Taipei, A women's rights group invited 59 members of the public, representing the number of Taiwanese comfort women who publicly identified themselves over the years, to stage a silent protest in front of Japan's representative office in Taipei on Tuesday, International Comfort Women Day.
Also on Tuesday, the first monument commemorating comfort women in Taiwan was unveiled at a ceremony in Tainan City, attended by former President Ma Ying-jeou (???), an event that drew Japanese media attention, according to the United Evening News.
Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation holds activities on Aug. 14 each year to remind the public that the issue of comfort women has yet to be resolved and demand that Japan apologize for its World War II atrocities, including the forced recruitment of Taiwanese girls and women into military brothels.
This year, the foundation's memorial event took the form of 59 people wearing black clothes and white masks staging a 8-minute-14-second silent protest in front of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, which represents Japanese interests in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
Huang Shu-ling (???), chairwoman of the foundation, said she invited Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit the to-be-dedicated Ama Museum two years ago. "Ama" is a Taiwanese euphemism for those women, now seniors, who were treated as sex slaves during the war.
Abe and other Japanese officials ignored the invitation, but the museum, which opened on Dec. 10, 2016, has attracted large numbers of Japanese tourists who showed their sympathy and support for the Taiwanese victims, Huang said.
She called on the Japanese leader "not to underestimate Taiwan's power," as the foundation is part of an Asian and global network of women's rights groups seeking world peace, justice for women, and an end to violence against women.
"Our campaign will not cease because many of the surviving Amas have since passed away. We call on Japan to build a comfort women museum in Japan and issue an apology to all the victims," Huang said.
Fan Ching (??), chief executive officer of the foundation, said the Japanese government should recognize the historical fact that it established a system for forcibly recruiting and managing comfort women, who worked as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
In addition to compensating the Taiwanese victims for their economic loss and emotional injury, Japan should make public its files on comfort women, reflect on its wartime responsibility and ensure such a mistake is never again repeated, Fan added.
At the protest site, foundation staff workers gave a reed flower to each of the white-masked protesters who shouted "History must not be glossed over" and "Say sorry, Japanese government."
In Tainan, according to the United Evening News report, Ma rejected criticism that such a monument could affect bilateral relations between Taiwan and Japan.
A total of 31 national parliaments around the world have passed resolutions calling on Japan to apologize and compensate comfort women, Ma said, adding "is Japan not worried that its relations with these countries will be affected?"
At the ceremony, Ma also said that the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice enacted by the Democratic Progressive Party government, can be used as a legal basis to demand that Japan apologize and pay compensation, "which will be real transitional justice for Taiwan's comfort women."
Ma said that during the war years, the Japanese military set up more than 1,000 military brothels in the Pacific theater, kidnapping, threatening and forcing Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian and Taiwanese women to serve as sex slaves.
He added that an estimated 200,000 women from China and Korea respectively, with between 1,200-2,000 Taiwanese, ended up working in military brothels, with over 70 percent dying in war zones and never being able to return home.
Today, only two publicly identified Taiwanese survivors are still alive and they are waiting for an official apology and compensation from Japan, Ma said.
Since 1992, Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation has collected voice, video and other data and personal effects from the 59 publicly self-identified Taiwanese survivors and edited them into "Life Stories of Taiwanese Amas," which are exhibited at the Ama Museum.
The foundation's website shows that at least 2,000 Taiwanese girls and women were forced to work as "comfort women." Across the world, though mainly in Asia, an estimated 300,000 women became sex slaves under the Japanese "comfort women" system, it adds.
Taiwan was colonized by Japan from 1895-1945. Similar events also occurred in Korea, which was colonized by Japan from 1910-1945.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel