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We Demand Justice!: Historic North-South Korean Joint Statement on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery

A memorial statue for the military sexual slaves – young women from Korea, China and the Philippines, in San Francisco. (Steven Whyte’s Facebook)

By Women of North and South Korea and Overseas allies | March 8, 2019

In a landmark joint statement on the centenary of the March First Movement for Korean independence and national self-determination, women from North and South Korea alongside overseas allies called for a long overdue, victim-centered resolution to Japan’s unredressed crime of military sexual slavery–its notorious “comfort women” system in which an estimated 200,000 women, the majority Korean, were coerced into sexual labor.

The Korean Committee on Measures for the Sexual Slavery for Japanese Army and Drafting Victims from North Korea and the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance of the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (the Korean Council) from South Korea spearheaded writing the joint statement. The members of both organizations met from February 12 – 13 at Mount Kumgang in North Korea to begin discussing the plan. During those two days, more than 200 South Koreans, including victims of Japanese imperialism, family members of victims, activists, and scholars, attended this special meeting to discuss ways to address the past crimes of the Japanese military committed against Korea as a nation and its people before and during WWII. The Korean Council, which was one of the organizations invited to this special joint meeting, first met women from North Korea on May 31, 1991 in Tokyo at the First Symposium on Peace in Asia and the Role of Women (아시아의 평화와 여성의 역할 1차 심포지엄).

South Korean citizens actively participated in the fundraising drive for the advertisement, organized by the Korean Council. Within a week, South Korean citizens and overseas organizations donated enough money to pay for the half-page advertisement in the Washington Post on March 1st.

The efforts of the women from North and South Korea were soon strengthened by other organizations in South Korea and overseas. The international joint statement advocates for peace in the Korean peninsula and seeks long-overdue justice for the victims of Japanese imperialism.

Joint Statement Calling for Resolution of the Issue of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery from the Women of North and South Korea, and those Standing in Solidarity  to Commemorate the Centenary of the March 1st Movement

We demand that the Japanese government apologize and pay reparations for committing inhumane war crimes against our people and the women of Asia.

In 2018, North and South Korea opened the door to peace and reunification through the historical Panmunjom Declaration in April and Pyongyang Joint Declaration in September. The road between North and South Korea has been reconnected, and the warmth of peace envelops the Korean peninsula and gives birth to a new spring.

Significantly, it is the centenary of the March 1st Movement, in which the Korean people shouted for independence, standing against the Japanese empire’s devastating colonization of then-unified Korea. The March 1st movement was the large-scale resistance of the Korean people against Japan, which colonized Korea under military rule.

During almost 40 years of colonial occupation, Japan plundered our historical relics and resources and committed unjustifiable crimes against humanity. These war crimes, which include human trafficking, use of slave labor, and military sexual slavery, violated international law and can never be erased.

However, rather than apologizing officially and making reparations, the Japanese government continues to distort and deny the facts of the history of invasion, refusing to take responsibility for the sexual slavery they committed, as well as other crimes against humanity.

Furthermore, following the historic Panmunjom Declaration in April and Pyongyang Joint Declaration in September, and subsequent improvement in inter-Korean relations, the Japanese government has repeatedly attempted to block progress towards peace and is in fact preparing for a resurgence of militarism and imperialism.

The transnational movement for the resolution of the issue of Japanese military sexual slavery has grown beyond solidarity between North and South Korea and extended globally.

We, women from North and South Korea, and overseas, stand together on the centenary of the March 1st Movement to tell the world of the war crimes that were committed by the Japanese empire and its imperial army, including Japanese military sexual slavery. Furthermore, we resolve to strengthen our shared activism towards the goal of a complete and satisfactory solution, including an official apology and legal reparations from the Japanese government. We demand the following:

We demand that the Japanese government:

  1. Unequivocally admit to committing illegal colonization and war crimes, and fulfill all its legal responsibilities for these crimes.

  2. Officially apologize and pay legal reparations to the victims of Japanese military sexual slavery, and immediately cease any remarks and behaviors that defame the victims, strip them of dignity, or deny and distort the truth.

  3. Admit to the crimes against humanity, including forced mobilization, which were committed during its illegal colonization, and apologize and fulfill all legal responsibilities to the victims.

  4. Immediately cease all policies which result in renewed aggression against Korea or lead to a resurrection of militarism.

  5. Immediately cease all discriminatory policies and behaviors against Korean-Japanese who were displaced to and settled in Japan as a result of Japan’s illegal colonization of Korea.

We demand that the international community:

  1. Investigate the crime of Japanese military sexual slavery, which the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies has repeatedly and consistently confirmed as a serious violation of human rights, as a vital step in resolving and bringing an end to the prevent wartime sexual violence that is still being perpetuated.

  2. Demand that the Japanese Government seek and implement a permanent resolution according to the principles of a victim-centered approach and the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies.

  3. Urge the U.S. Government and Governments of the Allies of World War II to disclose all records on Japanese military sexual slavery in order to facilitate a complete investigation and prevent further defamation of the victims and denial of the war crimes by the Japanese Government.

We will continue to work in solidarity, not only from North and South Korea but globally, so that these demands are met.

February 28, 2019

Note: A key driver in the transnational pursuit of justice and a signatory to the statement, the Bay Area-based Education for Social Justice Foundation has produced key educational resources, including a compilation of primary source documents, for teachers, students, and activists alike.


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