“Comfort Women are Fraudsters” called out in front of Comfort Woman Statue
“Comfort Women are Fraudsters” called out in front of Comfort Woman Statue - What’s recently happening every Wednesday
Every Wednesday, a rally is held in front of the former Japanese Embassy in Jongno-gu, Seoul. The formal name of the rally is “the Regular Wednesday Rally to Resolve the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Issue” (the Wednesday Rally). This rally has been held every week these 30 years, except when the Great Hanshin and the Great East Japan earthquakes occurred, whether in biting cold, fierce heat, or heavy rain.
Concerns that such continuance of the Wednesday Rally would be interrupted have been realized. This is because some opposition groups have preempted all of the sites where it has been held near the comfort woman statue in front of the former Japanese Embassy. The location for its 1,540th rally scheduled for the coming 20th has not been decided yet.
The Wednesday Rally pushed away from near the Comfort Woman Statue
Conflicts between the Wednesday Rally side, such as the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, and the conservative groups, such as Freedom Solidarity and Mother Unit, are deep-rooted. The Freedom Solidarity has also been holding rallies near the comfort woman statue since 2020, continuing to call out, “Comfort women are fraudsters.”
Being gradually driven away from the comfort woman statue by the groups such as the Freedom Solidarity, the Wednesday Rally was recently held in front of YONHAP NEWS AGENCY and Somerset Palace Seoul, 50 meters to the left and the right of the statue, respectively. In February, it took place on the street farther away than these locations. Even this place has been already reserved on the 20th by the anti-Wednesday Rally groups, such as the Freedom Solidarity, for their rally.
Both parties are also waging an accusation or complaint battle. In March, groups for the former comfort women and Lee Yong-soo accused Kim Sang-jin, Secretary-General of the Freedom Solidarity, on charges of violation of the law regarding rallies and demonstrations. And the accusers were investigated. Against this, the anti-Wednesday Rally groups also sued members of the Korean Council.
The Korean Council submitted a petition to the police - “No measures to be taken”
The Korean Council urged the police to seek a way of protecting demonstrations and deal with the defamation of the former comfort women. They submitted a petition outlining these points to the police on the 8th, explaining it as “the lodgment of a complaint” allowed to be submitted when the rights were infringed by the administrative agencies’ negative actions including illegality, injustice, or inaction under the law about the handling of petitions.
The urgent relief measure recommendation of “the National Human Rights Commission of Korea” (Human Rights Commission) was one of the reasons for the petition. The Human Rights Commission clearly stated in January, “To bear in mind how the world’s longest-term rallies (i.e. the Wednesday Rally) should be protected matches the basic principles of human rights.” The Korean Council side said, “The police have not taken any proper measures.”
The police keep a stance of focusing on their stable on-site management with adequate personnel and equipment mobilized depending on the situations of both parties’ rallies. They claim to have also sincerely examined the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission and been prepared for possibilities that unexpected situations would occur. As soon as the police’s response is ready, the Korean Council will consider its contents and have a press conference on the 20th.
Will the mutual accusations or complaints be followed by intensified litigation battles?
Some are anticipating that confrontations between the two sides may lead to a not only accusation or complaint cases but also civil or other litigation battles. An attorney in Seocho-dong has predicted by saying, “If the Wednesday Rally is still unable to take place despite the recommendation issued by the Human Rights Commission, the Korean Council side may regard the nation’s inaction or the other party’s attack as a problem and file a suit for its resulting damages.” There is another opinion that prolonged delay of the police’s response to the petition the Korean Council side submitted would be the subject of administrative litigation for “inaction illegality confirmation.”
However, there is also a counterargument that because the Constitution guarantees freedom of rally and demonstration, litigation would not be easy unless obvious illegal matters concerning the rallies are confirmed. Attorney Kim Han-gyu, who used to be the president of the Seoul Bar Association, said, “There is room to contest through a lawsuit whether the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission and guarantee of freedom of rally and demonstration are appropriately implemented. However, to prove the illegality due to inaction would not be easy.”
JoongAng Ilbo (April 15, 2022)