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2014-11-23 16:37
By Jung Min-ho



BANGKOK ― The purpose of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as U.N. Women, is to promote gender equality around the world.


However, it has been reluctant to approach a significant issue regarding women’s rights across Asia ― the sexual enslavement of women from Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia and even the Netherlands perpetrated by the Japanese military during World War II.

During a United Nations program held in Bangkok last week, an official for U.N. Women said the issue is a “thing of the past.”   

Hopefully, the official’s remark doesn’t reflect the views of the organization as a whole because controversy continues over the matter.

In an interview with Japanese newspaper, The Yomiuri Shimbun, published Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied the testimony of Seiji Yoshida, a former soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army, who admitted that he had rounded up women from Jeju Island to be forced into military brothels.

Last month, the Japanese government also asked the U.N. to partially retract details of abuses against Korean and other Asian women in a report published in 1996. This was rejected by Radhika Coomaraswamy, a former U.N. special rapporteur who authored the report.

A series of efforts by the Japanese government to whitewash the worst of the nation’s misdeeds peaked earlier this year when the Abe administration reviewed the landmark 1993 “Kono Statement,” in which Japan owned up to its wartime crimes against women.

To fight this, the Korean government is trying to bring evidence of "comfort women" to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Program, in cooperation with China, an official from the gender equality ministry told The Korea Times.

At the very least, U.N. Women should look at this issue from the standpoint of promoting women’s rights.  But it is important to note that the issue is more about the rights of women and all humanity, Feng Yuan, a human rights activist from China, said.

“Survivors are still suffering from the consequences of the crime, and they encounter many difficulties such as health problems and huge medical needs,” she said.

Up to 200,000 women, from Korea, China, the Philippines, the Netherlands and other countries, are believed to have been forced to provide sex to Japanese troops in front-line brothels in the lead-up to and during the Second World War.

The fact that Japan is the second largest donor to the U.N. shouldn’t distract it from its mission of protecting and promoting women’s rights.

Many of the comfort women were girls in their teens when they were conscripted for abuse. Their youth was taken away from them, their dreams dashed and their lives changed forever. It was a crime against humanity in general and women in particular, perpetrated by a nation on a spree of madness to conquer the world at all costs.

If this is not an issue that U.N. Women should deal with, what is?

Time is running out.

According to a Ministry of Gender Equality and Family official, many of the 55 surviving Korean former sex slaves have difficulties traveling because of their age.

During the latest Beijing +20 regional conference here, an activist asked, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”  U.N. Women should ask itself the same question. 

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