SEOUL, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- The issue of Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II carries universal significance, and supporting grassroots movements among the Japanese public is the key to settling the long-time grievance, a Korean-American filmmaker and civil activist said Tuesday.
Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual slavery at front-line Japanese military brothels during World War II. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule at that time.
Seoul has increased pressure on Tokyo to resolve the grievances of the victims, but Japan has persistently refused to apologize and compensate for its wartime atrocities.
"The sex slavery issue is about human rights with universal implications. It's not just a story of a few people but a standard of the world," Annabel Park said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
Annabel Park, a Korean-American filmmaker and civil activist. (Yonhap)
"We persuaded U.S. lawmakers to see the matter not as taking either the side of Korea or Japan but doing something morally right," she said, as she shared her experiences of leading the 121 Coalition, a U.S.-based organization representing some 200 groups committed to defending the human rights of the "comfort women." Comfort women is a euphemistic term for the wartime sex slaves.
In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Resolution 121, urging Japan to "formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the coercion of young women into sexual slavery.
"The issue has not been resolved after six years. Especially (now) Abe is back, and we are going backwards again," Park said. "I'm more worried about the issue now than in 2007 when he stepped down."
Shinzo Abe, who served as Japanese Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007, has come back to the helm of Japan's opposition Liberal Democratic Party, a post that would make him Japan's new leader if his party wins the general elections. Abe said his party would seek to revise past statements of apology for the comfort women issue if he takes power again.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Yonhap file photo)
The 43-year-old Korean-American activist called on South Koreans to have patience and compassion toward Japan until it changes, while distinguishing the people there from its government.
"A process of healing from wartime trauma and humanizing relations is required to solve many history issues, as the Japanese people were also victims of war," Park said.
"After my current project of documentary 'Story of America,' I will begin filming a new documentary titled "The Ghost of Asia" to talk about such wounds from war. Both will deal with division and how to unite people."
Calling recent protests in Tokyo against its government over diverse issues "a sign of change," Park stressed the need to support grassroots movements "by connecting global civil societies."
"We have to figure out how to communicate with the people there. That's more effective than pressuring the Japanese government, the U.S. or the U.N., because Japan will ultimately change its position about many history issues, including comfort women, if its people want it," Park said.
In the longer term, she suggested Seoul form a group of young people from Asian countries "to study history and think of (the) future," through which future leaders could learn "how to cooperate."
"I want South Korea to show a new kind of leadership to build cooperative and humane relations of the world."