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"Comfort women" monument unveiled in New Jersey

A monument dedicated to the Asian women who were forced into sex slavery during World War II has been unveiled in a northern New Jersey town.

NEW YORK: A monument dedicated to the Asian women who were forced into sex slavery during World War II has been unveiled in a northern New Jersey town.

Hundreds of thousands of young women from Korea, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Netherlands were forced to provide sex to Japan's front-line soldiers during World War II. They were called "comfort women".

In their memory, an American cultural group hosted a number of events in and around New York to bring to light the challenges they faced, and the danger that still exists for women around the world. 

Comfort women Ok Seon Lee and Il Chul Kang were only teenagers when they were taken from their homes in Korea and tossed into a life not of comfort but abuse. They were among more than 200,000 girls who were kidnapped, beaten and raped by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Ok Seon Lee and Il Chul Kang survived and today they travelled to New Jersey for the official unveiling of the monument. The so-called "comfort women" monument is located at Liberty Plaza in Union City.

"Recognising the comfort women and the beautiful memorial that has been built here for them is definitely not over the top. I think it is (about) talking where our past - and collectively the world's past was - and where the United States is today and where the world is today, where we still have so many crimes against humanity taking place," said Brian P Stack, Mayor of Union City (NJ).

The survivors, through a translator, shared their story, with the hope that the next generation can learn a lesson from their past. "It's so important that young girls understand that sex trafficking and sex slavery is still alive today. These women dealt with it many years ago, but it is still here," said Sandra Bolden Cunningham, a member of New Jersey State Senate.

A play called Comfort was also staged to honour the survivors and to bring the topic of human trafficking back into the spotlight.

Show producer Lucio Fernandez said: "Even though this is such a dark subject, we want to make sure that people get something positive out of it, and what we tried to put forth is: we have to educate our children the right history so it doesn't repeat itself, and unfortunately it does repeat itself."
 

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