It's Your Turn to Remember Them - A Step Towards the Human Dignity-
Imagine this is happening to you: You have come to another country unwillingly, by kidnapped. You are apart from your mom, dad, sister, and brother...none of your family members are with you. You are stuck in a tiny room that you cannot get out. Out there, the sound of guns, grenades, and combat planes is continuously heard. Suddenly, there is an indication of somebody's presence right in front of your door. As the footsteps grow louder, so does your heart beat, only louder. Finally, the owner of the footstep comes into the room and then...
Back in the time, during the World WarⅡ(WWⅡ), our grandmothers did the work that no one would do: the work that you cannot quit on your own, the work that causes you both the physical and psychological trauma and violates even the most basic of the human rights. The basic rights being, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is “born free and equal in dignity and rights” and thus “has the right to life, liberty, and security of person,” and shall not “be held in slavery or servitude” or be “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” A long time has passed, but the women are still suffering since their basic human rights of these women have been violated.
Through this article, The UOS Times will report on what kind of work these women exactly had to do, and how abusive it was within context of human rights. We will also show you the simple means by which everyone can do to support them.
page 16 The desingned pattern used Sim Dal-yeon grandmother's artwork
The Facts that WE Have to Know
Who are They?: “Comfort Women” or Sexual Slaves
During the period of WWⅡ (1939~ 1945), the Japanese government ran the service called “Comfort Facilities” to efficiently manage their soldiers’ sexual discontentment. In these facilities, there were women who were forced to do sexual labor by the soldiers. The women were within wide age range. Children as young as 10 years old were included; Women in 40’s who were mothers of families were also included. The Japanese government literally “collected” these women by deceiving or kidnapping them.
The common misconception is that only Korean women suffered as slaves. The truth is, nationalities of these sexually slaved women varied. The women from Japan’s colonies mostly positioned at the facilities. Not only the women from surrounding Asian countries like Korea, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, but also from far Western countries like the Netherlands and the Soviet Union were included. They also gathered their own Japanese women, too. Hence, it is not appropriate to define the matter of the “Comfort Women” as the mere conflict only between Korea and Japan. It is the matter of the general human dignity which should be considered by the people all around the world.
To explain the sexual labor that these women had to do is simple: to be raped by beastly soldiers under the purpose of comforting them. The women had to deal with at least 10 to 50 soldiers, each person for about 30 minutes to one hour a day. What was even worse? If the military camp was located in a remote area where the facilities could not be built, the temporal tents were set up and a few women were put to accommodate all of the soldiers in the camp. A system that used women as a means of controlling the army was obviously a collective sexual assault. Added to this, if any women became pregnant or got venereal diseases, they were immediately discarded or even killed. There were several massacres of these women right after the end of WWⅡ since the women were no longer useful. Without a question, this was the violation of the human dignity. To build the world that human can live “humanly,” we should not condone any kind of what can harm the human right; Overlooking such infringement is a slippery slope to even more disgraceful violation of the human rights. For the start, let us look into the terms currently used to refer to this matter and see how it is wrong.
The women who did the enforced sexual labor in these facilities were named as “Comfort Women.” However, it is the unsuitable term to refer them. The term “Comfort Women” is a direct translation of a Japanese word, 慰安婦(i-Anfu). This term indicates how Japanese armies thought of the women: the women can be easily used as men will. Moreover, the term “Comfort Women” does not include the meaning of “enforced.” When asked the impression this term gives to university students, majority of students answered that the word “comfort” misleads them to positive connotations. It is not appropriate to feel positive in this situation. From this reason, henceforth, in this article the women will be referred as the term that can expose the truth more fittingly although possibly unpleasant ─ the sexual slaves of the Japanese military. This is the term that is recommended by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. There are some people who feel uneasy with this, but to face the genuine truth, the term “sexual slaves” should be used. Using misguided words does not soothe the wound they have; Using the correct term is the right start to solve this matter.
Pyeonghwabi; A bronze statue for sexual slave of Japanese Military
The Core of the Matter : Human Rights
Mentioned briefly in the just preceding section, sexual slaves by the Japanese military is by no means just a political issue. Japan’s unethical act that used women for their convenience is truly a challenge to the human dignity. If we merely overlook the problem and do not take action, there will always be a constant threat to our dignity in similar ways.
The Japanese act of using women as a means of relieving sexual desire is not only infringing the fundamental human dignity, but also breaking the international law that is honored world-widely. Clearly stated in the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, the act was a “crime against humanity,” which is as defined as :
As we examined these terrifying acts by the Japanese military in the previous section, one could easily determine that, while reading the definition, this was truly a breach of the law above. The act of the Japanese military was, to a “large extent,” a “constant” thing that turned “children” and women into sexual “slaves” ─ or, in another word, “rape.” To acknowledge how it was wrong will be the next step.
