Go to contents

Gracious Life of Matsui

Posted December. 12, 2002 22:29,   


Yaori Matsui (68) is a dedicated civil rights activist to the well-being of the women who were forced to serve as sex slaves, or comfort women, for the Japanese army during the World War II. She had an international criminal tribunal held in December, 2000, and induced a guilty verdict against former Emperor Hirohito. Now, she suffers the liver cancer. Nonetheless, she is pitching in herself to the construction of a memorial for the comfort women, a dream of her life.

She was acting now only for the comfort women, but also for all the women who have fallen to victims of wartime sex offenses. One day, she was diagnosed with the liver cancer. It was this moment of a crisis in her life that she made up her mind to build up a memorial. At a meeting with her friends, she said, "I have collected huge amount of data so far. I`d like to build a memorial dedicated to the comfort women so that people can understand the evil of war and violence." She also promised to donate her house, savings and all the literature on the comfort women.

When the news got spread out, hundreds of supporting letters and e-mails have been pouring in from across the world. Yesterday, some 30 civil rights activists held a news conference and announced that they would construct the memorial within three years to honor the wish of Matsui.

Matsui was a reporter of Asahi Shinbum, dealing mostly with issues regarding Asian women. After retirement, she founded the Asian Women`s Data Center in 1995, and committed herself to correcting the distorted history of Japan including the issue of the comfort women.

Upon her suggestion, the Women`s International Criminal Tribunal was held in Tokyo in 1998 under the auspices of civil rights groups of 8 Asian countries. Even though the tribunal was non-binding, it conveyed a historic meaning in that it was the first tribunal that dealt with the comfort women issue.

This tribunal aroused the awareness of the international community with the vivid testimony of 45 former comfort women about barbaric conduct of the Japanese army across Asia. The prosecution team led by 45 legal experts accused Japan of forcing women to serve as sex slaves through various kinds of data and evidence.

Even under the heavy attack from the right-wing members, she continued her criticism that Japanese government, despite the mountain of evidence and the guilty verdict, tried to evade its responsibility and to deny even the existence of the comfort women. Ever since, she has persistently demanded the public apology and compensations for the victims by the Japanese government.

Young-Ee Lee yes202@donga.com