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Elderly ex-sex slaves want solace, help from pope


By JUNG-YOON CHOI

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Lee Yong-soo hopes a meeting Monday with Pope Francis will provide some solace for the pain that still feels fresh more than seven decades after Japanese soldiers forced her into prostitution during World War II.

Lee, 86, and two other elderly former "comfort women" will sit in the front row during the last Mass of the pope's five-day trip to South Korea. Francis cannot solve a long-running grievance that has become a major hurdle to better ties between neighbors and U.S. allies Japan and South Korea, but the women are looking for greater global attention as they push Japan for a new apology and compensation. They also want a chance to share with the pope their feelings on the brutality they suffered as girls.

"If we do get a chance to speak with him, I want to cling to him in tears and ask him to help us resolve our pain," Lee, a devout Catholic who was 15 when forced into sexual slavery, said by telephone. "I want to ask him to help us end this problem in a peaceful way."

Time is running out. Only 55 of the 238 women registered as official victims of sexual slavery survive, according to Seoul's Ministry of Gender Equality and Family website. Their average age is 88. Two have died this year.

The women plan to give the pope a copy of a painting of a young woman in traditional Korean clothes who represents victims who have died.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, suggested the pope might meet the women privately, something Francis did with relatives of the victims of a South Korean ferry sinking. It's unlikely that Francis will offer anything more than words of prayer and solidarity. Lombardi has previously said it's not Francis' place to intervene in political disputes but, instead, to offer pastoral care and comfort.

Various historians estimate that 20,000 to 200,000 women from across Asia, many of them Koreans, were forced into Japan's military brothel system during the war.

Japan has apologized many times over the years, including a landmark 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that acknowledges Japan's responsibility over military brothels and says wartime documents, statements and other records were enough to assume many women were deceived or forced into them. Some previous premiers have also written letters of apology to the women.

But past apologies and efforts at private compensation are seen by many as insufficient, especially as they're consistently undermined by incendiary comments from Japanese politicians, officials and right-wing activists. There was renewed anger last week when three Japanese ministers visited a Tokyo shrine that honors World War II dead, including convicted war criminals.

Kang Il-chul, 87, who was taken by the Japanese military to China when she was 14, has high expectations for the pope.

"Even if I am soon on my deathbed, I'll be happy knowing that I have met this great man," Kang said by telephone. "Koreans, women and men, were dragged away by the Japanese military. I want the pope to amplify this message for future generations."

Pope Francis' visit to South Korea:

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Mike August 17 2014 at 8:04 AM

The Church certainly knows a thing about sex slaves. They even coined a term for it: altar boys.

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6 replies
manmi1 August 17 2014 at 11:14 AM

We should never forget the brutality of the Japanese during WW 2. Anyone who ever questions why we dropped the bomb on them to end the war needs to go back and study the atrocities these people put on so many others during their reign of terror.

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8 replies
aljoramaggio August 17 2014 at 10:24 AM

They seek solace and spiritual healing, and to highlight what they had suffered.
By placing them in the front row at the Mass (which will be televised), he is doing what he can, to remind the World of what they have suffered.
He may meet with them privately, as he did for the victim's families of the Ferry sinking.
They seek not reparations, but want peace for their hearts and souls.
It is our fervent hope that this will ease their pain.

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1 reply
nolimitshair1981 aljoramaggio August 17 2014 at 6:13 PM

I have no words Since U have said anything & Everything that Needed saying ... thanks / grazie :)

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Sylvie August 17 2014 at 7:22 AM

Who speaks for all of the Chinese who were slaughtered during WWII by the Japanese?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
5 replies
nikoman1 August 17 2014 at 7:37 AM

Other than spiritual healing, I don't understand what this woman hopes to achieve by speaking with the Pope but I do hope that if she does meet with him that she finds some resolution.

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quintessenceq August 17 2014 at 9:43 AM

It shoul be all about Forgivness !!! Would Jesus want all this terible things to happen to any of us ..I think NOT ..Most of the times it is human mind AT WILL which makes us humans to do terrible things ..hurt each other .

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2 replies
Happypoolprune quintessenceq August 17 2014 at 2:18 PM

Maybe these women are hoping to find help and instruction on how TO forgive what was done to them-to have their innocence and dignity stripped - it's difficult. I pray they can find solace.

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indian8788 quintessenceq August 17 2014 at 6:42 PM

more like the human penis in this case

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mlock2354 August 17 2014 at 12:29 PM

These ladies were raised and grew up being taught a rape victim was resposible in some way for their rape and I would guess that many of them still have that shame in their minds, which we all know today is the not the truth. I beleive from what I have read in this article the ladies want to be obsolved of any sin they may have comitted during this terrible yime ( understand I do not beleive they need this but they do feel it, they are victims). The Aisian culture and value system is much differnt than ours is and saving face is very important, they are a people who value their reputation much more than most seem to in the west.

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1 reply
silverioteisco mlock2354 August 17 2014 at 10:49 PM

Wrong ,Wrong, Wrong !
Do some research on " Comfort Women" & especially "The Rape Of Nanking" for similar Japanese atrocities against Chinese women in WWII.
You are completely off course with your assessment of these women and their need to seek an audience with the Pope.
These women know that they are innocent rape victims and they have no guilt over it.
Otherwise if they had that stereotyped " Asian culture rape stigma" hanging over their heads like you suppose,they would not have ever gone public !

For decades these women have been ignored and never given the proper redress they deserved from the Japanese government. To date , all they have received are token gestures and empty promises.
In addition, the war crime of " comfort women" has constantly been ignored by the world at large.
For them the clock is running out and the victims still alive must continue to speak out before their voices are silenced forever and the crimes against them get swept under the rug for good

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Welcome King August 17 2014 at 9:21 PM

World War 2 is the war that changed everything,so many atrocities and war crimes were committed we must never forget.

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Sue Brown August 17 2014 at 12:59 PM

It amazes me, the magnitude that people put on the pope. He's not God.

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bizonly123 August 17 2014 at 1:13 PM

CATHOLICS ARE A JOKE, THEY DO NOT FOLLOW SCRIPTURE, THEY ARE PART OF SATANS PLAN TO DECEIVE IN THE LAST DAYS... DON'T BELIEVE ME? LOOK IN A KJV AND TRY TO FIND WHERE YOU CAN BE FORGIVEN OF YOUR SINS BY A PRIEST... SEE WHAT IS SAID ABOUT CALLING ANY MAN FATHER... TRY AND FIND WHERE IT IS SAID TO WORSHIP MARY... TRY AND FIND WHERE IT IS SAID A "PRIEST" ISN'T SUPPOSED TO GET MARRIED AND TAKE A VOW OF CELIBACY... THERE IS MUCH MORE, BUT YOU HAVE TO DIG DEEP TO FIND THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CULT, SINCE THEY HAVE COVERED THIS TRUTH AS WELL AS THEY DID THEIR CHILD MOLESTERS... MANY OF THESE FREAKS WILL ONE DAY BE CAST INTO OUTER DARKNESS FOR ETERNITY... READER, YOU MAY ALSO WANT TO GOOGLE THE L.U.C.I.F.E.R. PROJECT ARIZONA AND ASK YOURSELF 2 QUESTIONS, WHY WOULD THE CATHOLIC CLERGY EVER SPEND MULTI MILLIONS ON THIS PROJECT? & WHY WOULD THIS PROJECTS ACRONIM BE SATANS ORIGINAL NAME? WAKE UP YOU HAVE BEEN DECEIVED... HISCHANNELDOTNET...

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7 replies
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