A museum focused on “comfort women,” who were forced into wartime brothels for the Imperial Japanese Army, opened Saturday in Daegu, southeastern South Korea, with central and local government officials attending the ceremony.
Kwon Yong-hyun, vice minister of gender equality, said that although President Park Geun-hye hopes for active exchanges with Japan more than any other South Korean administration has, the issue of comfort women is preventing her from moving in that direction.
Kwon said the situation is similar for China and emphasized that the South Korean government’s position is that “Japan should recognize the problem, apologize to victims and educate future generations” about the issue.
The museum, created at the initiative of private groups, exhibits items such as photographs and mementos of more than 20 former comfort women from Daegu and other parts of North Gyeongsang province.
According to a group that supports former South Korean comfort women, the plan to build the museum started in 2009. A tile-roofed structure that was to have been used as a tradesman’s house during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula was remodeled and expanded, at a cost of 1.3 billion won ($1.1 million).
In addition to donations, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the Daegu municipal government provided about 200 million won each in funding to prepare the facility.
South Korea and Japan have been at odds over history-related matters, including the comfort women issue.