Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working as CAST’s liaison with the Museum of Tolerance for our participation in their event on Korean “Comfort Women.” Kim Bok-Dong was forced into sexual slavery at the age of 15 at the hands of Japanese Imperialist soldiers before and during WWII. On Monday night, she spoke about her experience as well as her current fight for historical justice and an official apology from Japan. It was amazing to simply hear her speak, and it felt really good to have people come up to the CAST booth afterwards wanting to learn more about ending modern day slavery and telling me that they had heard about the event through CAST’s social media.
At the event, I ran an outreach booth for CAST and helped coordinate one of our Survivor Advisory and Leadership Caucus Member’s participation. At the end of Kim Bok-Dong’s speech, Angela sat on stage and said a few words in solidarity with Kim Bok-Dong. She said that Kim Bok-Dong inspired her even more to continue to fight against human trafficking. Her words reflected the great respect that I believe all the audience members had for the tiny Korean woman sitting on stage. Advocating for any cause takes an immense amount of energy. The fact that Kim Bok-Dong continues to do so into her late 80s filled me with both admiration and sadness.
On one hand, it is amazing that she continues to fight. On the other, I wouldn’t want my grandmother to have to continue to speak out over and over about a terrible crime that happened to her just so people would believe it happened. How are we supposed to appropriately deal with our problems in the present, if we can’t face our problems in the past? If governments around the world can’t put their pride and fear – or whatever it is – aside to face their past, how are they going to properly face their present mistakes and issues at hand?
Truly horrific events occurred in WWII. There is no question about that, and there is truly nothing any government can do now to truly make up for those events. Still, recognizing that these events occurred and that they should not happen in the future, can prevent them from happening again (or at least we can hope). These women, who are now older than my grandmother, deserve redress and an official apology. Japan has been determined not to claim it as a government issue, but the fact is that even if it was a civilian issue at the time, the government should still take responsibility for it now.
The talk last night was truly inspirational, but it also filled me with fear. I truly hope that by the time I am Kim Bok-Dong’s age, I am at least fighting for different issues than I am now.