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(LEAD) Seoul to commemorate memorial day for 'comfort women'

National 17:05 August 13, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Aug. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will hold the second-ever government-hosted national ceremony to commemorate International Memorial Day for Comfort Women on Wednesday.

About 300 people from all walks of life, including elderly women sexually enslaved by the imperial Japanese army, will take part in the ceremony at the Kim Koo Museum and Library in central Seoul, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said in a press release on Tuesday.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony. Those sex slaves were euphemistically called comfort women.

The government designated International Memorial Day for Comfort Women, which falls on Aug. 14, as a national memorial day last year. It is the day when the late Kim Hak-sun, a former comfort woman, first publicly testified about Japan operating an organized military brothel program during World War II in 1991.

It also is the eve of Liberation Day, which marks the end of the Japanese colonial era.

Former U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, who led the passage of the comfort women resolution at the House of Representatives in 2007, Acan Sylvia Obal of Uganda, an advocate for women's movements, and other prominent figures from the international community will deliver video messages during the ceremony.

Acan was awarded the first Kim Bok-dong Peace Prize, named after a human rights activist and a survivor of sex slavery during World War II and given to women who contribute to raising awareness of wartime sexual violence.

This undated photo provided by Seoul City Hall shows a new comfort women memorial statue installed on Mount Nam in central Seoul. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

On the same day, symposiums, mass rallies and exhibitions to mark the occasion will be held across the country.

The 1,400th weekly protest rally against Japan's wartime sex slavery will take place in front of the former compound of the Japanese Embassy to Seoul. Local activists and victims of Japan's sexual slavery have staged street rallies every Wednesday since 1992 to demand Tokyo offer a formal apology to former sex slaves.

In cities including Gwangmyeong, Suwon and Gangneung, events to mark the Aug. 14 memorial day and the establishment of "Girl of Peace" statues symbolizing the former wartime sex slaves will be also held.

Moreover, the Northeast Asian History Foundation will invite scholars from South Korea, China and Japan to an international symposium to discuss ways to solve comfort women issues.


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