2018: Internat.Symposium - Voices of the "Comfort Women"
An invitation to New York
In 2017, the International Advisory Committee for UNESCO Memory of the World indefinitely postponed the decision for the “Comfort Women” dossier, - submitted by 14 civic organizations from 8 different countries. It was widely reported on the media that Japanese government has pressured UNESCO to block the nomination using the payment of the dues - the largest after the US - as a leverage to influence the UNESCO, the executive committee of which is changing the nomination rules to conform to Japan’s demand.
The International Joint Nomination Committee is hosting an international symposium in Tokyo this Saturday, Nov 10, where experts, scholars and activists from different countries will gather to discuss the current situation and strategy to register and preserve this crucial records.
Two speakers (Phyllis Kim of KAFC and Lillian Sing of CWJC) have been invited from the US to talk about the movement that has been growing in the US in recent years.
The event is free and open to the public.
Concept Note - New York Symposium - Documents concerning the “Comfort Women” accepted to the UNESCO Memory of the World.
In 1991, one ‘Comfort Woman’ from South Korea courageously spoke out and provided evidence of the sexual slavery she was forced into by the Japanese military during World War II. Since then, more survivors have come forward for their testimonies in South Korea and, subsequently, in Taiwan and the Netherlands. The voices and stories of the ‘Comfort Women’ had been silenced for decades, but they were finally heard. The civil society organizations from around the world, including those in Japan, have worked together to restore the dignity and honor of the victims, demand redress from Japan and establish peace.
The human rights movements surrounding the Japanese military ‘comfort women’ have contributed greatly to the extension of women’s rights in the Asian region. Leading these actions, the civil societies and the victims in South Korea, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Netherlands, and East Timor have come together to inscribe the documents of the Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’ on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. In May 2015, 14 civil society organizations from 8 countries formed the International Committee for Joint Nomination and, a year later, the committee submitted 2,744 documents entitled ‘Voices of the ’Comfort Women’, in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum London, for
inscription on the Register.
In dealing with the issue and the documents concerned, a few points should be noted. The ‘Comfort Women’ documents are dispersed due to large scale warfare by the Japanese military, and they are prone to loss because of the absence of a well-structured preservation system in some regions. Also, the relevant historical facts can be easily suppressed or concealed as they closely concern sexual violence against women. As is well known, the documents related to ‘Comfort Women’ manifest the gravest violation of human rights during warfare in the 20th century, and tell us the surviving victims have struggled to reveal the real truth and fight for restoration of their rights, in solidarity with women’s and human
rights communities of the world. In this sense, the ‘Comfort Women’ documents can be considered as one of the most significant records in human history.
Through a series of processes towards registration of the ‘Comfort Women’ documents, this symposium will reassess the role of the UNESCO Memory of the World programme established to preserve and protect the world’s documentary heritage from war, social upheaval, looting, illegal trading, destruction and inadequate housing. In line with this, there will be a discussion on how documents concerning the powerless and the weak, such as those regarding ‘Comfort Women’, should be preserved and protected against state and social violence. This symposium will provide a better understanding on the past, present and future of memorialization of the ‘Comfort Women’ in the wider context of human rights and peace, towards inscription of the ‘Comfort Women’ related documents on the UNESCO Memory of the World.
See the Programme of the symposium here