Protesters Demand Japan’s Apology for Wartime Sex Slavery on Liberation Day

Ben Choi, Aug. 15, 2018, 8:23 a.m.

Hundreds of South Koreans joined a weekly rally in Seoul against Japan's wartime sex slavery on Wednesday as patriotism soared across the country on the 73rd anniversary of its liberation from Japan's colonial rule. Despite the sweltering weather, about 700 activists, citizens and Korean women who were forced to serve at Japan's army brothels during World War II gathered in front of the former building of the Japanese Embassy.

"I will live to the age of 200 to resolve this historical issue with you. There should be never such atrocities," Lee Yong-su, a former sex slave, told participants at the rally. Protesters chanted slogans, such as "Apologize to the victims of the sex slavery!" and "Compensate the victims legally!"

The weekly protest started in January 1992 to call for Japan to make a sincere apology, take legal responsibility and compensate victims. But Tokyo has rejected the calls, claiming the issue was settled in a 1965 treaty normalizing ties between the two countries.

In December 2015, Seoul and Tokyo reached a landmark deal to resolve the issue. But some surviving South Korean victims accused the former conservative Park Geun-hye government of failing to obtain Japan's acknowledgment of legal responsibility and rashly reaching the deal without consulting them.

Historians estimate the number of wartime sex slaves at about 200,000 with only 28 South Korean victims alive today. Participants called on Japan to stop denying its wartime crime and distorting history with the excuse of the 2015 deal.

"Japan should apologize to the victims and carry out its legal responsibility, including compensation," they said in a statement. "The Korean government should dissolve a foundation on sex slaves and make every effort to resolve this issue."

Under the 2015 deal, Seoul set up the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation funded by Japan to compensate the victims. But last year, the Moon Jae-in government defined the deal signed under the previous administration as "seriously flawed" and decided not to use the fund worth 1 billion yen (US$9 million).

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