Seoul, South Korea — Yoon Mee-hyang recalls receiving a phone call from a man who identified himself as a Japanese right-winger. He said abruptly, “I hate Korea.”
That curse “prompted me to say, ‘I love Japan,’ ” Ms. Yoon says, smiling broadly.
Yoon, representative of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, says that as Japan has shown an increasingly conservative bent, her group has gotten more harassing e-mails and phone calls like that.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly denied Japan’s responsibility for its use of sexual slaves during World War II. Many of the victims were Korean women.
Critics say Mr. Abe has played a leading role in glossing over Japan’s wartime history, which has aggravated relations with neighboring countries. When Yoon and elderly survivors of the brothels visited the office building of Japanese lawmakers in June, a group of Japanese protesters showered them with a barrage of abuse, even calling the victims “prostitutes.”
“That was frustrating,” Yoon concedes.
Since 1990, the Korean council has been working on exposing the sexual slavery issue to restore the dignity and rights of victims.
Historians say the number of victims ranged from tens of thousands to 200,000. As Japan was about to be defeated in 1945, the women were abandoned or killed by Japanese soldiers or in Allied bombings.