What civil organizations do for “comfort women”
Citizens have not left students alone in their struggle for a proper solution for the “comfort women” victims. Civil organizations such as Ikeda’s WAM and Yang’s NASCI are still fighting for proper compensation and apology from the Japanese authorities. Established in 2005, WAM is the only organization in Japan that exhibits photos and documents on the “comfort women” issue in public. WAM also features other cases of wartime sex crimes in modern and contemporary history around the world, such as sexual abuse of women in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe.
“War is a terrible thing, and it affects not only soldiers but destroys women and children in most devastating ways,” Ikeda said. “WAM aims to create a world where sexual exploitation of women during wartime comes to an end. In order to achieve the goal, we compile data on wartime sex crimes to share them with the public and pass them down to generation to generation.”
About 3,000 people, including both Japanese and foreigners, visit WAM every year. Some mothers bring their children to the exhibition for the purpose of teaching them what their school curriculum holds back. Many Japanese visitors are shocked by the contents of the exhibition when they face the information that their government has tried to cover.
“Those who do know accurately about the ‘comfort women’ issue recommend the museum to their friends and family members, and when those people come, they’re deeply taken aback,” Ikeda said. “They become genuinely upset at this particularly shameful chapter of our history, having been presented with the whole information for the first time.”
Founded in 2010, NASCI has been working in collaboration with the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan on many occasions. NASCI emphasizes that the way ordinary Japanese citizens think about the “comfort women” issue and the Korea-Japan Agreement should be changed. Besides being uninterested or hostile, some citizens on the side of “comfort women” victims feel that through the recent agreement the issue has finally come to a satisfactory end. The media promotes the fact that the Japanese government has admitted military involvement and given victims a monetary compensation. As time goes by, whether antagonistic or friendly, citizens are losing interest that they had and believe that it is an already “finished” issue. NASCI works to let the people know that the Korea-Japan Agreement is not a proper solution at all.
“Unlike the movements of Koreans that focus on invalidating the agreement, we first concentrate on explaining to people why the victims are against the agreement and why they are still fighting,” Yang said. “We believe that only when we complete this first stage can we go onto the next stage, which is calling for an annulment of the agreement.”
Similar to the thoughts of professor Yoshimi in the previous article, Yang focuses on Japan’s international relations as she explains why the government should seek proper solution to the “comfort women” issue.
“Although there have been many state-run wartime sex crimes throughout history, the Japanese crime of exploiting ‘comfort women’ stands out in that it is the only case where the victims have come forward,” Yang said. “If Japan heeds the victims’ demands and make a proper apology and legal compensation, it earns the honorable title of being the first country to ever shoulder responsibility for its past crimes. Such action can earn the trust of not only Korea but other countries around the world. Japan has repeatedly thrown away this golden opportunity.”
At the same time, Ikeda explained another reason why this issue has to be properly dealt with.
“I don’t want our daughters and granddaughters to live in a dishonorable country,” Ikeda said.
Yang wants the young generation of both Korea and Japan to learn properly about the history of “comfort women” issue so that they can make logical explanations about why and how the matter should be dealt with. With this final remark, Yang ended the interview.
“We are bound to win, because we are on the side of truth.”