Digital Museum:The Comfort Women Issue and the Asian Women's Fund
 Atonement Project of the Asian Women's Fund >Projects by country or region-Taiwan

 Projects by country or region - Taiwan
Project implementation

The Asian Women's Fund's intention was to implement projects in Taiwan for victims identified by the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation.

When a Dialogue Team from the Fund paid its first visit to Taiwan in January 1996, it held discussions with the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation and four victims. The victims indicated an interest in the Fund's projects, but the Foundation maintained its stance that the Japanese government should pay state compensation, and therefore cut off all contact with the Fund. After that, the Fund was unable to meet victims through the auspices of the Foundation. In August 1996, a victim who was resident of Taiwan came to Japan and said she hoped to receive atonement money from the Fund and the Prime Minister's letter, but she was pressured in a variety of ways to withdraw her request.

The article regarding the Taiwanese former comfort woman's demand for the atonement money
A Taiwanese lawyer named Rai Hau Min, Senior partner of the Formosa Transnational Law Office, who supported the Fund's activities from a humanitarian point of view, began cooperating with the Fund. Mr. Lai believed that the wishes of each individual former comfort woman should be respected. The Fund initiated projects in Taiwan by placing advertisements in three major Taiwanese newspapers in May 1997, and designated the Formosa Transnational Law Office as the location where benefit applications were processed.

Medical and welfare support project benefits in Taiwan were fixed at 3 million yen per person.

The Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation, which had opposed the Asian Women's Fund ever since its projects began, reacted by distributing approximately 500,000 Taiwan dollars (equivalent to about 2 million Japanese yen) to each victim who submitted a signed oath that she would refuse benefits from the Asian Women's Fund.

The distributed money came from profits earned through auctions held mainly by the Foundation. Then in February 1998, members of the Legislative Yuan applied pressure on the Taiwanese authorities and had them pay each victim 500,000 Taiwan dollars (about 2 million Japanese yen) as an advance, supposedly to be repaid later by the Japanese Government as "compensation."

Mr. Rai Hau Min Many of the victims live in poverty, and almost all are prone to illness. Many inquiries were received from people expressing a desire to obtain atonement money and medical and welfare project benefits from the Asian Women's Fund. However, victims who were pressured by people advising them not to accept benefits felt anxious, believing that if they accepted benefits from the Fund their living expense subsidies would be terminated.

In accordance with the victims' wishes, and to remove their anxiety about what could happen if they received Fund benefits, the Fund promoted its projects under the central proviso that their receipt of benefits would not disadvantage them in any way. The fact that the lawyer, Rai Hau Min, was present to ensure that the Fund's projects were promoted in a careful manner based on law, was extremely important.

Ceremony of the project implementation Fortunately, in spite of the difficult situation, the Fund was able to provide atonement project benefits to a considerable number of former comfort women. The recipients expressed delight upon receiving them. The atonement money and medical and welfare support projects were of great help to the victims, of course, but it was the Japanese Prime Minster's letter of apology, which accompanied those benefits, that made an especially strong favorable impression on the victims, stronger than we had anticipated.

Some of the victims who received the Prime Minister's letter held it close to their hearts, saying haltingly with emotion, yet with big smiles on their faces, such things as "I never thought I would see this day, as long as I lived"; and "So in the end, the Japanese people did not betray us." One woman expressed her feelings of joy in a song she improvised. (Voice of the victims)


When the Asian Women's Fund arranged a gathering to deliver the Prime Minister's letter of apology and other items, Ms. R went there with her husband. She said not a word and remained with her head down, crying. Her husband composed a song on the spot, to express his feelings at that moment. After he sang it, a Fund representative asked what the words meant. He replied, "They mean, 'I'll never forget the kindness the Japanese people have shown my wife. When I pray, I'll be sure to pray also for their happiness.'"

As soon as another woman, Ms. S, returned to her room from the gathering, she read the Prime Minister's letter of apology again, this time slowly. Turning to a fellow victim, a friend of many years, she smiled and said, "The letter asks for our forgiveness. I forgive."

At the gathering, Ms. L met Bunbei Hara, who was the President of the Asian Women's Fund at the time. She expressed her thanks shyly, but without hesitation. On the way home she said, "Actually, I wanted the Emperor of Japan to apologize, but I met with the third most important person in Japan and got his apology. So I feel better now." (The late Mr. Hara had served as a President of the House of Councilors, the upper house of the Japanese Diet [parliament].)

Some people used the atonement money to repair their homes, something they had dreamed about for many years, while others used it to buy medicine that had been too expensive for them until then. Some used the money to improve their living conditions in this way, while others used it for some extravagance they had never been able to enjoy before, such as buying their children something they knew they would like. On the other hand, there were some victims who, right to the end, continued to express fears about receiving atonement project benefits, and who never did decide to receive them.

30 March 1999, Chinatimes

On five different occasions during and after 1997, the Fund placed notices in Taiwanese newspapers, in order to clearly explain that receiving atonement money would not cause victims to lose their right to file a lawsuit claiming state compensation, and to print the full contents of the Japanese Prime Minister's letter of apology. The aim of these measures was to facilitate a correct understanding on the part of the victims and those associated with them of the objectives and nature of the atonement projects.

The five-year period for project benefit applications has ended in Taiwan, and Asian Women's Fund projects concluded there on 1 May 2002.


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