Brave ‘comfort woman’ buried without apology

LEADER::Liu Huang A-tao was the first Taiwanese to speak up about being a sex slave for the Japanese during World War II, but never received an apology

Staff Writer, with CNA

Sun, Sep 11, 2011 - Page 2

Friends and relatives of the first Taiwanese woman to accuse the Japanese government of forcing about 2,000 Taiwanese women into sex slavery during World War II, attended her funeral in Kaohsiung yesterday.

Liu Huang A-tao (劉黃阿桃), who led eight other Taiwanese former “comfort women” to file a lawsuit against the Japanese government in 1999, died earlier this month at the age of 90, without obtaining the apology she had long sought.

Liu Huang’s death leaves only 10 Taiwanese women remaining who have openly spoken of their suffering at the hands of Japanese occupying forces during World War II.

Kang Shu-hua (康淑華), executive director of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, said her organization will continue its 20-year-long efforts to help Taiwanese comfort women seek justice and compensation from Japan.

“We will continue working closely with our Japanese counterparts to seek a public apology and compensation from the Japanese government,” she said.

“For years, we have maintained frequent exchanges with Japanese groups that support our calls,” Kang said, adding that these groups are waiting for the right time to again propose a bill in Japan on compensation for wartime sex abuse victims.

The proposal was raised in 2001 for the first time in Japan’s legislature by lawmakers from the then-opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Now that the DPJ is in power, these groups think it is a good time to start pushing again for such a bill, Kang said.

Asked about the foundation’s support of comfort women since the issue was first raised two decades ago, Kang said it initially focused on helping them seek compensation from the Japanese government through litigation.

However, that did not go smoothly and Liu Huang and other victims lost their lawsuit against the Japanese government in 2002, she said.

“As these women are now in their late 80s, we have shifted our focus to help them find peace at this stage of their lives,” she said. “To this end, we have created a support system among the women, their families and other groups.”

The foundation also lodged a protest last month with the Japanese government at the Japan Interchange Association in Taipei, as it has been doing every year for the past 20 years. This was part of an international campaign launched in conjunction with other countries, such as South Korea and the Philippines, where women suffered the same fate, Kang said.

Kang added that the foundation is calling for the establishment of a memorial hall dedicated to Taiwanese comfort women, which will serve as an important reminder of their sad and painful history.

“The Taipei City Government has made a verbal promise to set up a memorial hall in an historic building in the Datong District,” she said.

Like many other victims, Liu Huang said she was duped into service in Southeast Asia in 1942, being told that she would work as a nurse, but actually was forced into providing sex services to Japanese soldiers.

She was injured during a battle three days after she landed in Indonesia. As a result, she had to have a hysterectomy. She kept all these tribulations to herself after she returned to Taiwan in 1945.

However, decades later, Korean comfort women’s assertions that “it is not us, but the Japanese government that should feel ashamed” prompted Liu Huang to come forward and make a public accusation of atrocities by Japanese forces.

“I was the treasure of my parents, but I was hurt badly by the Japanese government,” Liu Huang said at the time.

“As the Japanese army robbed us of our virginity, it’s not too much to demand an apology from the Japanese government,” she said.