Time running out

What makes the comfort women issue more urgent is that the victims are very old. It is likely that their stories will vanish with their deaths. Out of the 234 women who registered with the government, only 65 are still alive.

"They are getting weaker day by day and we are worried about them, too," said Ahn Sun-mi, a team manager at the KCWD.

Kim Min-chul, an official at the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities, said that if they are officially acknowledged by the Japanese parliament and compensated accordingly, it will be an important stepping stone for other unnoticed issues stemming from the Japanese colonial dominance.

He added that comfort women show an idiosyncratic and brutal side of the Japanese colonial rule.

"They were ruthlessly and repeatedly raped by soldiers at military brothels, and their dignity was trampled. Among other things, the issue involves one of the most sensitive parts about a human being: sex and femininity. People around the world are sympathetic with them and encourage them to keep up their struggle," he said.

Kim said the Korean government needs to be more aggressive in resolving the issue. Earlier this year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government's passivity in pressing Japan over comfort women was an infringement of the victims' rights to pursue happiness and that it was unconstitutional for the government not to act in support of comfort women.

In July, the government requested that Japan lay out a permanent solution to the matter at the United Nations General Assembly. But it fell on deaf ears. Japan has so far kept silent about demands for an official apology and compensation. It just repeats "everything has been settled through the Korea-Japan Treaty in 1965." But the issue was not mentioned at all in the talks.

"The government should push harder. It could open a door to the settlement of many other issues," Kim said.

International support

Comfort women's testimonies have raised international awareness of the brutality of the Japanese colonial rule and its unsolved problems.

More communities abroad have expressed their support for the protest. On Dec. 14, simultaneous protests will be held around the world. The Japanese foreign ministry will be surrounded by a "human chain" of Japanese and Korean civic activists. From New York, Ottawa, L.A. to Manila, and from New Jersey to Germany, France and Scotland, people will urge the Japanese government to admit the ugly truth and stop ignoring one of the most tragic stories in history.

In New York, the Korean American Voters Center and the Harriet & Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center will host a gathering where comfort women and Holocaust survivors will tell their harrowing stories.

Amnesty International and members of the World March of Women decided to add the comfort women issue to their agendas for the World Action Day that coincides with Dec. 14, the 1,000th anniversary.

Losing doesn't mean lost

On Dec 7, participants in the 999th Wednesday Protest sang songs and roared at the embassy.

"The Japanese government should admit to the crime. The Japanese government should investigate the case. The Japanese parliament should make an official apology for what happened. The Japanese government should compensate. The Japanese government should describe the truth in their school textbooks and teach their students about the uncomfortable truth!" the members cried out.

Gwacheon High School students gave the halmeoni rice cakes in a gesture of support.

"We will shed tears together. We will not forget you," said Seo Young-ho, a high school senior.

"The 1000th protest will be a sort of festival of victory. We have already continued this event 1,000 times. We are winners already," Yoon smiled.

1 2