By: Jung Min-ho

Survivors of sexual slavery under the Japanese military, known euphemistically as “comfort women,” called on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to face up to his nation’s wartime wrongdoings, Wednesday.

At their 1,176th Wednesday rally held in drizzling rain outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, members of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan shouted out messages once again ahead of Abe’s evening speech to the U.S. Congress.

“While the victims are still suffering, Abe is having a political show in the United States,” protesters said in a statement. “Justice has not been served over the last 70 years. The victims are still waiting for true liberation.”

The Wednesday rally is the world’s longest-running protest that has been held outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul for the past 20 years since Jan. 8, 1992, with the aim to “fully resolve war crimes.”

The protesters criticized Abe for distorting history and aggravating conflict among countries in Northeast Asia.

They rejected Abe’s half-hearted expressions of “remorse” or “regret,” saying the problem with Abe rests with his sincerity.

“Abe tries to paint himself as a leader who pursues peace. But we doubt that he would even mention the names of countries that deserve apologies from Japan during his speech,” they said. “Undoubtedly, Japanese wartime sexual slavery was a serious crime against humanity.”

In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said in a statement, “Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to Asian nations.”

Abe sees no need to repeat this, and avoids making comments about the issue.

Meanwhile, he made an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead, including 14 wartime leaders who were convicted as war criminals.

During a question and answer session after his speech at Harvard University on Tuesday (KST), a sophomore asked Abe if he denies that the Japanese government and military were directly involved in forcing many women into sexual slavery.

Abe dodged the question, and said he upholds the landmark 1993 apology by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. He also called the crime “human trafficking.”

“To give him the opportunity to speak to the U.S. Congress is tantamount to trampling on the human rights of the victims,” the protesters said.

“Without a sincere apology, his speech is just another political show.”

No exact figures are available on how many sex slaves the Japanese military used, but the number is estimated at around 200,000.

In Korea, there are only 53 survivors remaining.

SOURCE: THE KOREA TIMES