To point out the fight of "comfort women" for a good number of decades, an 80-year old South Korean set himself on fire on Wednesday during a protest calling for Japan to apologize for forcing Korean girls and women to work in military brothels during the war ahead of the Aug. 15 anniversary of World War II.
Around 2,000 demonstrators took part in Wednesday's protests, including three of the 47 known surviving Korean "comfort women". The wounded man identified as Choi Hyun-yeol by a civic group which he was affiliated with, was in critical condition with burns to his neck, face, and upper torso, a hospital professor said.
At the request of Japanese military authorities, the "comfort women" (euphemistically known as ianfu in Japanese) were forced to provide sexual services to Japanese officers and soldiers in subjugated territories for a certain period during World War II.
For decades, former comfort women from occupied countries, including Korea, China, and the Philippines have been fighting for recognition and compensation for everything they endured at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. Now, they are asking younger generations to carry on their fight.
After the First Shanghai Incident in 1932, the war spread to Shanghai. The first comfort station was established there for a Japanese naval brigade. The number of comfort stations increased rapidly after the Second Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1937. The number of comfort women is estimated to vary with numbers ranging from 20,000 to 410,000 in various sources.
The protestor Choi's father was a member of an anti-Japanese independence movement in 1932 and he was jailed for a year, according to a statement posted online by the civic group, which advocates for the rights of forced labor victims. Choi became a supporter of the group last year.
South Korea's ties with Japan have long been strained by what Seoul sees as Japanese leaders' reluctance to atone for the country's wartime past, including a full recognition of its role in forcing Korean girls and women to work in brothels.
With the hope of preventing a worsening of anti-Japanese feelings on the part of the Chinese people; as well as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among officers and men the military founded numerous comfort stations.