Taiwan’s last known survivor of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery has died at the age of 92, the island’s foreign ministry said Tuesday, calling the issue a “wound in human history”.
Referred to as “comfort women”, more than 200,000 women were sexually enslaved by Japan’s military during World War II, mostly from South Korea but also from other parts of Asia.
In Taiwan, which Japan ruled from 1895-1945, nearly 60 women had come forward over the years as survivors, according to Taipei’s Women’s Rescue Foundation. However, it estimates there were at least 2,000.
The foundation said on Monday the island’s last known survivor, referred to as “grandma”, died on May 10 at the age of 92.
“The ‘comfort woman’ issue is a wound in human history and the government has attached great importance to the dignity and welfare of former Taiwanese (survivors),” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Jeff Liu said Tuesday.
“(The government) has continued to express concerns to the Japanese government… and urge the Japanese side to face our demand to apologise and compensate Taiwanese ‘comfort women’ and their families,” he said.
Japan’s wartime enslavement of women is a politically charged issue across Asia.
While the government has acknowledged Japan’s past atrocities, critics say officials throughout the decades have refused to take full responsibility for the enslavement of women.
The Japanese government has said the victims were recruited by civilians to military brothels that were commercially operated.
The issue has sparked protests in Taiwan, with women’s groups lobbying for compensation for its survivors — something only South Korea has formally received.
Taipei’s Women Rescue Foundation said, even with the death of the last “grandma”, they would continue to demand that Japan compensate victims.
“Although all the grandmas have passed away, we believe that their spirit will remain in our hearts forever,” the group said, vowing to advocate for the history of Taiwanese survivors to be included in school books.
“This piece of history will not disappear due to the death of the grandmas.”
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