Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Korean Comfort Women Issue

Received this letter in the mail this morning telling me about an article in the Korean Times.

In the Sunday edition of the Korean Times for May 24, i.e. the Saturday-Sunday combined edition, there was an interesting article on comfort woman and their history of fighting exploitation. This mirrors very much an article in Mission in the South”…. Check it out here

The Maryknoll Sisters were always active in the plight of these women. The reference is Sharing House, their abode since the 1990s is what I reported in the book."

The following is a paraphrasing of the article from the Book, Mission in the South by Rev. Robert Martin Lilly,M.M. on the comfort woman.

Solidarity with former Comfort Women

The term comfort woman is a euphemism for the Asian women who were forced to become sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army. Battlefront brothels were common in China and Southeast Asia in the 1930s and throughout the Pacific War areas in the 1940s. In April 1988, the issue surfaced in Korea when a Protestant group called Church women United denounced the current sex tourism phenomena saying it was a modern equivalent of comfort women.

In 1990 an elderly Filipina went public with her story. In 1991 women from Korea came forth when as young girls they were forced to serve as sexual objects for Japanese soldiers. Since then the movement for support has gained momentum. Maryknoll Sisters were instrumental in helping the Association of Major Superiors realize that sisters as churchwomen would do well to support the comfort women- which they did.

.A number of organizations Christian and non-Christian are involved in the overall effort. Programs have included an international gathering in Seoul in 1999 and the movie, Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women, produced by a Korean American.

The ninety-minute film traced the abuse and maltreatment the women suffered upon their return home, surprisingly not from Japanese perpetrators but at the hands of their own family, local community and government. It also points up the nonchalance for the the issue on the part of scholars. It was shown in Korea and on PBS in the US in May 2000. This was the first time anything dealing with it appeared on nationwide TV.

In the fall of 2000 there was an international tribunal in Tokyo on the issue.As always the key point was the demand for an official apology from the Japanese Government with financial recompense.

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