An exhibition about the lives of Taiwanese “comfort women” opened in Taipei yesterday, aimed at drawing more attention to the plight of the women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army.
The exhibition at the Bopiliao Historic Block in Wanhua District (萬華) includes photographs that capture the everyday lives of four of the women, and their interactions with their families.
There are also photographs taken by several of the women, personal belongings and videos documenting their painful fight for an official apology from the Japanese government, which the women say has never been given.
Kang Shu-hua (康淑華), executive director of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, said the foundation organized the exhibition to educate people on the issue.
“There are only six former comfort women left in Taiwan and they can no longer take to the streets to demand justice for themselves,” Kang said. “We hope young people can stand up and voice their support, so that the issue, this history, will not be forgotten.”
Kang urged the public to participate in a protest scheduled for Aug. 14 in front of the Interchange Association, Japan’s representative office in Taipei. It will be part of an annual global action to support the women on that day.
“My mother did not dare tell her story even long after my father’s death because she was afraid her daughter and grandchildren would look down on her,” said Huang Feng-chiao, the adopted daughter of Wu Hsiu-mei (吳秀妹), who died last year at 96.
“She swallowed all her pain,” Huang said.
She said her mother finally confided in a neighbor friend, who encouraged her to come forward and tell her story.
“She asked our opinion, and we of course backed her decision. We cannot let the Japanese government bully us,” Huang said.
The exhibition will run until Aug. 18.
Since 1992, the foundation has helped confirm the identity of 58 former Taiwanese comfort women. It believes that more than 2,000 Taiwanese women were forced into sex slavery during World War II.
The foundation sponsored a similar photo exhibition in Taipei in 2005, when about 30 of the women were still alive.