Ex-German Leader Visits Sex Slavery Victims

Ex-German Leader Visits Sex Slavery Victims

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder hugs a victim of wartime sex slavery in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province on Monday. /Yonhap

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday visited the survivors of sexual enslavement by the Japanese military during World War II and expressed regret over Japan’s refusal to apologize for its wartime atrocities.

Schroeder, who is in Korea to promote his autobiography, set aside some time to visit the women at their shelter in Gwangju south of Seoul.

Schroeder laid a wreath in front of a memorial to victims and toured a museum that was built to tell the world about their suffering. He also spoke with four of the nine surviving victims, who are all in their 90s.

The women thanked Schroeder for his visit and held his hands.

“The undeserved violence inflicted on these ladies is irreversible. I am saddened to meet with such people. The world needs to know the painful history”, Schroeder said. “It’s regrettable Japan hasn’t taken courage to speak of the violence [it committed] or talk to those who were sacrificed by the brutality of the war”.

He called on Tokyo to admit its guilt and apologize, quoting victims who have said they are not seeking revenge but simply want Japan to acknowledge what it did in the past.

“I, too, earnestly want it to happen in my lifetime”, he added.

Schroeder donated W10 million to the home (US$1=W1,133). The survivors presented Schroeder with a book about their plight as well as a small statue identical to one that has been set up in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

Schroeder said Japan “still does not appear to have the courage” to apologize to the women with a sense of responsibility for its past atrocities. He pledged to support efforts to nominate the women for the Nobel Peace Prize.