As part of their annual protest at Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei, around 200 Taiwanese activists demanded a formal apology and compensation from Japan for the hundreds of thousands of women that were forced to become sex slaves, or “comfort women”, for the Imperial Army during World War II. The protesters held pictures of Japanese politicians including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto with the words “shameless” and “hypocritical” written on them.
The demonstrators come from mostly women’s groups and are speaking on behalf of the Taiwanese comfort women, of which the 6 surviving ones could not make it to the rally this year due to health reasons since they are now in their late 80s. Over the past 20 years, around 58 former comfort women have passed away but it doesn’t mean that Japan “can get away with it,” Kang Shu-hua declared at the rally. She is the director of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, and is the organizer of the yearly demonstration, held around the anniversary of Japan’s wartime surrender. She is calling for a sincere apology and formal compensation from the Japanese government towards the more than 200,000 women from South Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan who were victimized during the war. They also officially delivered to the embassy 3,000 postcards they gathered the past few months as part of their campaign to pressure the Japanese government to pay attention to this issue.
The issue of comfort women is still a very politically charged argument between Japan and its neighbours. In 1993, then chief Japanese government spokesman Yohei Kono already issued an apology to wartime victims, but in 2007, Abe, who was also Prime Minister then, issued several controversial remarks saying that there was no concrete evidence about the existence of the sex slave system during the war. This is a view commonly held by right-wing politicians and it came to a head earlier this year when Hashimoto said that comfort women were “necessary” to keep the soldiers in line at that time. This sparked a whole round of protests and angry statements from the international community.
[ via AFP ]