Following the Trace
In South Korea, Comfort Women is a historical issue that is recognized very widely by every citizen. Therefore, countless campaigns and remarkable movements have been initiated by the citizens and councils to fight for justice for the Comfort Women.
The history of the justice movements for Comfort Women started back in 1990 when The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan was formed. In November 1990, 37 different organizations unified together to shine a light on the victims and remember their past. The council gathered the survivors, and Kim Hak-sun halmoni was one of them. She was the very first Korean Comfort Women victim who broke the silence of injustice and dehumanization during WWII. She publicly testified about her past on August 14, 1991, in the council’s office. Since then, more and more survivors came to light not just from South Korea, but globally. Asian Solidarity Conference officially selected August 14 as the International Memorial Day for the Comfort Women, remembering Kim Hak-sun halmoni’s breakthrough.
Furthermore, The Korean Council started a weekly protest that is named Wednesday Demonstration, demanding justice from the Japanese government. It is held in the presence of surviving victims on every Wednesday at noon in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul, Korea. Starting on January 8, 1992, for the visit of then Prime Minister of Japan Kiichi Miyazawa, the protest has been held until today, which was listed in the Guinness Book of Records in 2003 as the world’s oldest protest on a single issue.
In December 2015, there was a deal signed by the government of former President Park Geun-hye and Prime minister Abe Shinzo regarding the history. However, the deal did not stop the protest to continue because it was a lacking deal without the consent of the survivors and forced by the Park’s government’s favor.
A well known physical example of the movement must be the Statue of Peace, often called Sonyeosang, meaning the Statue of Girl in Korean. In 2011, The Korean Council brought up the proposal of erecting a statue that symbolizes the pain of victims in front of the Embassy of Japan, and it was granted shortly after. The statue was designed with many symbols. Roughly cut hair: the end of their relationship with parents and hometown. Clenched fists: survivors fighting for justice. Unattached heels to the ground: unstable lives of the victims. Bird on the shoulder: a symbol of peace and freedom. Also a connection between passed victims and us in the present. Shadow shape of elder: their everlasting sorrow. Butterfly shape inside shadow: our wish for passed victims to reborn and resolve their bitterness. The empty chair next statue: a place for people to sit and empathize with the victims.
The statue has been a very remarkable installation spreading the issue. During the Wednesday Demonstration, protesters stand against the Embassy along with the statue. In harsh weather, people wrap the girl with warm clothes such as scarves and hats. Flower bouquets and crowns are also spotted very often. There are not about 75 of them spread within South Korea.
These are just a few examples of what Korean people have done for Comfort Women victims and survivors. There is an on-going list of campaigns and brands that are helping to seek justice for them. There are The House of Sharing: a nursing home for survivors, numbers of petitions for justice, and brands that make merchandise for awareness and donations. No matter what the circumstances are, we will keep shouting: “역사를 잊은 민족에게 미래는 없다; a nation that forgets its past has no future”.