South Korean Comfort Women and Their Long Wait For Justice

During World War Two, many young Asian girls were forced into sex slavery at the hands of the Japanese military, who took them to places known as comfort stations, which were actually brothels set up for the purpose of supplying Japanese soldiers with relief in order to deter them from violating the local women in the area they were in at the time. The young girls came to be known as “comfort women,” which is a term that is synonymous with being a prostitute. Most of the girls were between the ages of 13 and 17, and they were either abducted off the streets or dragged out of their houses to be placed in the brothels.

Because of this terribly inhumane treatment, many former Korean comfort women have been seeking justice from the Japanese government for years. In December of 2015, Japan’s Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, attempted to show some atonement for his country’s past bad deeds to these women by signing an agreement with South Korea’s Foreign Minister, Yun Byung-se, and making an apology for the crimes. The surviving members of this tragic injustice, as well as the family members of the ones who are now deceased, were also offered monetary compensation in the amount of 1 billion yen, or $8.3 million.

In turn, the South Korean government considered the issue to be settled between the two countries and agreed to remove a statue depicting a comfort woman from in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. But a lot of Koreans protested the agreement, stating that they felt Japan’s apology was incomplete due to the fact that their government is still hesitant about fully acknowledging and apologizing for the specific crime of sexual enslavement that was inflicted on the young girls and women of Korea.

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According to a few comfort women testimonies, the places they were taken to were not fit for humans to live in and looked a lot like slaughterhouses. They endured many unthinkable acts of inhumane treatment that left some of them unable ever to have children. Not only were girls and women from Korea, which was under the colonial rule of Japan, a part of the sex trafficking crime, but there were also victims from other Asian countries such as, Malaysia, China, and the Philippians.

A number of South Korean comfort women opted to come forward and tell about their horrible experiences in the world of forced sex slavery. One of them, whose name was Kimiko Kaneda, was enslaved by the age of 16, and because of the unbearable conditions she had to endure, she ended up becoming a heroin addict, and ultimately had to have her womb surgically removed. Other compiled comfort women stories include ones by survivors like Lee Ok Seon, who was one of the victims who were abducted off the streets by a group of strange men when she was a teenager, and Maria Rosa Henson, who said that due to her religious faith she allowed herself to forgive those who had abused her. She did, however, state that she still wanted to see justice done before she died, which was in August of 1997.

Despite the most recent agreement between Japan and Korea regarding this issue, some Japanese politicians still deny that there were ever any comfort women at all, claiming that there is no proof of it. That’s one of the reasons why the agreement has not been fully implemented yet by either of the countries involved. In order to get things resolved in a manner that will be satisfactory to the victims, the two governments will have to get serious about working together to honor the deal they referred to as being “final and irreversible.”

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