During the Second World War, tens or even hundreds of thousands of women in Asia were made as sex slaves by the Japanese soldiers. Not many people knew about this until in the early 1990s when, one by one, these so-called comfort women gradually came out in the open to reveal their tragic stories.
Specifically, it was the women’s movement in South Korean that first raised the issue of forced recruitment of Korean women back in 1990. The movement’s sole purpose is to obtain recognition and compensation for surviving comfort women. A year after in 1991, a former Korean comfort woman testified in public and revealed her suffering during the war.
By 1992, women leaders in Korea and Japan including surviving comfort women and legal experts have called on international organizations to include the United Nations to investigate the matter and conduct hearings.
Since then, these women who remains to be haunted by their past have gained enormous support from people and organizations around the world. With all the inhumane treatment they experienced in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army, many people strongly believe that the victims deserve an official apology and just compensation. They also feel that it’s about time this issue is discussed to make more people aware of it and more importantly, so the act will not be repeated in the future.
This campaign is still being fought up to this day although reports have it that Japan had sent its apologies to some victims and paid them monetary awards.
Even the U.S. has pledged its support to the issue of comfort women. In 2007, a bill was passed unanimously recognizing the plight of comfort women during World War II. Just recently, the Fullerton
City Council in California also expressed their support to the resolution with Korean and Japanese citizens in attendance. It was in response to a call by the Korean American Forum of California (KAFC), a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness on the issue of comfort women.
A monument of World War II honoring comfort women is also in place in Glendale, California. The statue of a Korean woman made of bronze sits in the city’s central park but has been the subject of dispute. The KAFC, however, supports the memorial and continues to look for cities in California that will help preserve the memory of comfort women.
In 1992, the non-profit educational organization Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues (WCCW) was established in the U.S. Its primary objective is to promote research and education pertaining to crimes against comfort women. Similar to other groups fighting for the recognition of comfort women, the WCCW also has its demands to the Japanese government. These are to acknowledge their war crime, reveal the truth about sexual slavery by the military, make an official apology and legal reparations, punish those behind the war crime and record the crime in history textbooks in an accurate manner.
Japan, for its part, has established the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) as a way to express its national atonement to former comfort women. The move was also aimed at addressing issues with regards to the honor and dignity of women. Although the AWF is considered a non-government organization, the Japanese government is still behind most its projects.