Responsibility as an Individual
The UOS Times conducted a survey to investigate the perception of university students about sexual slaves of Japanese military. As you can see in the survey below, 100 percent of the respondents all answered that they had heard about the sexual slavery by the Japanese military (or “Comfort women”). When asked to estimate the number of the victims, half of the respondents chose the option that is quite close to the actual victim scale ─ most of the researchers estimates that the number of the victims were about 100 to 200 thousands. However, even though most respondents are fairly acquainted with the matter, they do not take the action to solve it. Only 17 percent of students answered that they have taken the action by buying the awareness bracelets, have taking part in a demonstration or etc.
The reasons that students do not take action are may vary: surely, some of the students wanted to take action but did not know how. For students like them, we have prepared some simple tips that you can easily take to show their concerns.
The Things that WE Can Do
Empathy from Interest
The problems that we have talked about so far are not simple. This is a matter that needs your genuine empathy. If you have interest in this problem after reading our article, we suggest that you try these things to understand the importance of protecting the human rights.
The Documentary : The Big Picture (2012, Kwon Hyo)
The Big Picture is a documentary movie about peace. This movie tells the story of three authors from Korea, Japan, and China who gathered to make a picture book for children. The author from Korea, Kwon Youn-duk, appeals her idea to make the book about the sexual slaves of the Japanese military to the other authors: In the rest part of the movie, it shows how she persuaded them. We recommend this movie since it points out the core of the matter: the genuine commemoration for a peaceful future.
The Historical Museums of Sexual Slavery
The Historical Museums of Sexual Slavery by the Japanese Military are built only by funds raise by citizens. The main purpose of the museums is to accuse Japan of the sexual crimes it committed during WWⅡ. The museums hold numerous testimonies by the women about the horrible experiences they had. These museums are located in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do, and Busan and another museum will be built in Daegu by citizen funds as well. The museum in Gwangju also runs an official website and offers some cyber service. It is worth to visit the museums online and offline to remember the truth.
Nonetheless, most of those museums are on the verge of closing since they could not attract enough support funds and visitors. The movies are also losing their quota because they have no commercial value. This is why we have to initiate active interests towards this matter. Your interest will earn them more support funds and quota and that will be connected to accumulated interest and empathy of others. Even though these works are based on the mournful experience, the message they are telling us is bright, and they teach us the reason to make better society, one we think it is a worthy place.
An Easy Active Step that You Can Take
If you want to take some act that can be a step towards solving this matter, try using the support goods for sexual slaves. The Heeum and the Marymond are the civil groups formed by the citizens who work towards improving the dignity of these women. They sell the awareness bracelets and the goods which use the artwork of the wounded women. All goods were made by professional designers through a talent donation. The Heeum and the Marymond donate their profits to solving the matter of sexual slavery and building more historical museums for the women. By using these goods, you can donate your money and spread the awareness at the same time.
Need a more active movement? Then how about becoming a supporter? There are several activities for supporters and the most well-known group is the “Peace Butterfly (Pyeonghwa Nabi).” The supporters hold domestic flash mob events and concerts to allow more people to join them to solve the issue of sexual slavery. They also visit the other countries like France and join the forum and publicize the issue.
Last but not least, in fact, the activity that you should not miss, is to join the “Wednesday Demonstration.” For over 20 years, from January 1992 to November 2014 now, on every Wednesday from noon for one hour the former sexual slaves and many other citizens have been gathering voluntarily to make a statement to ask for an apology in front of the Japanese embassy. The participants stand in front of the embassy building and peacefully sing a song together or share their own thoughts about the matter. One university student who joined the demonstration alone said “I became aware the matter of sexual slavery from a documentary, and I am here today to make a social move. I think that people should not just glimpse over this matter.” Ahn Sun-mi, the team leader of the demonstration said, “It is very hopeful because, a long time ago, when the demonstrations were held, passerby openly disrespected the participants and the women by saying we should not show our faces in public and stay in shadow, for the sexual slavery issue is nothing we should be proud of. However, now, people start to raise their voices and we finally can face the matter. We have been avoiding this issue although it was no fault of our own. Now, the reason we can confidently ask apology from them is that many people started to grow interests in this issue and to emphasize the importance of acknowledging it. Compared with the early days when we started the Wednesday Demonstration, we have plenty of people, even Japanese, who gathered to solve this problem voluntarily. With more support, the problem will surely be solved.”
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Humans should be respected just because they are human. If you want to be respected continuously to the future, we have duty to straighten the fault imposed on humanity. With your little attention and move, we surely can move the world. Like you have read, the matter of sexual slavery is not just the problem of the past. It is the problem of the consciousness about human dignity of people living in presence. It would be surely a good experience to join to solve the matter as you are the youth who are to build better society.