Every Wednesday, in front of the Japan Embassy, large number of people participate in the protest called Wednesday Assembly to show support for comfort women victims. Among the participants who go there to show support is one lady who has been regularly participating and fighting for comfort women victims. Like the comfort woman victim statue, she has short hair and stands strong for comfort women victims. The Sookmyung Times met this inspiring lady, Kim Sam, the leader of the university student NGO ‘Peace a Butterfly Network.’
I heard your foundation gathers university students who sympathize with the problems faced by comfort women victims and wish to see comfort women victims compensated for their hurt and anger. What prompted you to found the group?
When I was sophomore at university, I knew about the comfort women issue and that it came about from the war and the Japanese army. However, I realized there were no platforms that educated people can openly act on the problems comfort women victims both endured and are enduring. Mostly, students had to investigate this on their own. Thus, I wanted to create something that make students act, so I held a concert entitled ‘Peace, a Butterfly Concert.’ After the concert, several of my friends and I discussed the idea of continuing this small campaign so that people would steadily act and resolve comfort women victim issues. Thus, the foundation ‘Peace a Butterfly Network’ came about.
Every Wednesday, the group organizes a peaceful protest for comfort women victims. Over the numerous Wednesdays, is there any particular day that stands out in your memory?
Since the start of 2014, I have been participating in protests every Wednesday, and each of those events has been memorable. However, if I had to choose one day, I’d say the most memorable Wednesday was the protest after announcement of Korean-Japan talks on comfort women victims. Learning about the talks, many people came out to the rally for victims and to provide support for the cancellation of the talks. There were students of all ages from elementary, middle, high school, and even university. There were even supporters from Japan. Although it was painful that I have to explain how the talks were unfair to victims, the Wednesday protest showed me just how many people stand behind these ladies and want fair and just compensation.
You once participated in a sit-in to protect the comfort women victim tribute statue as well as were an active leader in the protest to cancel the talks on comfort women victims between Korea and Japan. When you do the sit-in, and what was the most difficult challenge while doing it? Also, how did you overcome the difficulty?
The sit-in, which last 63 days, was to keep the tribute statue of peace and the protest, and aimed at cancelling the talks between Korea and Japan. During the sit-in, I received several summons from the police for engaging in an illegal protest. I would have to say, however, the most difficult challenge I faced was not being able to wear a windbreaker during the cold front, which last several days. I endured the cold by attaching hot packs all over my body. However, I thought this pain was nothing compared to the pain of the victims cold. Most of the participants were from university and I think they shared the same idea with me. Also, all the support and cheers from the citizens gave us strength to withstand the hardships. There were even people who came to personally cheer us on. Thus, we were able to withstand all difficulties.
I am sure you’ve probably felt quite proud of yourself, reaching your goal of creating the foundation. What is your proudest experience as representative of ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network’?
I remember overheard a conversation at ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network’ about wanting to learn more about the problem of comfort women victims and wanting to do something with others to resolve the problem. This is my proudest experience. I usually feel proud of myself whenever I learn that the ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network’ platform has brought about empathy and made one step further to resolve problems related to comfort women victims. I feel proud to share the campaign ideals with others. Recently, I gained another sense of pride at the ‘Peace, a Butterfly: RUN,’ donation marathon event. 1500 people registered for the event and among those, there were 200 university students.
There are a lot of problems related to the comfort women victims that need resolving. Would you tell our readers a little about the overall goal of ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network’, and your plan for achieving it?
Resolution does not mean compromise nor does it mean an end to the problem. It means considering human rights and real measures that ensure this war crime does not get repeated. Indeed, an official apology and compensation are important. However, the recent proposed talks between Korea and Japan did not have the victims’ best interest at heart. They need to address human rights. ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network’ will shortly host a big event that endorses the true meaning of resolving the problem. We will be hosting another butterfly concert, peace butterfly: RUN, and start an exchange project with university students from Japan and China.
As representative of ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network,’ would you like to offer any final words to Sookmyungians?
I always thanks to Sookmyungians for their active support. I see firsthand their support during the Wednesdays’ protests and I was touched by the number of students who signed the 1 billion signature petition for comfort women victims. Sookmyungians always show their support and help. Recently, I was impressed by the number of Sookmyungians participated in the SNS campaign by Sookmyung SBS. It is my hope that Sookmyungians keep showing support and spread the word to help resolve the problem of comfort women victims. I hope Sookmyungians think of comfort women victims as our family grandmothers. I don’t expect or ask for big participation, I only hope for continuously participation. Also, ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network’ and ‘Sookmyung Snow Flower, a Butterfly’ promise to act on the victims behave wholeheartedly.
• Division of Korean Language & Literature ’11
• Representative for ‘Peace, a Butterfly Network’