On Wednesday September 7, as with every first Wednesday of the month, New York and New Jersey Korean residents gathered in front of the Consulate General of Japan to stand in solidarity with the survivors of sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. On this day, however, they were joined by special guests from Korea who came by way of bicycles.

Han Kyul Kim, Hyun Gu Kim, and Tae Woo Kim representing the Triple A Project, arrived in the U.S. last June with the intent of raising awareness about the history of women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II and many of the survivors who are still fighting for justice. They had biked over 3,000 miles across the country from Los Angeles to New York City over the course of three months. Along the way, they stopped by many cities including Dallas, Chicago, and Washington D.C. to meet with members of the local Korean communities, as well as to inform the public about the “comfort women” survivors and their struggle for justice.

The cross-country bike tour was organized by the Triple A Project , a human rights campaign initiated to engage people around the world to join “comfort women” survivors in their effort to cast a light on their particular history of enduring wartime sexual slavery and hold Japan accountable. The cyclists work towards three goals: “Admit,” “Apologize,” and “Accompany.” They demand the Japanese government admit that the Japanese military forced women from countries under Japan’s colonial rule to conditions of sexual slavery and rape during World War II. They also demand the Japanese government give an official apology to the “comfort women” victims for having to endure such a serious human rights crime. And the last goal is to move people to accompany the “comfort women” survivors and join their struggle for justice.

In 2015, the Triple A Project sent two Korean cyclists to ride across the U.S. This year, the project, referred to as “Triple A Project Season 2,” sent three cyclists to journey across the U.S. with the objective of educating U.S. residents about the “comfort women” issue. When asked about the responses they received from the various locals they met along the way, Tae Woo Kim said, “Many people did not know about the ‘comfort women’ issue. To many, the term ‘comfort women’ was completely new.” Kim also talked about how they framed this issue as not one solely between Japan and Korea but also one concerning human rights and women’s rights around the world. Kim expressed that a significant number of Americans responded positively, even committing to support and stand with the survivors towards resolving this issue.

For their last stop on the tour before returning to Korea, the three cyclists joined New York and New Jersey Korean residents in their rally to raise the voices of “comfort women” survivors and demand justice from the Japanese government. On September 7, the Triple A Project members presented a declaration demanding that the Japanese and South Korean governments reverse their December 28 decision to agree on an accord intended to “settle” the “comfort women” issue.

Last December, the South Korean government and the Japanese government settled on an agreement to “resolve” the “comfort women” issue without any input from the survivors. The December agreement yielded a proposal for the South Korean government to establish the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, which would use a lump-sum donation given by the Japanese government to support “comfort women” victims financially. The Japanese government insists the donations are “support funds” or “consolation money”and refuses to recognize the comfort women’s demand for reparations. The two governments also determined that this accord would be final and irreversible. The implication of such an agreement is that Japan would be exonerated from any legal responsibility for the sexual crimes committed during WWII.

Since the December agreement, comfort women survivors and civil society groups, including the Triple A Project, have demanded the two governments reverse their decision and issue a proper official apology with appropriate reparations. During their visit to New York City, the Triple A project members attempted to deliver written demands of the “comfort women” survivors to the Japanese Consulate of New York. However, they were not able to deliver the documents directly to the consulate office, as they were blocked entry and escorted out of the commercial building where the consulate office operates. They were only permitted to hand over the documents to a consulate staff member at the entrance to the building.

 

Every Wednesday at the Japanese Consulate

Koreans living in New York and New Jersey hold rallies in front of the Consulate General of Japan in New York City on the first Wednesday of every month. These monthly Wednesday demonstrations are intended to show support for those who have gathered to protest every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul since January of 1992. The weekly demonstrations are known as the Wednesday Demonstrations for the resolution of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery (“Comfort Women”) issue (or simply as the Wednesday Demonstrations).

The Wednesday Demonstrations in Seoul are hosted by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeong-Dae-Hyup or Korean Council) every week. The Korean Council states on their website, “The Wednesday Demonstrations have turned into a place for solidarity between citizens and the victims, a living site for history education, a platform for peace and women’s human rights, bringing people together in solidarity beyond gender, age, borders, and ideologies.”

 

By ZoominKorea staff

 

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