by Dasol Goh from Seoul, Korea

Just 1.2 km from Ningxia night market — a local market in Taipei, a small museum called ‘AMA Museum’ shares the stories of dozens of old Taiwanese ladies who came forward with their ordeals.

All of them are survivors of sex slavery as “comfort women” by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War 2.

Like hundreds of thousands of girls in the military brothels run by the Japanese Empire, 59 Taiwanese young women were coerced into sexually catering to Japanese soldiers every day. Quite a few of them were children of the low-income class, who had been searching for a job to support their families.

They have been talked into going to military brothels, believing they would have a chance to earn money by working at factories; Some were abducted by the Imperial Japanese army.

All girls in the military brothels forcefully catered to dozens of Japanese soldiers, even on their periods. They’ve been threatened by men with knives and guns, and routinely beaten. When girls get pregnant after being raped, the Imperial Japanese Army forces them to carry out abortions, even murdering them in some cases.

From the 1930s to 1945, the Japanese Empire established military brothels in several Asian countries. Roughly 200,000 women, mostly teenage girls in Korea and mainland China, were sexually enslaved by the Japanese Empire.

Atrocities of the Japanese Empire were revealed in 1991, when Kim Hak-soon, one of the survivors of sex slaves in South Korea, revealed atrocities of the Imperial Japanese Army, after an interview with local broadcasts.

Since then, survivors of sex slaves in many countries, including South Korea, the Philippines, and the Netherlands, testified about sex crimes by the Japanese Empire.

Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, a civic group for women’s rights, found that 59 Taiwanese women were coerced into being sex slaves during the wartime.

In 1999, the foundation filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government, urging Tokyo to take responsibility. The Foundation established ‘AMA Museum’ in 2016. AMA Museum shares the lives of survivors, focusing on recovering from traumas caused by brutal wartime crimes.

The Japanese government has yet to atone for the wartime sex crimes.

Indeed, the government in Tokyo once admitted the existence of sex slaves in 1993, after denying the sex crimes. But, later, Tokyo refuted claims of its atrocities again, including the existence of military brothels run by the Japanese armies.

Moreover, the late Shinzo Abe, former prime minister of Japan, and far-right wingers claimed that “all victims were prostitutes who’ve been eager to make a couple of bucks by working in the sex trade”. Still, the Japanese government turns a blind eye to the sex slave issue.

“I hate the Japanese government.”; “Japan destroyed my dignity. Even five decades passed, nothing can relieve my mental pain.” These are what survivors of sex slaves said.

AMA Museum says, “Let the scars of history be the cornerstone of peace”.

Without a sincere apology, no one can establish peace and soothe the pains of survivors.

Dasol Goh is a translator for the Korean bureau of WIRED magazine and previously worked as a contributing writer for Asia Times.

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