Action with simultaneous protests in front of Japanese embassies around the world, and organized 60 days of survivor testimony in front of The Hague to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.

Background on "Comfort Women':
The euphemism 'comfort women' was coined by imperial Japan to refer to young females of various ethnic and national backgrounds who were forced to offer sexual services to the Japanese troops during the Asia/Pacific Wars between 1932 and 1945. Some were minors sold into 'comfort stations'; others were deceptively recruited by middlemen; still more were detained and forcibly abducted. Estimates of the number of 'comfort women' range between 50,000 to 200,000.

In the early 1990s, Korean victims of Japan's military sexual slavery broke their silence and came forward nearly a half century after WWII, followed by other survivors in China, Taiwan, North Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Timor L'Este. Now the aging survivors are dying off one by one without redress from the Japanese government, which still denies legal responsibility. In South Korea, the elderly 'comfort women' survivors have held demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy every Wednesday for 13 years, calling for justice and reparations for the unanswered war crimes.

Ms. Ok Sun Kim (born in 1923 in Andong, a southeastern city of South Korea)
At the age of 15, Ms. Ok Sun Kim was forcibly drafted by the Japanese police. She was transported through Busan to Taiwan, where she was kept for 8 years in sexual slavery for the Japanese soldiers until the end of WWII. In 1946, she was able to return to Busan and made a living by doing various kinds of menial work. Due to the side effects of her atrocities as a 'comfort woman', she had her uterus removed. She is living alone in Yecheon, North Gyungsang Province.

Ms. Yong Soo Lee (born on 13 December 1928, in Taegu, Korea)
When Yong Soo Lee was 8 she went to Talsong Elementary School in Taegu, but had to give up within a year. But she didn't give up learning. When she was 12 she went to evening classes, where she used a Japanese name, Yasuhara Riyosyu. 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.

Ms. Joo Hye Kyang (staff, Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan)
Ms. Joo Hye Kyang has been working for three years at the Korean Council. Her main responsibilities are to take care of the more than 100 survivors of the Japanese military sexual slavery who are living scattered all across South Korea. Joo Hye is also in charge of training the volunteers and networking with other organizations. If needed, Joo Hye can speak about the activities of the Korean Council and the present situation of the issue, but she will need translation.

Dr. Heisoo Shin (Representative, Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan)
Dr. Heisoo Shin has been working for the Korean Council for 14 years since 1992. As an activist cum scholar, she has been working for women's human rights for the last 30 years nationally, regionally and internationally. She is also a commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, as well as an expert of the UN CEDAW(Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women).

Ms. Hibaaq Osman (V-Day Special Representative and Karama Chair)
As Special Representative, Hibaaq Osman has directed V-Day's work in Africa, Middle East, and Asia since 2002, leading delegations to Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, And India to form collaborations with local women activists. Hibaaq launched V-Day Karama, an innovative approach that works in-depth to connect local women across the Middle East and North Africa through building national and regional networks to ending violence against women in July 2005. A senior fellow at the Academy for Political Leadership and Participation at the University of Maryland, Hibaaq remains a frequent author, advisor, and keynote speaker in the field of international women's rights, peace and conflict resolution, politics and human rights in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

About V-Day: V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler's award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues." In 2006, more than 1150 collegs and communities will produce 2700 V-Day events in the U.S. and around the world. To date, V-Day has raised over $30 million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, reopened shelters, and funded over 5000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

Say It
By Eve Ensler
Each year in conjunction with the V-Day Spotlight, Eve pens a new monologue. This is her monologue based on the testimonies of the 'Comfort Women.'

Our stories only exist inside our heads
Inside our ravaged bodies
Inside a time and space of war
And emptiness
There is no paper trail
Nothing official on the books
Only conscience
Only this.

What we were promised:
That I would save my father if I went with them
That I would find a job
That it was better there
That I would serve the country

What we found:
No mountains
No trees
No water
Yellow sand
A desert
A warehouse full of tears
Thousands of worried girls
My braid cut against my will
No time to wear panties

What we were forced to do:
Change our names
Wear one piece dresses with
A button that opened easily
50 Japanese soldiers a day
Sometimes there would be a ship of them
Strange barbaric things
Do it even when we bleed
There were so many
Some wouldn't take off their clothes
Just took out their penis
So many men I couldn't walk
I couldn't stretch my legs
I couldn't bend
I couldn't .

What they did to us over and over:
Tore bloody inside out

What we saw:
A girl drinking chemicals in the bathroom
A girl killed by a bomb
A girl beaten with a rifle over and over
A girl's malnourished body dumped in the river
To drown.

What we weren't allowed to do:
Wash ourselves
Go to the doctor
Use a condom
Run away
Keep my baby
Ask him to stop.

What we caught:
Heart disease
Nervous breakdowns

What we were fed:
Miso soup
Turnip pickle
Miso Soup
Turnip Pickle
Rice Rice Rice

What we became:

What we were left with:
A shocked father who never recovered
And died.
No wages
Hatred of Men
No children
No house
A space where a uterus once was

What we got called:
Ianfu-Comfort Women
Shugyofu-Women Of Indecent Occupation

What we felt:
My chest still trembles

What got taken:
The springtime
My life

What we are:
Outside the Japanese Embassy every Tuesday
No longer afraid

What we want:
Now soon
Before we're gone
And our stories leave this world,
Leave our heads

Japanese government
Say it
We are sorry, Comfort Women
Say it to me
We are sorry to me
We are sorry to me
To me
To me
To me
Say it.
Say sorry
Say we are sorry
Say Me
See Me
Say it