We, the undersigned, grassroots advocacy organizations and activists from around the world have been active participants in the movement to bring justice on behalf of the survivors of military sexual slavery, by Imperial Japan in the 1930s until the end of WWII. These women are euphemistically known as the “Comfort Women.”
In August 1991 Hak-soon Kim courageously broke the silence, and since then these women – affectionately referred to as Grandmas – from Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines and other countries, along with advocacy groups, have been tirelessly raising awareness globally and challenging the government of Japan and its endless attempts to deny, downplay and erase its crime against humanity. Together, these forces drafted a Seven Point List of Demands based on International Standards and Laws needed to resolve the issue:
- There must be a full acknowledgment of the crime by the government of Japan.
- There must be an official apology.
- There must be direct, legal reparations.
- There should be a thorough investigation of the crime.
- Prosecution of any surviving perpetrators.
- Ongoing education in Japan’s public schools.
- Memorials and museums should be built.
In December 2015, the Japanese and South Korean governments colluded and struck a deeply problematic deal that they said would “finally and irrevocably” resolve and end the issue. However, not only were the Korean survivors never consulted during the negotiation, the survivors in all other affected countries were ignored completely as were the Seven Demands.
The activist Grandmas immediately rebuffed the deal in its entirety. Grassroots activists from all over the world, in unity and without exception, joined them and denounced the deal between Abe and Park regimes as a sham, calling for a renegotiation.
Since the 2015 Agreement, the Japanese government has mounted an international campaign – especially in the United States – to hinder and undermine any and all efforts to preserve this history. They have tried to undermine and stop the erecting of memorials from Atlanta to San Francisco to Shanghai, China to Freiburg, Germany. The Japanese government has even tried to intervene in the writing of new textbooks and in curriculum development in the US. In fact, the 2015 agreement has been utilized by the Japanese government to deny and evade its state responsibility for one of the largest case of institutionalized sex trafficking in the history of mankind.
Therefore, we demand that the South Korean government and its newly elected President Moon Jae-in immediately take necessary steps to declare the current agreement null and void, and renegotiate with Japan, in a manner in which meets the survivors’ Seven Demands and according to international standards. We request that the following four points be reflected in the renegotiation:
1) Activist survivors from all affected countries must be seated at the table and their wishes and concerns must be at the core of the negotiation terms.
2) All leading advocacy groups, such as the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and the House of Sharing, as well as other key groups and individuals from victim countries must be actively engaged in the negotiation.
3) All governments of the countries where the survivors originated should be invited to participate and/or given an opportunity to opt out if they choose to.
4) All Seven Principle Demands of the “Grandmas,” formulated according to international standards, should be negotiated.
Time is of the essence. Every month we hear of another Grandma’s passing. We know justice delayed is justice denied, and the longer justice is denied the fewer former comfort women will be alive to see it. At its heart, this is a human rights issue and doing right by the survivors is a vital step towards addressing the ongoing tragedy of modern-day sex-trafficking and war crimes against women.
We urge the South Korean government and President Moon to prioritize and work towards justice for the survivors as quickly as possible before we lose any more of the Grandmas.