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DTLA demonstration calls for Japanese apology for WWII sex slavery

By Hayley Fox
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012, at 04:50PM

Protesters gathered on Grand Avenue on Wednesday outside the Japanese Consulate.

A group of demonstrators gathered outside the Japanese Consulate on Wednesday in downtown L.A. to request a formal apology from the Japanese government for their use of "comfort women" in WWII. More than 200,000 women -- many Korean -- were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military in the 1930s and 40s, the protesters explained.

The event was held in solidarity with a similar event that's been held weekly in Korea since 1992. The DTLA protest also comes days before the five year anniversary of the U.S. government passing an official resolution asking the Japanese government to apologize for their wrongdoings to these "comfort women."

But there has yet to be an apology.

"They're steadfast that these women were working and they were prostitutes, and in fact that is not true," said activist Jihee Kim Huh. "They were taken against their will and used as sexual slaves by the Imperial Army of Japan."

Huh said it wasn't just Korean women who were subject to this abuse, but Chinese, Filipino and even Australian women were mistreated.

Bok-dong Kim, 86, was one such women forced into sexual slavery. She was drafted to the Japanese army at the age of 15 and became a sex slave at bases in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It wasn't until 1992 that Kim reported herself as a victim. She flew in from Seoul this morning to attend the event and planned on marching into the downtown consulate once again asking for a formal apology.

Julie Kim, 25, immigrated to the U.S. from Korea and was one of the youngest people at the rally. She said that living in L.A., she often felt disconnected from her home country, but seeing 86-year-old Kim was witnessing "living history."

Sean Kim, a coordinator at the Korean American Forum of California, said sexual war crimes are an ongoing issue and need to continue to be addressed. He said that there's been "so much war" since WWII, where women are still being raped "by soldiers and government."

Wednesday's protest also included the reading of a petition to "demand justice" for the sexual slavery survivors, as well as plans to erect four memorials throughout Los Angeles to honor women who were subjected to these abuses.

*Jihee Kim Huh is also a board member at KPCC 89.3


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