Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Calling for Justice

The "Pyeonghwabi," or "Statue of Peace" across the street from the Japanese embassy in Seoul, represents all of the Korean girls forced to be comfort women for Japanese forces during World War II. The statue was dedicated in December 2011. 

Every Wednesday, since January 8, 1992, hundreds of South Koreans gather in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to protest against Japan's use of forced sexual slaves, put into mobile brothels that traveled with Japanese Imperial forces, during World War II. The sex slaves were euphemistically called "Comfort Women." Japanese forces enslaved hundreds of thousands of women from the territories they conquered but since Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910-1945, many of the enslaved women from Korea. 
A man leads a chant during the protest on Wednesday June 13. 

World War II ended 73 years ago and the surviving "comfort women" are in their late 80s and 90s but the issue is still an open wound in South Korean-Japanese relations and is a leading source of anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea. Japanese efforts to shut down the protest and move the "Pyeonghwabi" have backfired and strengthened Korean resolve. 

There are dozens of "Comfort Women" statues in South Korea. In 2016, activists put up a statue in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan. Japanese diplomats complained and the city removed the statue, which angered local activists and sparked demonstrations. The mayor apologized and allowed the statue to be put back in its place in front of the consulate. Japan responded by recalling two diplomats from South Korea and cancelling some economic agreements. 

The crowd in front of the embassy during the June 13 protest.

I was surprised by how young most of the people in the crowd were. They were the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the generation enslaved by the Japanese in World War II. I was expecting people my age or a little younger, people in their 40s or older. But it was people, mostly women, in their 20s and younger. 
Young people energize the crowd. 

Women at the protest.

The protesters have been coming together every Wednesday since January 8, 1992. In that time, they have only missed one day - after the Kobe earthquake in Japan in 1995. Their resolve has gotten them a place in the Guinness Book of records as the world's oldest rally on a single theme. 

There are more photos of the Wednesday protest in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.