Korean cartoons on former sex slaves to go on display at French festival

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- Cartoons about former Korean sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II will be exhibited at the world's largest comic strip and cartoon festival, the Seoul government said Tuesday.

Some 20 cartoons and four videos including animations by local artists telling tragic stories of the former sex slavery victims will be featured in a special exhibition of the 2014 Angouleme International Comics Festival, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said.

The gender ministry sponsored the festival scheduled to run from Jan. 30- Feb. 2. in the southwestern French city of the same name.

The cartoons were drawn by established South Korean cartoonists such as Park Geon-woong, Kim Geun-sook, Shin Ji-soo, Lee Hyun-se and Park Jae-dong especially for the exhibition titled "I'm the Evidence," according to the Korea Manhwa Contents Agency (Komacon), which organized the event.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, many of them Korean, were coerced into sexual servitude by the Japanese army at front-line brothels during World War II when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony. Of the 237 Korean women who reported themselves as former sex slaves, only 56 are still alive.

"We'll do our best to fulfill the role of guiding people around the world to the weighty and difficult subject of comfort women," said Lee Hyun-se, chief of Komacon and author of one of the 20 works of cartoon.

"We cannot, through this exhibition, heal all the pain and hurt of the victims, but we hope this will be of help for their future and be a chance to deeply touch the minds of many people around the world," he added.

Cho Yoon-sun, minister of gender equality, also expressed hope that the exhibition will help raise awareness of the issue of comfort women and wartime sexual violence.

More than 7,000 cartoon industry people, including authors and publishers, and about 800 journalists from around the world are set to take part in the four-day festival.

Also on Tuesday, the South Gyeongsang provincial office of education said it has published English and Chinese language versions of "Don't Forget Me," a book of testimonies by Kim Bok-deuk, the country's oldest living victim of Japan's sexual enslavement.

"We came to issue the English and Chinese editions of the book at the request of those from all walks of life who say the books are necessary to help the global community have the correct knowledge of and learn the issue of former sex slaves," Ko Yeong-jin, chief of the office, said during a news conference held in the provincial city of Changwon.

The office has published the Korean and Japanese language versions in March and August of last year, respectively.

"I should receive apology from Japan before I die, so I can shut my eyes in peace," the 97-year-old Kim said during the conference.

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