Professor Shin Hei-soo (Graduate School of International Studies), the head of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Korean Council), has devoted the past 12 years to restoring the dignity and human rights of the ”comfort women,” those who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops during and before World War II.
Shin brought the issue of the comfort women before the United Nations in 1992, and has conducted regular Wednesday demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul since January 8, 1992 to demand Japan’s apology for its atrocities during wartime. This is now the longest-running regular rally in the country.
Shin has long worked to protect the rights of women. She served as a member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women from 2001 to 2008, and was a non-standing member of the National Human Rights Commission from 2005 to 2008. She currently serves as the representative of the National Movement for Eradication of Sex Trafficking. On April 28, she was elected as a member of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, becoming the first Korean candidate. And for the past 12 years, she devoted herself as an active member of the Korean Council, serving as its head since 2004.
As this year marks the 20th anniversary of the group, Shin defines the 20th anniversary as a “continual struggle to seek justice and honor for the comfort women.” The group is also planning to release a book which compiles the efforts the council spent during the past 20 years.
“We felt that in commemoration of this anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty, there should be an organized compilation to further inform the nation and the world,” said Shin.
Of all the achievements the group has done, Shin most values the moment when the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) endorsed a report filed by the council on violence against women.
“We put priceless amount of effort for three years into making this report official. When it was finally adopted in 1996, I felt that all our efforts certainly paid off,” said Shin.
However, the endorsement of the report was not easy to gain. Shin’s heart pierced every time she thinks about how Japan vehemently acted to block the report from being adopted by the UNCHR.
“Japan established the so-called Asia Women’s Fund and offered charity money, the majority of the women refused to take it because they considered it an insult, regardless of how much money was offered,” said Shin.
Based on her earlier path, Shin had some advice for Ewha students.
“The meaningful experience I had as a reporter of Sookmyung Girls’ High School and with Ewha Womans University’s weekly newspaper helped me acquire a thorough perspective on society. I advise Ewha students to nurture their perspectives on the society and, thus contribute to making this world a better place to live in,” said Shin.
The Korean Council will continue to struggle to seek justice and honor for the comfort women and urge Japan to make a resolution. Shin is looking for citizens to join the campaign and to help establish a War and Women’s Human Rights Museum.
Caption: Professor Shin Hei-soo talks about th past 12 years of fighting for the rights of sexual slave victims.