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2010/01/13 16:57 KST
(Yonhap Feature) Activists, comfort women hold 900th Japanese Embassy protest

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- Braving temperatures of minus 15 C a group of activists Wednesday held their 900th weekly protest rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to urge Tokyo to apologize and offer compensation for their wartime use of "comfort women."

   Four women forced to serve Japanese soldiers during World War II and members of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (KCW) stood outside the embassy clutching placards that read "Japan apologize and compensate" and "human rights violations and violence."

Japan has not responded so far since the rally started 18 years ago. But those victims of Japan's wartime atrocity say they will never give up demanding apology and compensation... even after they die.

   "Almost a century has passed since a number of young women's lives and human rights were infringed. But the perpetrator has never acknowledged the crime," the KCW said in a statement. "The Wednesday demonstration will continue until the Japanese government takes the responsibility."

   "I want the whole world to know of this terrible history to prevent it from ever happening again," said Gil Won-ok, one of the victims who participated the rally. "Unless Japan shows cordial regret, this Wednesday rally will continue... even after I die," she added.
More than 18 years have passed since the KCW, a Seoul-based civic group, began their demonstration every Wednesday outside the embassy since Jan. 8 1992.

   The demonstrators have called for Tokyo to issue an official apology for forcing young women, mostly from Korea and other neighboring Asian nations to serve soldiers in frontline brothels before and during World War II, and make a correct description of the issue in school textbooks. Korea was under the Japanese colonial rule in 1910-45.

   The KCW has also played a significant role in helping the victims have an opportunity to testify to the atrocity of the Japanese army and publishing pamphlets accusing the Japanese of wartime wrongdoing.

   Its steady efforts have contributed to helping the international society pay attention to the comfort women issue.

The U.S. Congress adopted a resolution that calls on the Japanese government to acknowledge responsibility and apologize for sexual enslavement of the "comfort women" in July, 2007. Other countries including the Netherlands, Canada and Australia followed suit.

   In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council also approved a report, filed by the KCW, that urged Tokyo to solve the issue.

   In Japan, since the assembly of Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture, adopted a statement in March 2008, urging the central government to face the issue sincerely, 14 other regions, involving cities of Kiyose, Sapporo and Fukuoka, participated in the move, according to the KCW.

   Five South Korean provincial assemblies, including Daegu, Bucheon and Geoje, have also adopted similar resolutions.

   However, the Japanese government barely budged. It has yet to offer an official apology to the women, or enact laws to compensate them despite sustained pressure from the international community.

   For decades many died without receiving an official apology from the Japanese government and only 87 women, most of them are in their 70s or 80s, remain.

   The KCW will launch a petition-signing campaign to push the Japanese government to take action and hold seminars and forums on the issue with Korean and Japanese lawmakers.

   "We need cooperation of lawmakers and experts in Korea and Japan in calling for Tokyo to apologize and compensate," said Kim Dong-hee from the KCW. "We will go hand in hand with Japanese civic groups with a view to setting up the law to solve the comfort women issue."