Korea seeks UNESCO listing of sex slavery records

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jul 17, 2014 - 21:02
  • Updated : Jul 17, 2014 - 21:02
Korea plans to apply for UNESCO designation for documents related to Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese imperial army during World War II, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced on Thursday.

“The records should be used as an important reminder that such tragedies should never be repeated in the future,” said Gender Equality Minister Kim Hee-jung in a statement.

“The issue of wartime sex slavery is directly linked to the issue of women’s rights, which is one of the universal values of the human race.”

The ministry is having a joint meeting with the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and the Cultural Heritage Administration on Friday to discuss the project, which aims to complete and submit the application for the Memory of the World ― UNESCO’s initiative to safeguard documentary heritage ― designation by the year 2016.

The institutions hope the records ― which include personal belongings left by the late victims and written records of the war crimes ― will be granted UNESCO status by 2017.

Scholars estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, were forced to work as sex workers for Japanese soldiers during the war. Many of the victims, euphemistically called “comfort women,” have already died due to old age.

In spite of Seoul’s repeated demand for an official apology and legal reparation for the victims, Tokyo has been claiming that all compensation was settled in the 1965 South Korea-Japan Normalization treaty.

In June, Bae Chun-hee, a former military sex slave, died at age 91, bringing the number of survivors to 54 from the 237 who had officially registered with the government in the 1990s.

South Korea currently holds 11 Memory of the World registers, including the original manuscript of the Korean writing system, “Hunminjeongeum,” and documents on the pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju in May 1980.

By Claire Lee (