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Japanese troops took her as a child sex slave. Today, at 90, she still awaits an apology – National

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When 17-year-old Lee Yong-soo returned home to South Korea in 1945 after years as a child sex slave for Japanese troops, her family, having given her up for dead, thought she was a ghost.

“When I returned, I had a deep wound,” Lee told Reuters, holding a black and white photo of herself in a traditional Korean dress, taken in her first year back home.

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She still remembers the blue and purple fabric of that dress, but other memories from those years are more traumatic.

“I thought I was going to die,” Lee said of the abuse and torture she endured at a brothel at an airfield in Taiwan used by Japanese kamikaze pilots in the final years of World War II.

Now 90 years old, Lee says she feels like a sincere apology from Japanese authorities for the wartime exploitation of so-called “comfort women” is no nearer now than when she returned home more than 70 years ago.

Lee Yong-soo, 90, one of less than 30 known surviving South Korean victims of Japan’s wartime brothels, displays a photograph in Daegu, South Korea October 30, 2018, of her taken shortly after she returned to Korea in 1945 after being held at an airbase for kamikaze pilots in Taiwan.

REUTERS/Josh Smith

Japan says the claims have been settled by past agreements and apologies, and that the continued controversy threatens relations between the two countries.

Some historians estimate up to 200,000 Korean women were forced into sex slavery during Japan’s occupation from 1910 to 1945.

Now with only 27 registered South Korean survivors still alive, there is a sense of urgency behind efforts by the women to receive a formal apology as well as legal compensation from Japan while their voices can still be heard.

Just days before Reuters interviewed Lee at her one-room apartment in the southern city of Daegu, a fellow victim had died, one of six so far in 2018.

Another survivor, Kim Bok-dong, said she wanted to share her story, but suffering from cancer and expected to live only a few more months, she was unable to find time to speak.

‘Sincere apology’

Under the 1965 treaty, Japan reached a deal with South Korea to provide an $800 million aid and loan package in exchange for Seoul considering all wartime compensation issues settled.

A South Korean panel late last year concluded a separate 2015 deal between South Korea and Japan failed to meet the needs of former “comfort women.”

Acting on that conclusion, the South Korean government this week shut down a fund created under the 2015 deal and vowed to pursue a more “victim-oriented” approach, a move Japan said threatened the two countries’ relations.

A sense of shame and secrecy meant most tales of abuse and coercion at Japan’s official brothels were never discussed publicly, until Kim Hak-sun, one of the South Korean victims, came forward in 1991.

Lee Yong-soo, 90, one of less than 30 known surviving South Korean victims of JapanÕs wartime brothels, displays a photograph in Daegu, South Korea October 30, 2018, of her taken shortly after she returned to Korea in 1945 after being held at an airbase for kamikaze pilots in Taiwan.

REUTERS/Josh Smith

She and two other former comfort women joined a class action lawsuit against Japan, which prompted the Japanese government to acknowledge its role for the first time. The case was eventually dismissed by Japan’s highest courts in 2004.

Lee was one of the survivors emboldened by Kim’s move, and has since worked to raise awareness, including meeting the Pope and travelling to North Korea to meet other victims.

“Since 1992, I had been asking Japan to make sincere apology, that is what I want,” Lee said. “I have been doing this for 27 years, it doesn’t matter whether it was raining or snowing, or the weather was cold or hot.”

Unresolved dispute

In the 1990s, Japan created a public-private fund to distribute compensation to “comfort women” survivors throughout Asia, which ended in 2007.

While a number of survivors have accepted compensation over the years, many South Koreans see the issue as unresolved because of what they consider as a lack of sincerity from the Japanese government.

Despite apologies from Japan, for example, the first comfort women fund was criticized in South Korea for not being direct compensation from the state, and the 2015 deal was faulted for failing to include a clear statement of the Japanese government’s legal responsibility.

READ MORE: Korean ‘comfort women’ continue to seek apology from Japan for WWII sex slavery

Japan says South Korea had waived all claims in the 1965 pact, and that under the 2015 deal, Japan agreed to provide the funds to help the women heal “psychological wounds.”

Shuttering the Japan-funded foundation is one of the most significant steps President Moon Jae-in’s administration has taken as it revisits the comfort women controversy.

In the past year, South Korea has also opened a new research centre aimed at consolidating academic study of comfort women, named the first Comfort Women Day and unveiled a new memorial in Cheonan, a city south of Seoul.

“We cannot ignore the truth just because it hurts,” Moon said this week.

“For the sake of sustainable and solid Korea-Japan relations, we must face up to the truth.”

Lee said she thinks Moon is “trying his best,” and in a statement released from her hospital bed this week, Kim said the move to close the foundation restored her trust in the South Korean president.

Moon’s efforts, however, have faced pushback from Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Earlier this year, Japan formally complained after South Korea’s foreign minister raised the issue in a speech at the United Nations.

Japanese officials have expressed frustration at what they see as the South Korean government’s changing positions and efforts to revisit settled agreements.

For survivors like Lee, Japan’s protests ring hollow.

“The survivors of the heinous crimes the Japanese committed are dying day by day, and I bet Abe is dancing for joy,” Lee said, becoming animated as she described her frustration. “They should apologize, tell the truth, and pay the legal compensation.”



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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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