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Israel seeks to aid ‘comfort women’ campaign

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Published : 2013-08-25 20:46
Updated : 2013-08-25 20:46

Israel is lending its know-how to South Korean educators on how the Middle Eastern nation preserves Holocaust history, know-how that could help them raise awareness of Japanese aggression before and during World War II, including Japan’s colonial rule over Korea and the sexual enslavement of women and girls, the so-called “comfort women.”

The two countries are organizing a delegation of South Korean educators to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s state-of-the-art Holocaust history museum in Jerusalem, to glean historical preservation technology and know-how for educational purposes.
Israeli Ambassador to South Korea Uri Gutman poses during an interview with The Korea Herald in his office in downtown Seoul on Wednesday. (Philip Iglauer/The Korea Herald)

“For us, educating and teaching what happened during the Holocaust is important. We are happy for instance the United Nations decided that Jan. 27 will be an international memorial day for the Holocaust,” said incoming Israeli Ambassador to South Korea Uri Gutman during an interview with The Korea Herald at his office on Wednesday.

The group of education professionals will visit Israel next year from Jan. 11-23, and will take part in a seminar called “Teaching the Holocaust, Anti-Semitism and Israel.”

Gutman arrived here in mid-August with almost a decade of experience leading diplomatic missions in Shanghai and Taipei and in time to observe National Liberation Day celebrations on Aug. 15.

Imperial Japan surrendered to the United States on Aug. 15, 1945, ending its 35 years of colonial subjugation of the Korean Peninsula. Many in South Korea believe the Japanese government has yet to sufficiently acknowledge and apologize for the nation’s wartime aggression.

Gutman was cautious to not point fingers, however, acknowledging how “difficult” that history is in East Asia, for all sides.

Surviving “comfort women” and their supporters stage a demonstration every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy here to protest what they believe is Japan’s failure to acknowledge history.

“You know each nation has to go through its own process of admitting and internalizing,” he said. “We are happy the Germans did this. I can understand the pain of the Koreans. I hope this will be resolved.”

He said one positive contribution Israel can make in the process of reconciliation and remembrance includes his country’s experience in establishing the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

“In China, for instance, in Nanjing, they have a museum that commemorates what happened there. So they came to Israel, to Jerusalem, to the Holocaust Museum, to learn how we preserve the memory of the Holocaust,” he said. “This can be something ― a way for cooperation and a contribution ― because we have to draw lessons from the past to avoid that such acts be repeated in the future.”

By Philip Iglauer (ephilip2011@heraldcorp.com)

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