Thursday, August 7, 2014

Resolving the 'Comfort Women' Problem

One of the Catholic law-makers is written up in the Peace Weekly on her efforts to get justice for the former  'comfort women' the sex slaves of the  Japanese army. Over  80,000  women  most of them coming from Korea were enslaved. Korean  society did not allow these women to speak freely about the past because of the shame, but this has changed  from the early 1990s. However, Japan has extreme difficulty in expressing guilt for the atrocities toward these women who were used as sexual slaves for their soldiers, despite the pressures put on them by the neighboring countries.

Japan feels all the issues and  compensation have been settled with an agreement with South Korea that normalized relationships between the two countries. They have attempted to compensate the women with private funds, but have not in the eyes of Koreans ever truly apologized for the acts of the Japanese Government. Many of the women have refused the money offered because it did not come from the government. Japan continues to refuse any legal liability for what was done with the comfort women.

The woman lawmaker last year sent a petition to the Vatican on behalf of the comfort women  asking for help in settling the problem.The issue is to have the Japanese government acknowledge the crime and apologize clearly and unmistakably, which they refuse to do.

In a recent interview with reporters, she mentioned  that the former comfort women will attend the Mass for Peace, and Reconciliation scheduled to take place at the Cathedral in Seoul, on Aug. 18.  She hopes  the Pope will mention them in his sermon on that day, which will help bring the cry of these women to a larger audience and mobilize public opinion to reflect on the crimes committed that have never been fully acknowledged by Japan.

The senator has been criticized by foreign politicians for bringing  up a political issue with the Vatican. She is not interested in having this become a political issue, it is a human rights issue that needs to be concluded.

She was in Rome last year for five days at a meeting of Catholic law-makers and had an audience with the pope; she did speak briefly with the pope and asked him to:  "Please remember Korea and Korean people." The pope answered: "Faith Country." She was happy to hear the words of the pope and felt proud in being a descendent of the Korean Martyrs.

She hopes her efforts on behalf of the former comfort women will be successful. All that the women want is a formal apology from the Japanese government, a genuine apology and self-examination. When this does come it will help the healing of the victims of the atrocities and do a great deal to remedy the awkward  relationship between the citizens of these two adjacent countries that remains an open wound.