Following are excerpts from President Moon’s speech at the first official national ceremony to honor “comfort women” victims— the teenage girls and women forced to serve the Imperial Japanese Army as sex slaves.
Fellow Koreans, comfort women victims of the Japanese military and their relatives, other relevant officials,
The Comfort Women Memorial Day has been designated as a national commemorative day, and the first official national ceremony is being held today to mark the occasion.
Twenty-seven years ago today, Kim Hak-sun, a comfort woman victim, went public with her tragic story for the first time among surviving victims. During the following nearly three decades, noble and courageous acts by elderly victims have continued. Their courage has made this meaningful day possible.
Their lost years are a period that we must never forget. The Republic of Korea is greatly indebted to and has learned a lot from them.
The comfort women issue has long been covered up and denied even after the country was liberated. Not being able to share their ordeals even with their family members, the elderly victims had to carry on with their lives bottling up their pain. This situation arose because their own country chose to avert its eyes rather than warmly embrace them.
It was not the country but the victims themselves that helped the truth come to the surface. Breaking the wall of silence, they began to give testimonies as to what they had suffered and appealed on the streets, in lecture halls, in courtrooms, in Korea, in Japan and in many other countries.
Our society's interest in the issue has soared greatly, and the scope of our solidarity has broadened significantly, thereby encouraging many other victims in other countries. On top of this, such progress has been of great help for increasing the international community's interest in and facilitating pertinent discussions about women's rights and sexual violence during wartime.
The issue of comfort women is not simply a historical matter between Korea and Japan but rather a matter of sexual violence against women during wartime as well as the universal human rights of women.
Almost every year, resolutions are adopted and recommendations are issued to call for the resolution of the comfort women issue by all human rights-related organizations under the United Nations and many countries across the globe.
Now, our elderly victims are lending a helping hand to victims of sexual violence in wartime through the "Butterfly Fund," going beyond their demand to restore their honor. They say, "We understand how much pain they are experiencing as we went through the suffering ourselves." It resonates so broadly. The victims have sublimated their pain and suffering and are putting their philosophy of human rights and peace into practice even at this moment.
Now we have to move beyond the pain of the past and put the value of global women’s rights and peace into practice. It is our duty to rectify the history that overlooked the truth and establish justice.
I hope that this issue will not lead to a diplomatic dispute between Korea and Japan. Nor do I see this is an issue that can be solved through diplomatic solutions between the two countries.
It is an issue that can be solved only when the world, including ourselves and Japan, deeply reflects on sexual violence against all women and human rights problems and comes to a strong awareness and learns a lesson in a way that prevents this from ever repeating again.
This is the intent behind designating the
Japanese Military Comfort Women Victims Memorial Day as a national commemorative day and holding the first official ceremony today.
I hope that by holding the ceremony, the people will be able to deeply empathize with the pain and voices of the victims. I hope that the surviving victims will stay healthy and with us for a long time.
Thank you very much.