SEOUL - A group of Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II pledged on Thursday to help Congolese women suffering because of sexual abuse and rape, if they receive financial compensation from Japan for its wartime atrocities against them.
"I decided to help those who were treated much worse than me. If I get the compensation, I hope the people helping me fight for compensation as well as an apology from Tokyo will send it to the Congolese women," said Kim Bok-dong at a press conference at the office of the Korea Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan in Seoul.
Gil Won-ok, another victim of sexual slavery, said: "If the Japanese ever compensate us, I hope it will become an essential help to those young women."
Thousands of women have fallen victim to sexual abuse and rape by militias during the past two decades of regional conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UN estimates more than 8,000 women were subject to sexual violence in 2009.
But as chances are slim the Japanese government will offer an apology and compensation to the "comfort women," the KCDW plans to create a fund and deliver the collected amount to the Congolese female activist Rebecca Masika Katsuva, who has advocated for the rights of rape victims.
The Japanese government argues the comfort women issue was settled by a bilateral pact in 1965 to settle financial reparations for Japan's colonization of Korea from 1910-45, while Seoul maintains that the issue is a separate humanitarian issue that was not covered under it.
"The ladies have broadened their thinking when the Japanese government has been narrow-minded over the issue. We hope their good will can be spread to the international community and deliver hope to the Congolese women," said Yoon Mee-hyang, head of the KCDW.