North Texas group shines light on ‘comfort women’ and raises awareness of sexual violence


For years, Coppell resident Sinmin Pak has organized events to raise awareness of the hundreds of thousands of women and girls who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military before and during World War II.

Victims of the sex trafficking ring known as ‘comfort women’ were part of an operation spanning several countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, including China, Korea and the Philippines. Several organizations have lobbied for the Japanese government to issue an official apology.

Pak’s group reached a milestone on Sunday, when Carrollton Mayor Steve Babick introduced a municipal proclamation recognizing August 14 as Comfort Women Memorial Day. Carrollton, which is about 20 miles north of Dallas, has a large Korean American community.

“Whether it’s Koreans or one of our Asian communities, the job isn’t really done until they feel at home in their own community,” Babick said. “This proclamation brings to light something that has been hidden from the world for some time, and bringing to light atrocities like this, whether inside or outside of Carrollton, is important to us. all.”

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Babick presented the proclamation to Pak and his organization, Unforgotten Butterflies, at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum on Sunday to commemorate International Comfort Women’s Memorial Day.

Pak said his organization’s work in the fight against sexual violence and sex trafficking is far from over, and the group will continue to raise awareness in the hope that more people will learn about the comfort women’s story. .

“I don’t know how we can stand still and allow this to happen,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s during the war or not; the fact that someone is being raped – that in itself is something we should use our voice to talk about.

Sinmin Pak, director of Unforgotten Butterflies, a group that raises awareness about sexual violence and human trafficking, speaks after a march held on Sunday as part of the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women event in the center- city ​​of Dallas/ (Jason Janik/special contributor)(Jason Janik / Special Contributor)

During his presentation on Sunday, Pak emphasized that his organization’s goal is not to demonize people with family ties to Japan.

She highlighted several people of Japanese descent, including Dallas-based activist Phillip Shinoda, who Pak says is a key ally.

“When we put our lights together, we’re going to shine brighter,” she said.

As part of the event, Unforgotten Butterflies screened Reunion of the spirits, unfinished story, a film that sheds light on the horrors and traumas of the women the Japanese military forced into sexual slavery. Participants also marched to Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas, where they held a vigil for the victims.

Coppell ISD administrator Tracy Fisher, who attended the event, said it was essential that people learn about the history that was suppressed, such as the stories of comfort women. In 2016, Lee Ok-Seon, a survivor of the Japanese military’s sex slavery ring, visited a school in Fisher District.

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“Human rights issues persist, and when we can communicate and educate our children — even adults — it informs us, it makes us more human, and it creates more empathy and compassion,” Fisher said. member of Unforgotten Butterflies running for a seat on the National Board of Education.

Holocaust survivor Rosian Zerner and Dallas resident and Rosebud Sioux Tribe citizen Yolonda Blue Horse also spoke at the event on Sunday about the impact of sex trafficking and sexual violence on their communities.

Dallas resident Wende Turner said she brought her 14-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son to the film screening because she thought it would be a great learning opportunity.

“I think often we get lost in the comforts of everyday life and don’t take the time to acknowledge the suffering of other people of different races and backgrounds,” she said. “Everyone’s experience is different, so I think it’s good for kids to be educated about these different kinds of issues.”

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