| Lee Ok-sun, 87, and Kang Il-chul, 86, two Korean victims of Japan`s sex slavery during World War II, met with officials from the White House and the Department of State late last month. It is unusual that the U.S. administration, not Congress, had official interviews with sex slavery victims. The two victims earnestly urged the international community to resolve the issue, saying that they do not have much time left in this world.
There is growing interest in the sex slavery issue in the United States. Statues and monuments dedicated to the victims have been erected at various places since 2010. The purpose of the two ladies` visit to the U.S. was to unveil the seventh monument in Union City, New Jersey. It was the first monument-building project led by a U.S. local government, rather than by the Korean community. At the unveiling ceremony, Union City Mayor Brian Stack said, "It`s about human rights, it`s about education. Educating our youth about what took place in the past, so we don`t make the same mistakes again."
Their interviews with U.S. government officials were arranged by Rep. Mike Honda of the Democratic Party. He led the 2007 House resolution on the Japanese military`s sex slavery. In January this year, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to abide by the resolution, putting pressure on Tokyo. It is important to let more Americans know about the issue through various channels and induce the U.S. government to call for Tokyo`s apologies for past atrocities.
The bigger pressure the international community puts on Japan, the less room Tokyo will have to stand on. Unlike Germany, an exemplar for repenting on its past history, Japan has invited such pressure for its denial of inhumane crimes and refusal to apology. Seoul should make efforts to win international community`s attention and support so that such crimes against humanity would not be repeated.
On Tuesday, the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun bravely urged Japan to face the truth about the Japanese military`s sex slavery issue. The Abe administration is degrading Japan`s dignity and disgracing its people by continuing to turn deaf ears to voices from the international community and conscious people in Japan. The issue was first known to the world on Aug. 14, 1991, when the late Kim Hak-soon, a Korean victim of sex slavery by the Japanese military, testified her hardships. How much longer do we have to wait for the surviving victims` last wishes to come true?