Pyeongwha Nabi: Message of peace from students
Pyeongwha Nabi: Message of peace from students
  • Hong Ki-yeon
  • 승인 2015.08.31 17:15
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Surviving victims of the “comfort women system” and other citizens have held Wednesday Demonstrations every week since January 1992 in front of the Japanese Embassy.
Photo provided by Pyeongwha Nabi Network.
This year celebrates the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonization. However, victims of sexual slavery for the Japanese military, the so-called “comfort women,” claim that the war is still not over for them. Pyeongwha Nabi Network (PNN), a nationwide non-profit organization comprised of university students, stands by these women by helping to raise awareness and money for them. Pyeongwha Nabi means “Butterflies of Peace” in Korean.
PNN is comprised of nine regional sectors, including Seoul and eight others. The Seoul sector is comprised of smaller school sectors, including Ewha, Sookmyung, Korea, Konkuk, Myungji and more.
During the semester, each school headquarters carried out its activities independently, while attending Wednesday Demonstrations and holding weekly seminars. Wednesday Demonstrations were held to demand the Japanese government to apologize to the “comfort women” and offer sufficient compensation. The demonstrations have been held every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy since January 1992. Additionally, during the summer, PNN recruits supporters who work together as a nationwide network instead of working independently.
During the Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, an estimated 50,000 to several million women from regions including Korea, Japan, China and Indonesia were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese army. Those girls were called “comfort women” by the Japanese authorities in that they were meant to provide physical and mental comfort to the soldiers through sex.
PNN’s goal is to ensure that the surviving “comfort women” receive legal compensation and an official apology from the Japanese government, which still refuses to admit that there were any official authorities involved in running the “comfort women” system.
In order to achieve these goals, PNN holds a Pyeongwha Nabi Festival each year in the week that includes both “Comfort Women” Day and National Liberation Day, which are on Aug. 14 and 15, respectively.
“Comfort Women” Day is a day commemorating the testimony of the late Kim Hak-soon. On Aug. 14, 1991, Kim testified that she was a victim of sexual slavery for the Japanese military. Up until that moment, the Japanese government had refused to admit that such a thing had ever existed. According to them, there was no substantive proof. However, Kim set herself forward as living proof, and following her example, 237 other women registered as victims of the “comfort women” system.
PNN’s summer activities begin in early July. This year’s orientation for newly recruited supporters and the planning group took place on July 10. During the orientation, a brief introduction was made about the system, the purpose and the summer schedule.
For four subsequent weeks, each section held a weekly seminar where PNN members learned about the history of “comfort women” and the current status of the issue. They also learned about the personal lives of some prominent registered victims, including the late Sim Dal-yeon, who created many flower-themed designs for products of Marymond Products, a company that sells goods such as accessories and smartphone cases.
“I learned a lot of things during the seminars,” said Kim Seo-yeon, a sophomore majoring in Mathematics at Ewha who worked as a PNN supporter. “It was the first time anyone told me that the correct way to call a ‘comfort woman’ is to always include quotation marks, showing that the title ‘comfort woman’ reflects the way Japanese authorities regarded the system and not the way the actual victims felt about it.”
The seminars were followed by outdoor campaigns, during which PNN members asked passersbys for their signatures for the World 100 Million Signature Campaign, which aims to secure 100 million signatures from people worldwide. The signatures are to be documented and submitted to the Japanese Embassy and the UN headquarters as evidence of a global and pressing demand for Japan’s legal compensation and official apology to the “comfort women.”
PNN’s summer reached its climax during the four-day festival held from Aug. 12 to 15. It began with the third World Collaboration Wednesday Demonstration. The demonstration was followed by a march, during which PNN members chanted slogans demanding action from the Japanese government on the “comfort women” issue.
The next day, PNN set up tents in Cheonggye Plaza and sold handmade bookmarks, bracelets, and drinks such as apple juice to raise money for PNN activities and funding for the surviving “comfort women.”
On “Comfort Women” Day on Aug. 14, PNN held mock debates in teams. Each team had four sides: Korean government, Japanese government, international society and civil organizations. It was an opportunity for the PNN members to reconsider the political points of the “comfort women” issue.
Pyeongwha Nabi festival wrapped up with a final gathering in front of the Japanese Embassy, followed by a closing ceremony on Aug. 15.
The summer festival has ended, and PNN resumes its routine of working in regional and school sectors. Meanwhile, some supporters have decided that they continue to work with PNN as permanent members.
“I decided to become a permanent member because I want to help others who don’t know very much about the ‘comfort women’ issue like me before my time as a PNN supporter,” said Kim A-young, a freshman in the Division of Liberal Arts who has decided to join Ewha Nabi.
PNN continues to fight for justice for “comfort women” and awaken the spirit of university students.

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