Standing with Survivors of Japan’s Wartime Sexual Slavery

November 27, 2017

“Comfort women” survivors continue their fight for recognition and an official, unequivocal apology from the Japanese government for the crimes committed against these women prior to and during World War II. We stand with them. The petition we launched in 2014 remains active, and will call for signatures until justice is served. Demonstrating that the survivors are not forgotten, despite the unsatisfactory Dec. 2015 Tokyo-Seoul agreement on the issue, awareness of Japan’s perpetuation of sexual slavery during WWII is well known around the world.

In South Korea, young women are uniting their voices to survivors’, recognizing that their appeal is about women’s rights, not politics. These young women are joining survivors at their weekly demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy in the South Korean capital. One demonstrator told Al Jazeera, "I think for us, it's about solidarity with women's issues and our rights as women in the future. Not just the ['comfort women'] dispute. The issue is talked about a lot in politics, but myself and my friends feel that it is becoming over politicized, and we're forgetting how the lack of a resolution is an attack on feminism, not just the 'comfort women' that are still alive."

Recent reports also indicate that the new South Korean government, elected in May 2017, is reconsidering the 2015 agreement. Its foreign ministry is asking UNESCO to include documents evidencing the atrocities Japan committed against women and girls prior to and during WWII in the agency’s Memory of the World Register. That request is currently being deliberated in Paris.

In the U.S., the city of San Francisco recently unveiled a powerful memorial to victims and survivors. For former Congressman Mike Honda, who has worked on the issue during his time in office, “The statue is a physical representation of something that happened in the past that needs to be learned about, in order to prevent violence against women and end human trafficking — which is a one-hundred-and-fifty-billion-dollar industry.”

At 89, Lee Yong-soo, a survivor from South Korea, was present at the unveiling. For her, the statue will help the next generation understand and remember history after she passes.

“When I saw the girls holding hands, it brought tears in my eyes because she looked just like the girl I once was,” Lee wrote in an e-mail to the New Yorker’s Sally McGrane. “We need more memorials to remember the truth. I am the living proof of the history. But when I’m gone, who will tell the story to the next generation?”

Lee Yong-soo and the other survivors of Japan’s system of wartime sexual slavery must not be forgotten. Justice must be served. Please continue to share our petition far and wide.