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Today I want to raise awareness that rape is not only something that all women worry about in their day to day lives, but that it is also being constantly used as a weapon in wars. Lately, I've been doing research, learning, and writing about comfort women--women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II by Japan. This is one of the poems that I have written in order to honor these women.
Letter from Prime Minister to Former Comfort Women, 2001
Dear Madam, Dear Sir, On the occasion that the Asian Women’s Fund, in cooperation with the Government and the people of Japan, offers atonement from the Japanese people to the former wartime comfort women. Let me tell you what I know. That those who cannot be taught cannot be instructed: the career of my body, to lie on the rush mat. A scrape, a burn picked at eight or nine times a day. Five minutes each. The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women. The bruise on my leg, a bouquet I gathered when I was fourteen. Pink and purple, the fresh petals of the mugungwha. Yet I did not have what one of the women did: so swollen and ruptured that the nurse couldn’t look. As Prime Minister of Japan, I know we must not evade weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future. They housed our numb waists in stalls. Built on the dirt floor with wooden planks heavy as the pain in my womb. The repeating line of men in boots outside my door splinters light. Twice as long after a battle. I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations. Blisters weep as we jolt across the yard for morning exercise; women are to be led and to follow others. The only true movement of the day along with eating, sipping water, releasing water. Furthermore, Japan also should take an active part in dealing with violence and other forms of injustice to the honor and dignity of women. Years later and I moved to Pusan—money for working as a dishwasher. What I have left to do, as now my womb is black and sticky. There exists three unfilial acts: the greatest is the failure to produce sons. In water, my hands soften as I scrub dried food from dishes. Watch hot water as it makes my skin bud, bloom red. Respectfully yours, Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan Sincerely, Juugun-ianfu