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    Quest for justice means 'comfort women' won't let the world forget

    By CHANG JUN in San Francisco | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-30 09:51
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    Three women in their 90s - from China, South Korea and the Philippines - have little in common except a conviction that the world should never forget the suffering they and countless others were subjected to as "comfort women" during World War II.

    The women became trapped in sexual slavery when their countries were occupied by the Japanese Army during World War II. No matter how many years have passed, they say they will never cease in their calls for justice.

    The testimonies of the three survivors from China, South Korea and the Philippines were aired to people around the world during an online forum on Sunday.

    The webinar, "Standing Tall 3: Demanding Justice", was held to commemorate the third anniversary of the installation of the Comfort Women Memorial in San Francisco in the United States.

    Judith Mirkinson, president of the San Francisco-based Comfort Women Justice Coalition, or CWJC, said that even though the coronavirus forced the event to be held online, the message went out loud and clear: As long as the Japanese government denies the country's history and declines to apologize to the sexually enslaved victims, the demand for justice will continue.

    The webinar marked the premiere of what the organizers called an animated experimental documentary titled Thread. The work, by Yuri Jang, focuses on a Korean woman who was forced to become a "comfort woman" in the 1930s.

    The event, whose main organizer was the CWJC, drew representatives from the US, China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and beyond.

    Oral history project

    The organizers also shared updates on an oral history project called The Eternal Testimony. It is taking shape under a collaboration with the University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation, which uses technology to not only digitally archive survivors' narratives but also allow narrators to interact online with visitors.

    Julie Tang, a retired judge in San Francisco and co-founder and co-chair of the CWJC, stressed the need for people to remember World War II history, safeguard world peace and seek justice from Japan and a long-overdue apology.

    "The memory is powerful," said Tang, as she condemned Japan for denying its wartime crimes, including forcing many Asian women to become sex slaves during the war.

    Tang was among those who witnessed the erection of the San Francisco Comfort Women Memorial, a 3-meter tall bronze statue titled Comfort Women Column of Strength, on Sept 22, 2017.

    It depicts three young women - identified as coming from China, Korea and the Philippines - standing in a circle holding hands with their backs to each other.

    Gazing up at them is another bronze figure that resembles Kim Hak-sun, a Korean "comfort woman" during World War II who chose to break her silence of 40 years to testify in August 1991 against Japan's wartime crimes. Four months later, she filed a class-action lawsuit against the Japanese government. The court case had not been resolved by the time she died in 1997.

    According to incomplete statistics from amnesty organizations, Japanese troops abducted some 200,000 to 300,000 Asian women and sexually enslaved them.

    "They were raped, beaten, tortured," said Fedencia David, now 93, who recalled those dark days in the Philippines in 1943.

    What David and her fellow victims want is justice. Now a member of Lila Pilipina, a group representing comfort women, David said: "From now till then, the true justice has not been served, so our work must continue."

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