Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Dutch Comfort Woman responds to the Japan-Korea agreement

Chung Sung-Jun—Getty Images
Girl Statue symbolizing the "comfort women"
in front of the Japanese Embassy
on December 28, 2015, Seoul, South Korea 

‘Comfort Women’ Have Waited a Long Time for an Apology

Time, Dec. 29, 2015

by Carol Ruff

Carol Ruff is co-producer of the documentary film 50 Years of Silence, based on her mother's memoir of the same name.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met to discuss the issue of Korean 'comfort women' in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.

My 93-year-old mother was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during World War II. She has waited too long

What wonderful news it is that South Korea and Japan have finally reached a formal deal over “comfort women,” those forced into Japanese military brothels during World War II. Japan offered an apology and a $8.3 million aid fund for the former sex slaves.


My mother, a Dutch woman, Jan Ruff O’Herne, was a former “comfort woman” in Java in 1944. When the Japanese invaded Java in 1942, my mother, who was living in Java with her Dutch colonial family, was interned in Ambarawa Prison Camp along with her mother and two younger sisters. When she was 21 years old, she was taken out and forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military, where she was repeatedly beaten and raped.

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According to historians, tens of thousands of women, including up to 300 Dutch women [current research puts the Dutch figure over 1,000], were forced to work in Japanese military brothels. My mother, who is about to turn 93, and so many of the former “comfort women” have waited a long time for an official apology and compensation. My mother was shocked and insulted in 2007 when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that enforced sexual slavery never happened and that the women were all volunteers.

My mother welcomes any agreement that might ease the pain and suffering of the “comfort women.” She is pleased that even the Abe government has acknowledged that the Japanese military was involved in creating the “comfort women” system and that the current government is aware of “responsibilities.”

I now wonder if the Japanese government will negotiate similar agreements with the victims of other countries. My mother has never received an apology, nor a letter, nor any funds “for recovering her honor and dignity and healing the psychological wounds.”

She says: “All of us deserve an apology and compensation. It is our right.”

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On July 26, 2014, Mrs. O'Herne sent a letter to Pope Francis who was to visit South Korea and meet with several Korean Comfort Women. Although asked by the women to join them, her health prevented her from traveling to Seoul. She sent the letter below, instead.

Your Holiness, Pope Francis,

I feel very honoured to be able to send a message to you. I admire the wonderful work you do for the church and all mankind.

My name is Jeanne Ruff-O’Herne. I am a devout Catholic. During WW II I became a so-called Comfort Woman. I know you understand the immense suffering the C.W. endured at the brutal hands of the Japanese military. Like Jesus, I am able to forgive.


Only in forgiveness can healing be found. I have forgiven the Japanese for what they did to me, but I can never forget. In suffering I came very close to Christ, and good has come out for me after all the suffering.

I wish you God’s grace and blessing. Let us pray for our sins, your obedient child in Christ.

Jeanne

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