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War-era ‘comfort women’ plight is finally recognized

Date Posted: 2008-09-12

Miyakojima City has taken the lead in bringing closure for thousands of Korean women who were forced into prostitution to serve Japanese soldiers during World War II.

More than 100 people united in Miyakojima City to pay homage to the ‘comfort women’ taken from their homes in Korea and forced to serve as sex slaves on Miyako Island. The city unveiled a cenotaph, a stone monument, that was offered as a prayer and memory monument in honor of the Korean women. Inscriptions were carved into the cenotaph in 12 languages, stating in English, “We remember the suffering of the individual women who were subjected to sexual violence by the Japanese military, lament the victims of wartime sexual violence throughout the entire world, pray for a peaceful world without any more war.”

An 85-year-old Korean woman who served as a comfort woman to Japanese soldiers, Park Sun Hie, spoke to the gathered crowd at the unveiling. Park explained how she was taken away to China as comfort woman by Japanese soldiers, where she was faced with venereal disease tests every week, and where she was beaten if she refused soldiers. “I want young people to know about us,” she said, adding “ the Japanese government must apologize to us before we die.”

An association formed by Suzuyo Takazato, Yun Jun Ok and Michiko Nakahara led to the memorial’s creation. It was ultimately erected by groups from Japan and South Korea who joined hands with Miyakojima citizens to fund the project.

Land for the monument was donated by Hirotoshi Yonaha. The 75-year-old islander remembers giving the comfort women red pepper during the war, when he was a youngster. “I feel a responsibility to pass down information on the tragic war and the role of comfort women,” he said during the ceremony.

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