On August 14th, 1991, Kim Hak-sun gave testimony on her experiences as a Korean comfort woman, becoming the first woman to share publicly the crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army during WW2.
More than 200,000 women from China, New Guinea, Burma, the Philippines, and Korea were abducted from their homes, trafficked, and held in captivity at front-line brothels, suffering sexual slavery and rape. They were named Comfort Women. The Comfort Women system was the biggest event of sexual violence in history.
Many women did not survive, but those who did had suffered permanent physical and psychological pain, disabilities, depression, and PTSD symptoms for the rest of their lives. As of 2021, eight decades since the war ended, the Japanese government still hasn’t recognized the crimes against humankind that were made under its rule and did not take accountability for its actions. The majority of the victims have already died without seeing justice.
International Memorial Day for Comfort Women is observed annually in South Korea on August 14th, commemorating the day Kim Hak-sun courageously gave her speech and revealed the horrors made by the Japanese army during WW2. It was declared an official day by the South Korean government in 2012 with a mission to remember the victims, acknowledge the suffering they’ve been through, dissolve the shame and silence that they carried throughout the years and urge the Japanese authorities to take responsibility for their past.
Various commemoration events throughout South Korea take place on this day, usually including speeches of government officials, human rights activists, victims, and their relatives. You can honor the day by telling the story of the comfort women, sharing it with people, and visiting one of their many memorials located worldwide.
This post is also available in: Español