Ceremonies in South Korea marked the country’s first Memorial Day for ‘Comfort Women’ on the 14th of August – a day dedicated to more than 200,000 girls and women who were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War.

Members of the Global Survivor Network, which is supported by the Mukwege Foundation, met with two former ‘comfort women’ and participated in the commemoration ceremonies.

As part of the 6th International Memorial Day for ‘Comfort Women’ International Symposium on Tuesday, four survivors from the Global Survivor Network presented their testimonies. The session began with the 1st Kim Bok-dong Peace Prize Ceremony honoring survivor Acan Sylvia, the newest member of the Global Survivor Network, and a keynote speech by Professor Rashida Manjoo, former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.

Korean survivors achieved notable justice milestones

In her speech, Korean survivor Kim Bok-dong halmoni urged to “keep our energy up and all continue to work to end war and fight for peace.” Korean survivors, as a result of their courage and tireless efforts, have achieved notable milestones with regard to justice, but they have yet to receive full recognition through legal reparations from Japan. Until they have received this, they will continue their struggle.

Acan Sylvia said, “I felt peace and unity. They were very concerned, everyone wanted to know and was interested in what happened. That shows a sign of unity and love for one another. Everyone must join hands together and fight for peace in every country.”

Solidarity with ‘comfort women’

The symposium was followed by a candlelight festival, where Korean youth and civil society organizations came together to express their solidarity with the halmonis (survivor grandmothers) through speeches and music performances.

Tatiana Mukanire, member of the Global Survivor Network, gave a speech to express her solidarity with the Korean women:

“I want to pay tribute to you, courageous and exceptional women of South Korea, for having made a battle like no other. You first fought against your pain and your humiliation and you put your struggle in the history books for future generations.

I wish that one day the rape survivors in my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, remember your courage and fight for what they have experienced, so no other woman in the world has to experience it. I lack words to express my admiration for your bravery and your greatness of heart.

I recognize in you the faces of brave women who fight for their lives with a smile, even if in the depths of their pain, the pain has distressed them and tears prevent them from screaming. In this pain you have shown courage and strength, showing the world that life can be hard but worth living.”

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