We have gathered from Korea, Japan, the United States, Canada, and other countries around the world to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict and to examine how to teach future generations to correctly remember the lives and history of the Japanese military sexual slavery victims and to resolve and prevent the sexual violence which still persists across the world, and to discuss how to promote this education and carry on its legacy.
Since Kim Hak-soon halmoni’s public testimony on August 14, 1991, approximately 30 years ago, the Japanese military sexual slavery victims have campaigned around the world, demanding that the Japanese government admit its war crimes and carry out its legal responsibilities, including an official apology and reparations. Victims also have left a message for the future generation: “We must let the people around the world know our issue, so that there would not be another victim like us.”
It was the victims’ courageous testimonies and activities towards resolution of the Japanese military sexual slavery issue that created a change in the Japanese government, which previously did not educate their students of Japan’s act of aggression and crimes during WWII accurately. The international efforts of educators and activists made it possible for the history and issues of Japanese military sex slaves to be included in the curriculum and taught.
Nevertheless, due to distorted perceptions of history, the Japanese military sexual slavery issue is no longer being taught in Japan, the country that perpetrated the crimes but still denies its responsibilities. In many countries, the Japanese military sexual slavery issue is yet to be included in textbooks or taught in classrooms.
Education on the Japanese military sexual slavery issue is not only about simple delivery of historical facts, but also about learning about the persisting structural social problems that lead to sexual violence in conflict. It is also about contributing to social changes which establish and spread the awareness on women’s human rights and peace.
In fact, from the last 30 years of the victims’ resilient efforts, we have come to witness “hope” in teenagers and citizens, both at home and abroad, who have come to understand the reality of the Japanese military sexual slavery and sexual violence in conflict and learn the importance of human rights and peace, and have become the main agents in the movement for resolution of the Japanese military sexual slavery and sexual violence in conflict issues.
Therefore, we, who gathered here today, remember and reflect the voices of Japanese military sexual slavery victims who have lived as women’s human rights activists to demand the following:
In addition, we, teachers and education activists, resolve to carry out all our responsibilities to ensure that 1) the Japanese military sexual slavery issue is properly taught as a women’s human rights and peace issue and 2) the Japanese military sexual slavery issue is justly resolved and war disappears on the earth to create a society where women’s human rights and peace are guaranteed. We also resolve to continue our solidarity with other teachers, so that the Japanese military sexual slavery history is taught in more countries around the world.