August 14th was the first official memorial day for comfort women to remember and address the issue inside and outside the country.
Designation of the Memorial Day for “Comfort Women”
On August 14th, 1991, Kim Hak-sun publicly announced that she had been a victim of Japanese colonialist sex slavery, called “comfort women,” during World War II. It was the first testimony where a victim came out in public and shared her experience as a comfort woman for the Japanese army, which led to more testimonies of 240 other victims around the country. This was when the world started to pay more attention to this issue and to really consider it as a serious violation of human rights. In 2012, therefore, the civic organizations, which were trying to solve the “comfort women” issue, unofficially designated August 14th as the International Memorial Day for “Comfort Women”. They have carried out many campaigns to address the issue every year. Last December in 2017, an amendment that commemorated the victims of this Japanese brutality during the war and protected the livelihoods of “comfort women” was passed by the National Assembly of South Korea. According to the revised law, the government designated August 14th as the official memorial day for “comfort women.”
A Ceremony to Honor “Comfort Women”
On August 14th, a lot of events were held around the country in memory of the victims, including exhibitions, performances, art and music contests, and an international symposium. The government held a ceremony at the National Mang-Hyang Cemetery in Cheonan of Korea where 49 “comfort women” were laid to rest. About 400 people, including the victims, South Korean president Moon Jae-in and the first lady, and citizens, attended the ceremony. There, a monument for “comfort women”, “House of Rest,” was unveiled, which illustrated four stages of the lives of “comfort women”: the fearful moment when they were forced to leave their home, their painful moments at the Japanese military brothels, the brave moment when sharing their stories to the public, and the last moment when they “fly away” like butterflies. The president made a speech suggesting that the “comfort women” problem could not be solved by any simple diplomatic strategy between Korea and Japan. He also stressed that the government would try its best to consistently communicate with the surviving victims and would try to solve the “comfort women” issue with a victim-centered approach.
|“House of Rest,” the Monument for “Comfort Women” (yna.co.kr)|
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