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S Korean comfort women demand apology, compensation from Japan

Comfort women in South Korea are demanding an official apology and legal reparation from the Japanese government for its wartime system of sex slavery.

SEOUL: With Japan reportedly considering a revision to its landmark apology for its wartime system of sex slavery, the plight of comfort women has once again been thrust into the spotlight.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary had said the evidence given by the women forced to work in military brothels needs to be re-examined.

However, for a group of South Korean comfort women, it's a painful past they relive every Wednesday.

On January 8 1992, a group of women held a rally outside the Japanese embassy in central Seoul.

Most of them were from women's groups and only a handful of the women dared to come forward to admit that they were former military sex slaves.

Slowly, more victims started to come forward to tell their horrific stories of what they had to endure and how they've lived their whole life in shame.

It has evolved since then. The rally outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul has been held every Wednesday and the victims are making the same demands - an official apology and legal reparation.

A statue of a girl - representing the comfort women - was set up outside the embassy in 2011. Since then, it has attracted visitors from home and abroad.

In the 1990s, a total of 239 former sex slaves came forward to register with the South Korean government.

Among them was Hwang Keum-ja who passed away in January this year at the age of 90.

She had earlier told stories of how she was forced to work at a glass factory when she was 13-years-old and three years later, she was sent to China to work as a sex slave.

Her adopted son Kim Jung-hwan said he was sad that she could not live to see the Japanese government accept their demands.

"It really hurts me to see her go like this without getting the Japanese's apology or compensation. All she heard were those reckless remarks made by Japanese leaders," said Kim.

And Hwang is probably not going to be last one as the average age of the 55 remaining grandmothers is 86. About 10 of them are over 90 years old.

According to historians, between 1932 until the end of the war, more than 200,000 women from across Asia were forced by the Japanese military into sex slavery.

Although the Japanese government has formally apologized, it has refused to offer direct payment to the victims.

Activists and the grandmothers say that simply means Tokyo does not want to officially acknowledge what has happened.

And until it does, these women have vowed to continue gathering outside the Japanese embassy every Wednesday reiterating their demands.

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