“Japan ruined the lives of innocent people like us but refuses to take responsibility,” said Lee Ok-seon who was forced into sex slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, speaking to The Dong-A Ilbo in a video interview. “Who did it to us then?”
Lee, who is staying at the “Nanum House,” is one of the 12 comfort women who brought a case against Japan. The Seoul Central District Court ordered the Japanese government to pay 100 million won to each victim, which was confirmed at midnight on Saturday as it had not been appealed.
Lee agreed with the court ruling that defined forcing prostitution as a crime against humanity, emphasizing that it was involuntary. “Why would we want to become comfort women?” said Lee. “We did not want to, but they made us comfort women.”
“We want an apology, not compensation,” she added. “If we sought money, 300 million won, let alone 100 million won, will not be enough.” She urged the Japanese government, which claims there was no forcing and abuse involved, to come clean and accept responsibility. She also called for the South Korean government to help surviving victims receive an apology.
Her dream was to raise awareness of comfort women in Japan. “We are a painful part of history, which people must know about,” she said. “The country we were dragged into must not come back again.”
Five out of the 12 plaintiffs including Lee, are alive. According to the Nanum House, only two of them, Lee and another woman with the same name as Lee, are able to communicate.