ESJF’s decolonization study tour to Germany from June 19-23 was packed with important learning and experiences reflecting multiple perspectives on Germany’s colonization of countries in Africa from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Although they differ in approaches, the movement to address Germany’s past wrongs was eye-opening. In addition to visiting museums, historical sites, and neighborhoods, we met inspiring decolonization activist groups, educators, and other professionals. ESJF thanks Korea Verband for making the necessary arrangements for this invaluable trip!
Image credit: Julia-Carla Schmidt, Korea Verband, & ESJF
On May 16, Sung visited Gijichon* Women’s Peace Museum-Seven Sisters and Sunlit Sisters’ Center in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. The survivors were busy preparing for the play, Off Limit, a story of their life journey, focusing on the present. The play will be held in July. During the discussion, referring to the Sept. 29 court case last year, one survivor said, “It was the happiest day of my life.”
On Sept. 29, 2022, South Korea’s highest court ordered the state to pay compensation to women who were forced or coerced into military sexual exploitation in the so-called “camptowns” or Gijichon that developed around U.S. military bases. Recognizing the state’s responsibility for encouraging and justifying the military exploitation, the court ordered the state to pay between 3 million and 7 million won (approximately $2,100–$4,900) in compensation each to a total of 95 former Gijichon women.
*South Korea is home to the largest U.S. foreign military installation. Structured sexual violence at so-called “camptowns” or Gijichon developed around U.S. military bases in South Korea after the Korean War (1950–53). To learn more about the connection between U.S. militarism and sexual exploitation in South Korea, read this article from ESJF’s intern, Esmé Lee-Gardner’s brief research, U.S. Militarism and the Asian Diaspora.
In Osaka, home to the largest Korean Japanese community, Sung learned about ethnic discrimination against Korean descendants in Japan. The Osaka Korea Town Museum, which opened on April 29 last month, preserves the history of oppression and resistance of the Korean descendants in Japan.
Chungja Bang, from the Osaka-based Japanese Military “Comfort Women” Issue Kansai Network (in short, Kansai Network), provided a guided museum tour and other historical sites related to Japanese colonialism. The Kansai Network supported the effort to install the San Francisco “comfort women” memorial, Women’s Column of Strength. In November 2017, the Kansai Network led a petition campaign to support the adoption of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Resolution 415-17. This petition campaign demonstrated that the Osaka mayor’s intention to sever sister-city ties with SF and his opposition to the SF “comfort women” memorial did not reflect the wishes of all Osaka residents. More than a hundred Osaka residents and thirty-seven organizations endorsed the petition, which was then presented to Mayor Lee on Nov. 21, 2017, along with messages of support from more than twenty Osaka residents and major labor unions in Osaka, Tokyo, and Chiba. On Nov. 22, 2017, Mayor Lee signed Resolution No. 415-17, retroactively authorizing the San Francisco Arts Commission to accept a gift of the SF memorial, Women's Column of Strength.
Sung met other activists in Osaka working to eliminate discrimination in Japan, including Chanyu Ko, a documentary filmmaker. Ko’s second documentary, We Are Human! (2022) was nominated for the March 2023 NY International Film Awards’ Best Documentary Feature finalist category. His first documentary, Korean Schools in Japan (2019), received the 24th YWCA Justice and Peace Award for great media content in South Korea in 2020. Thanks to Hyon Tae Kim, executive director of the Korea NGO Center, and Kwang Min Kim, an activist and scholar, for sharing the history of the Korean Japanese diaspora in Osaka and their tireless work.
On May 10, Sung visited Chiba Korean Elementary and Middle School in Japan. Throughout the schools’ history, as with most Korean schools in Japan, this school has endured ongoing state-sanctioned educational injustices based on ethnicity. Since 2017, ESJF has been supporting Chiba Korean Elementary and Middle School. Marking our fifth consecutive year of support, beginning in 2021, ESJF has hosted a student art competition held solely for the school’s students, with prizes awarded.
At Korea University in Seoul, Sung gave a lecture during the graduate course Media Philosophy. The topic was pan-Asian collective activism in SF as the key factor in installing the SF “comfort women” memorial and educational initiatives. This course, taught by Assistant Professor Haerin Shin, examines various mechanisms of alienating people labeled as minorities and the effects of this process on the larger society. Many personal stories, questions, and critical insights made the discussion highly engaging.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held its annual session from March 6 to 17 at the UN headquarters in New York. At the same time as the official meetings for UN CSW member countries, women from all over the world gathered, in-person and virtually, to think about and discuss this year’s theme: Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. For the first time, this year’s meeting was hybrid.
At the NGO CSW Forum, the US Women’s Caucus at the UN (USWC) held two events. The first was an in-person event on March 9 with the topic of “US and Civil Society at the UN CSW: The Back Story.” The second topic was discussed at an online event on March 14 and was titled “Gender Digital Divide in the US: Problems, Promises, and Progress.” Both events were a solid success. A big thanks goes out to all speakers and participants! Sung is a Caucus member.
Recording of USWC's March 14 virtual event at the CSW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyNlyQMWZvQ
Click here for this and past years’ Agreed Conclusions, which are the international outcomes of negotiations among the UN CSW member states to advance policies toward women and girls. Click here for the UN Women’s press release on the conclusion of CSW 67. Click here for “Explanation of Position on the Agreed Conclusions of the 2023 CSW” by Sofija Korać, Senior Human Rights and Health Adviser at US Mission to the UN and US Advisory for Economic and Social Affairs.
On March 6, the West Hollywood City Council adopted a resolution opposing the plan by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government to discharge wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant into the Pacific Ocean. When the Fukushima nuclear disaster occurred in 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima, Japan, radioactive material caused significant human suffering and rendered large stretches of land uninhabitable because TEPCO and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency failed to design the plant to withstand a massive tsunami. This year on Jan. 13, Japan repeated its intention to release Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant wastewater into the Pacific Ocean beginning this spring or summer and to continue for the next few decades. The first official announcement was made on April 13, 2021.
Oceans are connected, and the dumped wastewater in the Pacific Ocean will flow to U.S. waters. In the U.S., the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) or Federal Water Pollution Control Act 1972 regulates the discharges of pollutants into the waters of the U.S. and creates quality standards for surface waters. At a state level, the California Legislature enacted the California Coastal Sanctuary Act in 1994 (Statutes of 1994, Chapter 970) to protect the California coast. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must examine the TEPCO plan thoroughly to protect people and the environment.
As a grassroots effort, a group of U.S. organizations has launched the campaign “Send a Postcard to Japan” with the messages of your concerns over the discharge sent to Futaba-machi Mayor Izawa, Okuma-machi Mayor Yoshida, and the Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori in Japan. The defunct nuclear power plant is located in Futaba-machi and Okuma-machi. To join this campaign, contact Tsukuru Fors at firstname.lastname@example.org at the Pacific Asian Nuclear-Free Peace Alliance.