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Ministry to hold forum on wartime sexual violence

In an effort to raise awareness on Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women during World War II, Korea’s Gender Equality Ministry will hold an academic forum on wartime sexual violence against women on Thursday in Seoul.

The international event is held about a month after the ministry announced its plan to apply for UNESCO designation for documents related to Korean victims of Japan’s military sexual slavery.

“The forum is to discuss what we can do as an international community to stop wartime sexual violence against women,” said Gender Equality Minister Kim Hee-jung.

“The point is to raise awareness so such tragic cases in the past do not repeat in our future.”

Seven individuals from different countries are participating, including two Japanese scholars, to speak about wartime atrocities against women during World War II, as well as what the international community ― both civil society and governments ― can do in order to solve the ongoing issue.

Scholars estimate up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, were forced to work as sex workers for Japanese soldiers during the war.

Despite Seoul’s repeated demand for an official apology and legal reparation for the victims, Tokyo claims that all compensation was settled in the 1965 South Korea-Japan normalization treaty.

Among the participating scholars, professor Kohki Abe from Japan’s Kanagawa University will discuss the current state of international law associated with Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of women.

Su Zhiliang from Shanghai Normal University will speak about Chinese victims and their experiences during World War II as forced sex workers for Japanese soldiers.

Meanwhile, Erin-Claire Barrow, who is the national and international liaison coordinator for the Y-WILPH Australia Network, will speak about why increasing women’s leadership and participation is crucial for changing attitudes on sexual violence in conflict.

The event is being held from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Ferrum Tower in central Seoul. For more information about the forum, call (02) 2100-6429.

By Claire Lee (