"We must record these things that were forced upon us."
Last Saturday I spent the day at the House of Sharing in Gwanju, Gyeonggi-do (just outside of Seoul). The House of Sharing is both a safehouse for former Korean "comfort women" and a museum to document and give awareness to these women during World War II. The house was built in 1992 with funds from a Buddhist organzation and private Korean nationals. At that time, twelve women resided at the House of Sharing. Currently, there are nine survivors at the house who have become activists in spreading awareness about what was done to them. These women are pretty frail, aging around 85-95 years old and have survived sexual slavery - yet, when they moved into the neighborhood, even the neighbors threw rocks at their house. How could anyone do that?
From 1932 until the end of World War II, the Japanese military kidnapped and/or deceived young women into sexual slavery. At that time, Korea had a strong farming culture. When the Japanese colonized Korea, they took away everyone's farmland; therefore, impoverishing many Koreans. The Japanese military advertised great jobs in factories for young girls who could make money for their families; they had no idea they'd be forced to "service" the military. Other Korean women were simply kidnapped off of the street.
The Japanese government, still to this day, has not given a formal apology to these women. One argument was that these women CHOSE this. They left Korea, seeking prostitution. This is impossible because at the time of Japanese occupation, it was illegal for Koreans to leave the country. The only international travel was on a military ships. There was no way any of these women could have physically left the country without the aid of the military.
When they built the house, they hired a woman to teach the women how to express themselves through art to heal some of their wounds.
Each year, Japanese visitors come to the House of Sharing. They are often confused on what to believe - these women or their government. The photo below shows things that Japanese visitors have contributed to the House of Sharing.
I highly encourage you to check out the House of Sharing if you are living or visiting South Korea. If not, please check out more information and read some of the women's testimonies. I cannot give any justice to the pain and suffering these women have encountered in this post.
For more information on the survivors of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, please check out the House of Sharing's English website: http://www.houseofsharing.org/ where you can find many halmonis' testimonies. Or the official Korean website: http://www.nanum.org/. There is also a facebook page: House of Sharing.