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Taiwan Mourns as Last Surviving “Comfort Women” of Wartime Sexual Slavery Passes Away at 92

TAIPEI – A painful chapter in history has come to a close as Taiwan announced the passing of its last known survivor of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery at the age of 92, highlighting the enduring significance of the “comfort women” issue. Described as a “wound in human history,” over 200,000 women were subjected to sexual enslavement by Japan’s military during World War II, primarily from South Korea and various other parts of Asia.

A Lingering Tragedy: Taiwan’s Experience

During Japan’s occupation of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945, nearly 60 brave women had come forward over the years as survivors, according to Taipei’s Women’s Rescue Foundation. However, estimates suggest that the actual number of victims in Taiwan exceeds 2,000, underscoring the extent of the tragedy.

Comfort Women
Image: A protest organized by the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (婦女救援基金會) outside of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (日本台灣交流協會), Japan’s unofficial representative office in Taiwan (August 14, 2018). The protestors sought to call attention to the legacy of Taiwan’s “comfort women,” and to demand an apology from the Japanese government. (Source: Ama Museum).

End of an Era: Last Survivor’s Demise

Regrettably, the Women’s Rescue Foundation announced on Monday that the island’s last known survivor, affectionately referred to as “grandma,” passed away on May 10 at the age of 92. This solemn event has further intensified the gravity of the “comfort women” issue and its indelible impact on the affected individuals and their families.

A statue commemorating the sexual slavery of women by the Japanese army in World War II was publicly unveiled in July 2013 in Glendale, Calif.

Demand for Recognition and Redress

Jeff Liu, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed the government’s unwavering commitment to the dignity and welfare of former Taiwanese survivors. He emphasized that the issue is a profound scar on human history, stressing the need for the Japanese government to acknowledge Taiwan’s demands for an apology and compensation for the “comfort women” and their families.

Contentious Reckoning: Japan’s Response and Global Implications

The legacy of Japan’s wartime enslavement of women continues to be a highly charged and politically sensitive topic across Asia. While the Japanese government has acknowledged the past atrocities, critics argue that officials have yet to fully accept responsibility for the systemic enslavement of women. Japan maintains that the victims were recruited by civilians and that military brothels were commercially operated.

President Ma meets Mrs. Zheng Chen Tao, who was forced to become a comfort woman by Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. (2014/04/17) | Photo by 總統府

Seeking Justice: Taiwan’s Struggle for Compensation

Within Taiwan, the issue has sparked impassioned protests, with women’s groups tirelessly advocating for compensation for the survivors. To date, South Korea remains the only country that has formally received such reparations. The Women’s Rescue Foundation affirmed its unwavering commitment to seeking justice for the victims, vowing to continue demanding compensation from Japan, even in the absence of the last surviving “grandma.”

Honoring the Memory and Preserving History

As the grandmothers who endured unimaginable suffering pass away, the Women’s Rescue Foundation expressed its conviction that their spirit will endure in the hearts of the Taiwanese people. The organization remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the inclusion of the history of Taiwanese survivors in school textbooks, emphasizing that this crucial chapter must not fade away despite the inevitable passage of time.

In commemorating the last “grandma,” Taiwan renews its resolve to keep the memories alive and advocate for justice on behalf of all victims, ensuring that the haunting history of the “comfort women” is never forgotten.

© 2023 AFP

Noah

You see, my love for Japan is not only based on personal experience; it's based on a deep admiration for Japanese culture, history, and traditions. Thank you, Japan, for being a constant source of inspiration, joy, and wonder in my life. I may never be able to express my love for Japan in person, but I hope that through my blog and my writing, I can share a small piece of my admiration and devotion with the world.

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