August 10, 2005

Justice demanded for former Japan army sex slaves

By Jon Herskovitz

SEOUL (Reuters) - Women's groups across Asia urged Tokyo on
Wednesday to make a sincere apology and compensate women forced
into sexual slavery in brothels run by the Japanese Imperial
Army before and during World War II.

Protesters took to the streets in Manila, Seoul and Taipei,
as well as in Tokyo, Osaka and other Japanese cities, aiming to
raise awareness of the plight of the sex slaves known as
"comfort women" ahead of next week's 60th anniversary of
Japan's defeat in the war.

One of the larger rallies, in the South Korean capital
Seoul, was attended by about 300 protesters, including a dozen
Korean women forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese troops.

Thirty Japanese students there hoisted a banner in Japanese
reading: "Standing together, seeking justice for Japan's

Yoon Mi-hyang, secretary-general of the Korean Council for
the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, said
the problem had to be resolved by Tokyo.

"Even though it has been 60 years since the end of Japanese
rule, the Japanese government has not solved the problem with
the former comfort women," said Yoon, whose group organized the
Seoul rally.

"We are denouncing the Japanese government with a voice
heard around the world," she said.

The protests organized women's groups in Asia will be
backed by rallies in cities elsewhere in the world, including
Berlin, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver and
Washington DC.

Historians estimate that as many as 200,000 women, mostly
Koreans, were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army.

Japan has issued apologies to the women and set up a
private fund for compensation.

But critics say it has undercut its apologies with comments
from leading government figures playing down the issue and the
approval this year of school textbooks that do not mention
sexual slavery, or have removed the term "comfort women."

In Tokyo, about 200 people sang "We Shall Overcome" in
front of Japan's parliament building and carried pictures of
comfort woman who have recently died.

The protesters demanded the government properly address the
issue before more of the women, mostly in their 70s and 80s,
die without seeing proper contrition and compensation.

"Japan abducted me and forced me to become a sex slave,"
76-year-old former comfort woman and ethnic Korean Lee Yong-soo
told the gathering.

"The Japanese government should have come to my home and
kneel down to apologize. But there has been no reaction at all
for 60 years," she said.

In the Philippine capital Manila, dozens of former Filipino
comfort women protested at the Japanese embassy, as well as at
the presidential palace, where they condemned President Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo for not doing enough to help them.

Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, bringing World War II
to a close and ending its rule over areas in Asia including the
Korea peninsula and parts of China.

(With additional reporting by Stuart Grudgings in Manila,
Midoriko Morita in Tokyo and Kim Do-gyun in Seoul