The 2021 International Seminar on Peace in Asia and the Role of Women was held in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 25.
Background: This year’s international seminar, held in-person and virtually, was a continuation of the May 1991 conference Peace in Asia and the Role of Women. The first meeting in Tokyo brought together women leaders from South Korea, North Korea, and Japan. The second meeting took place on Nov. 25, 1991, in Seoul, and 15 women representatives from North Korea crossed the DMZ to attend the meeting. In September 1992, 30 women representatives from South Korea went to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. In April 1993, they had their fourth meeting back in Tokyo.
Then in early 2000, representatives from South and North Korea and Japan actively participated in the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery held in Tokyo. The International Organizing Committee, chaired by representatives from South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, drafted the Charter of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal 2000 for the Trial of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery.
This was also the same year that South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jun-Il met in Pyongyang from June 13 to June 15. It was the first inter-Korean summit since the Korean War ended in 1953. On June 15, they adopted the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration seeking peace in the Korean peninsula.
In October of that year, in response to persistent advocacy from women’s rights groups and civil society, the UN Security Council adopted the landmark Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. This resolution calls for women’s equal participation in all UN peace and security efforts.
The peace movement continued in 2002, when 357 women representatives in South Korea, 300 women representatives in North Korea, and 20 overseas women representatives met at Mt. Kumgang in North Korea to participate in a joint event called Women, Power of Peace.
From Feb. 12–13, 2019, eight women representatives from South Korea, five from North Korea, and three from overseas again met at Mt. Kumgang. As one of the follow-up actions from this meeting, organizations from North and South Korea, along with overseas organizations, issued the Joint Statement Calling for Resolution of the Issue of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery from the Women of North and South Korea, and those Standing in Solidarity to Commemorate the Centenary of the March 1st Movement, which ran as an ad in The Washington Post on March 1, 2019, to commemorate the centenary of the March 1st Movement.
ESJF, one of the co-signers of this joint statement, helped translate the statement.
This year, eleven peace-seeking NGOs—from South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China, and Canada—co-hosted the 30th anniversary of the Women Leading Peace movement on the exact date that the North Korean women leaders crossed the DMZ to attend the second Peace in Asia and the Role of Women conference held in Seoul.
Recalling the commitments of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, they agreed to carry it out actively in Asia through various channels, including establishing a consulting body for women’s peace and security as well as addressing the climate crisis in Asia. They also voiced the necessity of including the North Korean women to this platform.
Forgotten by Eun Seo Kim
At a recent international competition, eight U.S. students received awards. The 2021 International Youth Artwork Competition was held to support the registration of “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’” into the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. The competition was hosted by the Masan, Changwon, and Jinhae Civil Assembly for Japanese Military Sexual Slaves (Machangjin, for short), an organization actively involved in amplifying the voices of “comfort women” in Pusan, South Korea.
About 400 entries were submitted from across South Korea, the U.S., the Philippines, and Taiwan. A committee of fifteen judges selected student work. Out of the international entries, Eun Seo Kim (9th grade) received the second-highest award, the Autonomy award, with her painting, Forgotten. Eun Seo is a member of the Hwarang Youth Foundation.
Four members of Speaking of War received the third-highest awards, Peace awards, with their writing submission, The Memory Post. They are: Irene Oh (12th grade); Eunice Oh (12th grade); Felicia Lee (11th grade); and Raeeun Kim (11th grade).
Three other members of the Hwarang Youth Foundation received Justice awards for their writing. They are: Arissa Jeong (12th grade), We Will Remember You; Logan Byeon (11th grade), Remembrance of the “Comfort Women”; and Junhyeok Park (10th grade), “Flowers” Who Couldn’t Bloom—A Story About “Comfort Women.”
ESJF was privileged to be a co-organizer for this meaningful event, and we offer our warmest congratulations to all the awardees for their thoughtful and talented work, along with all the youth members of the Hawrang Youth Foundation and Speaking of War.
We also thank Machangjin for hosting impactful international campaigns that worked to raise awareness about registering the “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’” into the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme!
Sung Participated in the Panel Discussion, Making Art about Horrific Subjects, at the Florence Gallery’s “Comfort Women” Exhibition, Evanston, IL
On Oct. 10, Sung was one of three panelists who spoke on making art about horrific subjects, namely “comfort women” history. In her talk, she included efforts made in SF to preserve “comfort women” history and her personal connection to “comfort women” history and issues. At the panel discussion, Sung also shared two examples of three-dimensional books compiled from ESJF’s communal art project, My Message to Kim Hak-Soon Halmoni. Close to 200 messages were printed in Korean and English and then pasted on seven different butterfly designs. This “comfort women” exhibition at the Florence Gallery features the artwork of international artist and educator Rose Camastro-Pritchett and is on view until Oct. 27. Rose’s talk and her artwork focus on bringing dignity and strength to survivors while encouraging visitors to make emotional connections with them. Another panelist, Jeri Frederickson, a poet and creative director of Awakenings Gallery in Chicago, enriched the discussion by sharing her personal experiences with survivors and students. Awakenings is a non-profit organization dedicated to making visible the artistic expression of survivors of sexual violence. Florence Gallery Director Lisa Degliantoni moderated the session.
The gallery was packed with audience members, some of whom had to stand throughout the two hours of panel discussion, and contributed to a flow of important questions and comments that kept the discussion lively and enriching.
“Comfort Women” History and Issues—both teacher and student resource guides—are included in this exhibition, marking the first time for these resource guides to be on exhibition display.
On Oct. 2, at a webinar with Hwarang Youth Foundation members, Sung introduced “comfort women” history, focusing on efforts made by local community members in San Francisco and Glendale to install memorials. The Hwarang Youth Foundation’s teenage members made the webinar highly interactive with their insightful, multi-layered questions.
On Oct. 1, during the course Women in Wartime: Memorializing Conflicts in the Pacific Rim at St. Mary’s College, Sung discussed the significance of countering sexual violence by examining the transnational efforts made by Japanese military sexual enslavement survivors and their supporters. Specifically, Sung discussed efforts to preserve “comfort women” history through education and the San Francisco memorial, Women’s Column of Strength.
This fall, ESJF is a community partner to the course Women in Wartime: Memorializing Conflicts in the Pacific Rim as a research supervisor at California’s St. Mary’s College. In this course, Sung supervises two teams working on 1) the Japanese military’s sexual slavery system in Asia before and during WWII and systemic, gender-based violence against women and girls in Afghanistan; 2) governmental policies and the oppression of Asian Pacific American women and girls.
St. Mary’s College is the first university to adopt the student edition as one of its required course books.
As a guest lecturer, Sung Sohn discussed “comfort women” history and historical denialism illustrated through Ramseyer’s article at a graduate seminar, Society and Culture in the Contemporary Asia Pacific, at the University of San Francisco. Russ Lowe, ESJF co-founder, shared his experience witnessing the termination of the SF and Osaka sister-city ties.
Discussion participants’ insightful comments and questions made the seminar thoroughly engaging and moving.