‘Comfort Women’ Survivors And Advocates Distraught By ‘Healing Foundation’

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Above Photo: From zoominkorea.org

On July 28, a dozen South Korean university students disrupted the launching of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation – established by the South Korean government to dole out a lump-sum donation by the Japanese government to victims of sexual slavery during WWII. The students staged a protest delaying the foundation’s launch press conference for 30 minutes, after which they were forcibly removed by the police. Outside the launching ceremony, civil society organizations including the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop) rallied to protest the foundation’s launch. One participant stated, “The [South Korean] government, which has sold the history [of Korean people] and its conscience for 10 billion yen, is absolutely the worst government.”

Last December, the South Korean government and the Japanese government settled on an agreement regarding the issue of the so-called “comfort women” without acknowledging the voices of survivors of sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. The December agreement yielded a proposal for the South Korean government to establish the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, which would use a lump-sum donation given by the Japanese government to support comfort women victims financially. According to the agreement, the donation to the foundation would exonerate Japan from any legal responsibility for its sexual crimes during WWII. Since the agreement, comfort women survivors and civil society organizations have demanded the two governments reverse their decision.

On July 28, despite protests, the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation was officially launched with its first board meeting and sign-hanging ceremony attended by the press. Leading up to the official launch of this foundation, members of civil society organizations including the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop), the Association to Support Japanese Military “Comfort Women” Survivors, and the National Peace Monument Alliance held rallies to oppose the South Korean government’s decision to launch the foundation. The organizations made a statement during a press conference on July 25 stating, “Since announcing a humiliating Dec. 28 agreement on the Japanese military comfort women issue that abandoned the victims’ demands and principles of human rights, the government has disregarded voices of opposition from the victims and citizens and [has gone] ahead with enforcement of the agreement, including the foundation’s establishment.”

On July 27, U.S. Veterans for Peace (VFP) members attended a rally outside the Japanese embassy to demand justice for comfort women. VFP member Ken Jones spoke at the rally and delivered a message of solidarity.