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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 May 22 - 28  > Monument for ‘comfort women’ tells the truth
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2013 May 22 - 28 TOP3 [HISTORY]

Monument for ‘comfort women’ tells the truth

May 27, 2013
In one of Japan’s southernmost islands, there is a monument built by citizens to commemorate victims of the so-called “comfort women” system, which Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto Toru recently described as “needed at the time”.

Miyakojima Island is located about 300 kilometers southwest of the main island of Okinawa. During World War II, a total of 16 “comfort stations” were established on the island, where women carted away from their home countries in Asia were forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers.

The monument, which is inscribed with the words “To the women”, is standing next to sugar cane fields in the central part of the island. The monumental stone bears a written memorial in 12 languages, including the victims’ mother tongues. It says: We remember the agony of the individual woman who was subjected to sexual violence by the Japanese military, lament the victims of wartime sexual violence throughout the entire world, and pray for the peaceful world without any more war.

This monument was built in 2008 with contributions from Japan and from abroad in response to an appeal made by the island’s women and historians of Japan and South Korea who were involved in the comfort women issue.

What made them launch the fund-raising campaign was a question of concern raised at a local assembly. Japanese Communist Party Miyakojima City assemblyman Uesato Tatsuru demanded in March 2007 that the city government conduct an investigation into the comfort women issue. However, conservative members of the assembly opposed the demand, saying that putting such a question to a local assembly was “inappropriate”. Uesato’s question was eventually deleted from the minutes. Soon after that, citizens concerned over this issue were angered and started the campaign.

Yonaha Hirotoshi, a 79-year-old man who donated some of his land for the monument, still has vivid childhood memories of comfort women dancing at a camp festival to the traditional Korean folk song of Arirang and Japanese soldiers lining up for their turn in front of a comfort station.

“According to the story of an uncle living near my house, those women said that they were lured with the promise of a good job and taken to Japan from the Korean Peninsula. I cannot allow those claiming that there is 'no evidence' for the Japanese military taking the women by force to continue to lie,” Yonaha said.
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