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Taiwan groups observe World War II memorial day for 'comfort women'

Today marks 30 years since sex slavery victims broke their silence about treatment at hands of Japanese

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A statue of a "comfort woman," a euphemism for women enslaved for sex by the Japanese army during World War II, in Berlin.

A statue of a "comfort woman," a euphemism for women enslaved for sex by the Japanese army during World War II, in Berlin. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese women and human rights groups marked the 30th anniversary of the first time a victim spoke out publicly about her experiences under forced prostitution by the Japan army during World War II on Saturday (Aug. 14).

The annual remembrance day for women that suffered as sex slaves under Japan's wartime military brothel system has been observed each year on Aug. 14 since Korean Kim Hak-soon detailed her experiences on that day in 1991. This led other victims to come forward with their stories, per CNA.

Known euphemistically as "comfort women," hundreds of thousands of girls and women from a number of Asian countries were abducted and forced into sexual slavery prior to and during World War II by the Japanese military, according to a United Nations report.

The Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation has called for Taiwan’s history curriculum to place more emphasis on the issue since over 1,000 Taiwanese women were enslaved in this way. Tu Ying-chiu (杜瑛秋), the foundation's CEO, told CNA not enough is taught about the history in school textbooks.

"We must find a way to record this history in order to tell future generations about what happened," she said.

Another plan involves providing interactive teaching kits for instructors so as to better convey the meaning of the issue to students, Tu said.

The foundation has produced about 100 kits packaged in the form of a vintage briefcase, which includes books, replicas of travel documents, and related newspaper clippings about the women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japan.

Shih Yi-hsiang (施逸翔), secretary general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, called for local leaders to step forward and spread awareness in their communities. Shih is organizing a rally with a coalition of other groups outside Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan to demand justice for Taiwanese victims.

Meanwhile, Fan Yun (范雲), a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker and women's rights advocate, commended all women who spoke out about their experiences and everyone who promoted awareness of the subject.

"We believe our history and textbooks must include this tragedy to make sure it is never allowed to happen again," Fan said.

To date, 59 victims have reached out to women's rights groups to recount their experiences, but only one is still alive as many were already in their 60s and 70s when the issue gained attention in the 1990s. The one living victim is in her 90s and healthy, but her relatives have asked the foundation not to disclose her identity to the media.