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Seeking Solutions to the Issue of Comfort Women --- The 1000th "Wednesday Protest" in Seoul on Dec. 14, 2011

2012.05.12 Sat

The 1000th Protest and Japanese Supporters

In August 1991, former “comfort women,” (Korean women who were forced to serve as sex workers for the Imperial Japanese Army) including Kim Hak-Sun, started to raise their voices. Before then, the issue had only been discussed quietly here and there in postwar Japanese society. Some of these testimonies came from soldiers, partly as romanticized memories of their time spent with these women.

One such witness is Shigeru Mizuki, a well-known Japanese comic artist, who gave detailed descriptions of a “comfort station,” or brothel, in his book “Soin Gyokusai Seyo [All of You Shall Die for Honor]” (pp. 14-15.) based on his own experience. In the afterward of his book, he wrote, “I can’t help but feel irrational resentment when I write war chronicles. Maybe the spirits of the war dead make me feel like that.” There Mizuki told of a soldier who shouted, “Thirty seconds for each!” and another who said, “Hey Sis, about 70 more to go. Be patient,” when looking at the long queue in front of the station. It’s an important historical testimony, which proves how the Japanese army set up comfort stations in the very front lines at that time.

The existence of comfort women, which had been a silent issue, almost forgotten in postwar Japan, came to the foreground in 1991. That was when the surviving comfort women started to talk about their own experiences. Women who were forced into providing sexual services started making people aware that the “comfort women” system had been nothing but sexual slavery. Until then, discussion of the issue had been long considered taboo in Korea, and many victims hadn’t been able to talk about it at all, even with their families.

In January 1991, some of Korea’s former comfort women and their supporters started a protest march in the busy lunch-time street in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They had only one demand: acknowledgment of this past crime in the form of an apology from the Japanese government to each and every one of the former comfort women still living. The apology — meant to make the Japanese public widely aware of the harm done to these women as a historical fact — includes a vow to never repeat the same mistake, and to acknowledge that the issue has not yet been settled legally.

Every week for the past 20 years, 1,000 times now since its beginning, they have continued the Wednesday protest. On December 14th, 2011, the group marked its 1000th protest. Simultaneous protests were also held in several places in Japan, and were attacked relentlessly by vocal opponents.

In Osaka, some shouted “Liars!” at the protesting women even though the Japanese government had already acknowledged the existence of “comfort places” and “comfort women” based on official wartime documents. A high school girl responded to the opponents by saying, “I wish it were a lie.” Don’t we all. More than anyone, the victims no doubt strongly wish that their gruesome experiences were just a nightmare.

On the 1000th day in Seoul, Kwon Hae-Hyo, who was acting as the M.C. of the event, put it this way: “The harumonis’ [Korean words meaning “old women”] wish is that they won’t need to hold the Wednesday protest anymore after next week.”

On that day three actresses presented the Harumoni’s feelings in a Korean translation of the following monologue by Eve Ensler.

By courtesy of Eve Ensler and V-Day
Each year in conjunction with the V-Day Spotlight, Eve pens a new monologue. This is her monologue based on the testimonies of the ‘Comfort Women.’
Say It
By Eve Ensler

Our stories only exist inside our heads

Inside our ravaged bodies

Inside a time and space of war

And emptiness

There is no paper trail

Nothing official on the books

Only conscience

Only this.
What we were promised:

That I would save my father if I went with them

That I would find a job

That it was better there

That I would serve the country
What we found:

No mountains

No trees

No water

Yellow sand

A desert

A warehouse full of tears

Thousands of worried girls

My braid cut against my will

No time to wear panties
What we were forced to do:

Change our names

Wear one piece dresses with

A button that opened easily

50 Japanese soldiers a day

Sometimes there would be a ship of them

Strange barbaric things

Do it even when we bleed

There were so many

Some wouldn’t take off their clothes

Just took out their penis

So many men I couldn’t walk

I couldn’t stretch my legs

I couldn’t bend

I couldn’t.
What they did to us over and over:



Tore bloody inside out





What we saw:

A girl drinking chemicals in the bathroom

A girl killed by a bomb

A girl beaten with a rifle over and over

A girl’s malnourished body dumped in the river

To drown.
What we weren’t allowed to do:

Wash ourselves

Go to the doctor

Use a condom

Run away

Keep my baby

Ask him to stop.
What we caught:






Heart disease

Nervous breakdowns

What we were fed:


Miso soup

Turnip pickle


Miso Soup

Turnip Pickle

Rice Rice Rice
What we became:









What we were left with:


A shocked father who never recovered

And died.

No wages

Hatred of Men

No children

No house

A space where a uterus once was




What we got called:

Ianfu–Comfort Women

Shugyofu–Women Of Indecent Occupation
What we felt:

My chest still trembles
What got taken:

The springtime

My life
What we are:








Outside the Japanese Embassy every Tuesday

No longer afraid
What we want:

Now soon
Before we’re gone

And our stories leave this world,

Leave our heads
Japanese government

Say it


We are sorry, Comfort Women

Say it to me

We are sorry to me

We are sorry to me

To me

To me

To me

Say it.

Say sorry

Say we are sorry

Say Me

See Me

Say it



Original article written by Yayo Okano
Translated by A. Tawara, N. Tajima and O. Schaefer

You can also see a video report (in Japanese) on this topic here.


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