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Former 'comfort woman' dies in Pingtung (update)

2016/01/14 23:11:51

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Taipei, Jan. 14 (CNA) Cheng-Chen Tao (鄭陳桃), who was forced to serve as one of many "comfort women" in Japanese military brothels during World War II, died of pneumonia in a hospital in the southernmost county of Pingtung on Monday at the age of 93.

Cheng-Chen married twice and is survived by an adopted daughter and an adopted son.

The term "comfort women" euphemistically describes women from East and Southeast Asia, including several thousand Taiwanese, who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WWII.

Cheng-Chen was forced to work at a Japanese military brothel in Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, in early 1940s.

Approximately 2,000 Taiwanese women were forced into sexual slavery during the war, according to the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (TWRF), which has been assisting some of them in the fight for their rights and reputation.

The foundation said 58 of them, including Cheng-Chen, came forward to seek a formal apology and compensation from the Japanese government in late 1990s.

Despite eventually loosing the case, Cheng-Chen said "Although the case was lost, our hearts were not lost," according to Kang Shu-hua (康淑華), executive director of the foundation.

Cheng-Chen's tragic past is revealed in a 2015 documentary, titled "Song of the Reed (蘆葦之歌)," which chronicles the later years of Taiwanese women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WWII.

Cheng-Chen said she had two wishes in her life: one was that the Japanese government would apologize and the other was to finish her studies at the National Tainan Girls' Senior High School (TGSHS).

Cheng-Chen said she passed the entrance examination of the school at the age of 19 but was taken against her will overseas to serve as a comfort woman.

At the time, Taiwan was still under Japanese colonial rule and the school was called the Second Girls' Middle School of Tainan Prefecture.

Kang said TGSHS officials and TWRF employees had managed to present a commemorative graduation certificate to Cheng-Chen at the hospital she stayed in last week.

Kang said the foundation will hold a memorial service for Cheng-Chen in Taipei on Feb. 21 and welcomes members of the public to attend and thank her for what she had done.

The Republic of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Thursday expressed its regrets and reiterated its four requests including an apology from the Japanese government to former Taiwanese comfort women.

The ROC wishes to hold formal talks with Japan as soon as possible on the comfort women issue, as the MOFA reiterated its stance which had been laid out on Jan. 6.

During those talks, Taipei will seek a formal apology from the Japanese government to all Taiwanese comfort women and compensation for the survivors, said the ministry.

Taipei also wants Tokyo to act to restore the victims' reputation and dignity and provide for the general welfare of the survivors, said the MOFA.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Chen Chih-chung, Elizabeth Hsu and Kuo Chung-han)