SEOUL, July 2 (Reuters) – Preventing illness, demise and disillusionment, members of South Korea’s quickly dwindling sisterhood of surviving “consolation girls” say they’re going through the twilight of their lives with diminished camaraderie and can to wage political battles.
Solely 14 of the 240 registered survivors of Japan’s wartime brothels are nonetheless alive in South Korea, almost half the quantity who have been alive simply three years in the past.
One main organisation that advocated for them was introduced down by a corruption scandal final 12 months, and in April a South Korean courtroom dismissed a case a number of the girls introduced in opposition to Tokyo. read more
That has left the ladies extra divided than ever over whether or not to maintain in search of higher compensation and contrition from the Japanese authorities, a problem that has helped bitter relations between Seoul and Tokyo and introduced intense private scrutiny and controversy.
“I simply want I may stay at peace for one single day,” mentioned Lee Okay-sun, 91, who has been bedridden for years.
Beneath a 2015 deal Tokyo issued an official apology and offered 1 billion yen ($9.3 million) to a fund that helps consolation girls victims, with each side promising to “irreversibly” finish the dispute, however South Korea successfully backed out of the deal after some victims mentioned they’d been ignored.
Some historians estimate as much as 200,000 Korean women and girls have been pressured to supply intercourse to Japanese troops in the course of the colonial period, typically underneath the pretext of employment or to repay a relative’s debt.
The experiences of the ladies shouldn’t be forgotten, mentioned Cho Younger-kun, a supervisor of the Home of Sharing, which has served as a shelter for aged survivors for 26 years.
“Many of the grandmothers have been born within the Twenties and simply over a dozen stay nationwide,” he mentioned. “I am afraid such accounts will vanish within the mists of historical past when the remaining ones cross away.”
After over eight many years, the three girls who spoke to Reuters nonetheless fought again tears when remembering their previous.
“They handled Koreans worse than a canine. They kicked and beat me up,” Kang Il-chul, 92, mentioned as she displayed scars on the again of her head.
‘ENDING THE FIGHT’
The consolation girls – a euphemism for ladies pressured into brothels in World Struggle 2 – have been a fixture of South Korean politics since Kim Hak-sun first got here ahead in 1991 to publicly testify of her expertise.
Since then, victims and activists have lobbied for compensation and apologies from the Japanese authorities.
A 1996 UN human rights report concluded that the ladies had been “army sexual slaves”. Japan contests that discovering, and the 2015 compensation settlement between Japan and South Korea didn’t handle the problem of whether or not coercion was a coverage of imperial Japan.
In 2018 the South Korean authorities shut down a fund created underneath the 2015 deal and vowed to pursue a extra “victim-oriented” method, a transfer Japan mentioned threatened the 2 international locations’ relations.
Japan’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs didn’t instantly reply to Reuters’ requests for remark for this text.
And a few say the battle is way from over. Lee Okay-sun denounced South Korea for taking part within the Tokyo Olympics.
“Do not go. What is the level of going? They should not go,” mentioned Lee, who mentioned she was forcibly taken for Japan’s brothels at age 16.
Distinguished activist and sufferer Lee Yong-soo, 92, was amongst these rejecting the 2015 deal, vowing to hunt a judgment from the Worldwide Court docket of Justice.
“I want time would watch for me, however I do know it will not,” Lee mentioned. “I’m decided to not die earlier than I resolve this… I have to be alive as a lot as 200 years to resolve this.”
Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Writing by Josh Smith; Enhancing by Gerry Doyle
Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.