Dokdo dispute adds support to sex slave rally

July 17, 2008

Waves of picketing students and photographers jostled around the Japanese Embassy in Seoul yesterday as surviving Korean comfort women sat in the pouring rain, singing a popular protest song that was often chanted during the country’s military regime.

“They [the Japanese] took us away in the middle of the night and put us through deadly humiliations,” yelled out Lee Yong-soo, a 79-year-old former sex slave who testified during the U.S. House of Representatives hearings on the issue last year. “Now, they’re doing the same thing with Dokdo. They’re trying to take the island away from us.”

It was the women’s 822nd protest. They have held weekly rallies outside the Japanese Embassy every Wednesday since 1992, after three Korean women forced to work as sex slaves by the Japanese military during World War II came out in public for the first time and filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government. The rally continued for the next 16 years.

The protest yesterday drew a larger crowd as Japan announced a plan earlier this week to define the Dokdo islets (known as Takeshima in Japan) as Japanese territory in new education guidelines for middle school students.

Present during the rally were local middle school students and a group of Canadian schoolteachers on a study tour of remnants of Asian wartime atrocities such as the comfort women and the Nanking Massacre.

Japan refuses to apologize and bring closure to this chapter of history,” said Thekla Lit, co-chairwoman of the Canada Association for Learning and Preserving the History of World War II in Asia.

The Canadian group will participate in compiling a revised version of a teacher’s guide for the Toronto District School Board, which added a section on war crimes and post-war issues in Asia into its secondary school curriculum in 2006.

“We came to hear the stories of the grandmas so we can teach their history in our classrooms,” said George Hall, a retired geography teacher from Canada. “No country who committed such crimes and atrocities could reach peace without an apology.”

Joining the Canadians were over 120 students from Singwan Middle School in eastern Seoul, brought by their teachers to the rally. They shouted anti-Japanese slogans and waved picket signs.

“Hopefully it will refresh their history lessons, and bring them closer to society,” said Kim Yun-hee, a Chinese writing teacher.

By Park Soo-mee Staff Reporter []