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Prior to the passage of HR121, the Japanese Government warned that such a passage would strain relations between the United States and Japan. Since its passage, there has been no headway toward an official Japanese apology, compensation, or the correction of historical textbooks. Congressman Honda recently stated another resolution is imminent if an official apology is not given.
An issue for Oprah?
“I was surprised that not many American people were aware of the comfort-women issue,” says Soh after years of lecturing and speaking out. She acknowledges that despite publicity surrounding the passage of HR121, many people are still not aware of the issue.
Stetz believes that education is key to creating more awareness, but also feels that time is running out for the comfort women. “I feel that the survivors will not live to see an apology or compensation.” As the already elderly comfort women continue to age and have more and more health-related issues, asking them to participate in awareness campaigns is a double-edged sword. While telling their stories makes them feel important and as if they are creating change in the government, old wounds are opened and the trauma is relived. Most are dealing with their own personal issues and just want to see closure in the form of an apology from the Japanese government.
“It is so frustrating that there is so little ‘Oprah’-like attention,” Stetz says, claiming that coverage on such a large scale would generate moral pressure on both the US and Japanese governments. Without such coverage, Stetz feels the Japanese government will continue to ignore the pleas of the comfort women, who will die before receiving the solace they seek. The comfort women seem to feel it, too. As one sign held in the air by a former Filipino comfort woman during the August demonstration in front of the Japanese
Embassy in Manila read, “Where is justice? When we are gone?”
- Former South Korean comfort women, who were forced to serve the Japanese military during World War Two wave hands during their weekly rally demanding an official apology from the Japanese government in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul on August 1, 2007. The banner reads, â€œWednesdayâ€™s demonstration to solve the Japanese military comfort women issue.â€ more than 200,000 women were forced to to serve as comfort women. JO YONG-HAK/REUTERS
- Gil Won Ok, 79, of Pyongyang, north korea, cries during a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on November 6, 2007, as she recalls her first time as a â€œcomfort woman.â€ gil testified that she was forced at age 13 to work as a sex slave for Japanese soldiers. YVES HERMAN/REUTERS