Finding closure for Japan's wartime 'comfort women'

Why does Japan's history of sexual slavery continue to create division?

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  1. The comfort women issue has been the centre of heated debates in Japan and across the region. Some disagree over the numbers and circumstances while others claim the women were volunteers rather than sex slaves. For nearly 50 years, those victimised by the comfort women practice kept silent until a Korean survivor made her story public in 1991. Today there are only 53 living former comfort women registered with the South Korean government. Women and girls were also taken from areas that are now Indonesia, China, the Philippines, North Korea and others.
  2. In the multimedia project "Comfort Women Wanted", Korean-born artist Chang-Jin Lee gathered personal stories from survivors and those who witnessed atrocities:
  3. Chang-Jin Lee, Comfort Women Wanted
  4. According to testimonies, women and girls as young as 12-years-old, were held for years or months in so-called "comfort stations" throughout the Asia Pacific region. As a result of the physical abuse they endured, many comfort women could not bear children after the war.
  5. A Short Story on Comfort Women
  6. Survivors and activists demand an official apology and reparations from the Japanese government. Since January 1992, weekly "Wednesday demonstrations" have been held in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.
  7. Online, others deny the existence of sex slaves and do not think the Japanese government's apology is needed:
  8. The comfort women issue made international headlines again in April during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States. Survivors and activists who demanded a formal apology were disappointed as Abe did not mention the controversial topic during his speech to the US Congress. In an interview with the Washington Post, Abe restated his support to the Kono statement, the apology that was issued by the Japanese government in 1993.
  9. While travelling around the US, Abe was met by protesters:
  10. Abe's government has been criticised for seeking to rewrite history with the goal of bolstering Japan's image regionally and worldwide.
  11. Where do you stand on the issue? How should Japan respond to the comfort women controversy? Tweet #AJStream.

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