Legacy of war in Asia

South Korea unveils monument for wartime sex slaves

A statue commemorating so-called comfort women was also put up in Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 9:52pm

People in South Korea and Taiwan unveiled monuments and staged protests on Tuesday to mark Japan’s wartime use of “comfort women”, a euphemism for girls and women forced to work in Japan’s wartime brothels.

In South Korea, a new monument was unveiled as part of its first Memorial Day for Japanese Forces’ Comfort Women Victims, which threatens to exacerbate a sensitive diplomatic issue with Japan.

“My hope is that this issue will not lead to a diplomatic dispute between South Korea and Japan,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a speech marking the occasion. “I also do not think that this will be solved by a bilateral diplomatic solution.”

Moon said the issue involves “the entire world” and human rights of women as a whole.

Japan has said the issue was resolved by a 2015 deal, struck by a previous, conservative South Korean administration, under which Japan apologised to the victims and provided 1 billion yen (US$9.03 million) to a fund to support them.

But Moon’s administration has called for Japan to do more.

In March, Moon described Japan’s wartime use of comfort women as “crimes against humanity”.

August 14 was chosen because on August 14, 1991, South Korean comfort woman victim Kim Hak-sun became the first to give a public testimony about her experience, officials said.

Also on Tuesday, more than 50 activists joined a sit-in protest in front of Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei, asking for a formal apology and demanding compensation for Taiwanese sex slaves.

A bronze statue symbolising comfort women was unveiled in the island’s southern city of Tainan, according to the United Daily News paper.

The unveiling, which was attended by former leader Ma Ying-jeou, was organised by a local group and had nothing to do with the city’s government, officials said.