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Posted : 2014-07-16 20:34
Updated : 2014-07-16 20:48

New gender minister focuses on comfort women issue

By Kim Se-jeong

Kim Hee-jung
New Gender Equality and Family Minister Kim Hee-jung vowed Wednesday to strengthen collaboration with the international community to resolve the "comfort women" issue.

In her inaugural speech, Kim said resolving the issue was inexorably linked to boosting the rights of women.

"I will work closely with countries to boost women's rights. Securing their help in resolving the comfort women issue will be part of these efforts," said the former two-term lawmaker.

In June last year as a member of the National Assembly's Gender Equality and Family Committee, Kim visited Japan along with three fellow lawmakers. There, she met with Japanese activists helping the victims of sexual slavery and a Japanese parliamentarian member to discuss the problem.

The ministry will submit documents and photos on comfort women to the UNESCO Memory of the World. Kim has also led a move to set up a subcommittee on comfort women issues at the National Assembly.

"Kim clearly understands the gravity of the issue as a woman, and has worked to address it," said Chung Kwang-woo, her secretary.

Under Kim, who served as a presidential spokeswoman during the Lee Myung-bak administration, the ministry is expected to be more vocal in raising awareness of the subject abroad.

Earlier this year, the ministry helped get Korean graphic comics depicting the plight of the victims exhibited at an international festival in Angouleme, France. The media attention intensified as Japan allegedly attempted to cancel the exhibition, resulting in former minister Cho Yoon-sun flying there.

The comics were also exhibited in different parts of Korea, and will be shown in the U.S. later this month.

The ministry also takes care of survivors and keeps their testimony on record.

Comfort women refer to the victims of sexual slavery under the Japanese military before and during the Second World War. Besides tens of thousands of Korean women, many from southeastern countries, China and Europe were also conscripted to provide sex for Japanese soldiers. The exact number of those is unavailable.


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