According to Kang of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, among the 58 former comfort women the foundation has found in Taiwan and worked with since 1992, only five are still alive.
“From 1992 to 2012, we held workshops every two to three months designed to help heal [the survivors’] wounds. Last year we were forced to close down the workshop because they were no longer physically fit to come,” she says.
Kang adds that the foundation has continued to work with groups and organizations in other countries to demand that the Japanese government formally apologize to and compensate comfort women. Currently, the existence of the comfort women system is still absent from Japanese textbooks.
Meanwhile, attempts like Lee’s exhibition are made to raise awareness of the comfort women issue as a war crime, and as a case of the organized violence against women that we continue to see around the world.
“It is ironic to think that while we ask Japan to acknowledge [the existence of comfort women], we didn’t incorporate this history into [our] high school curriculum till last year,” Kang says. “To younger generations, the story of comfort women is the distant past. So we believe it is important to talk about the issue within a contemporary context as women remain victims of human trafficking and organized crimes.”
To Lee, her artwork is a way keep history alive so that we don’t make the same mistake again.
“It is not about nation against nation. It is a human issue ... It is like the Holocaust is not about hating the Germans, or black slavery about hating white Americans. We all have to learn from [comfort women’s] history as well,” she says.
■ Comfort Women Wanted runs until Feb. 16 at Bopiliao Old Street (剝皮寮歷史街區), which is located on the intersection of Guangzhou Street (廣州街) and Kangding Road (康定路), Taipei, tel: (02) 2336-2798. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 5:30pm