The day was the 1,000th weekly Wednesday Protest, first held in 1992.
Participants included five survivors of Japan’s sexual enslavement, activists, politicians, foreign residents and journalists.
Protesters including Chung Mong-joon, former chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, and former Prime Minister Han Myung-sook urged Tokyo to offer an official apology and compensation. The Japanese authorities have admitted the conscription of sex slaves but denied any responsibility saying that the 1965 Korea-Japan Agreement had dealt with the issue.
“I hope the Lee Myung-bak administration will demand his Japanese counterpart admit the truth and apologize before we all die,” said Kim Bok-dong, one of the victims.
|Former “comfort women” forced to provide sexual service to Japanese soldiers during and before World War II, hold their 1,000th weekly protest by the sculpture of a girl set up as a reminder of their history and a token of their wish for peace across from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Wednesday. They have rallied on Wednesdays for 1,000 weeks calling for the Japanese government’s apology and compensation. (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)|
“I don’t know whether the 1,000th anniversary should be a delightful event or a sad one,” said Korean actor Kwon Hae-hyo, who hosted the event. “One obvious thing is that we do not want our children to be burdened with the same problem,” he said.
The highlight of the event was the erection of the monument to mark the endeavor of the victims seeking truth and peace between the two countries.
The controversial bronze monument, depicting a girl seated on a chair with an empty space, led the Japanese government to request its removal. It reportedly made the request to Korea’s Foreign Ministry, warning that it could hurt bilateral relations ahead of President Lee Myung-bak’s planned visit to Japan for a summit this weekend.
The Korean government refused to do so, saying it was not the right time to tell the “comfort women” to cancel the erection of the monument or to place it somewhere else.
The 1,000th event was held simultaneously around the world with supporters in New York, Tokyo and Taipei.
“We still have a stern obstacle ahead of us. But through our 1,000 gatherings we have managed to strengthen ourselves. We will one day tear it down,” said Yoon Mi-hyang, head of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, which led the event.
By Bae Ji-sook (firstname.lastname@example.org)