Sunday, May 28, 2006

Nanumui Jip: The House of Sharing

Today I went with my friend Dearbhla to the Sharing House. I think I mentioned it in a previous entry on my blog.
The House of Sharing is a place where several old women life. They were Japanese "comfort women" during WW2. They are Korean women that were kidnapped or conned when they were young, and put into Japanese soldier "comfort camps". They were beaten and raped every day by any number of men. Terrible. They are trying to get the Japanese gov't to publicly apologize and to compensate them. They Japanese gov't has only set up a public fund, 'the Asian Women's Fund' to accept public donations for the comfort women. The women would not accept that, though, and are pushing for Government compensation, since it was the Japanese government that set up the comfort camps.

There are not many of the women left. They say around 200000 Korean women were in the comfort camps (and up to 100000 women from other countries). Of those women, most died or were killed. I think around 200 were registered in Korea as having been in the camps, and of those, only a handful actually went public with it. At the sharing house, I think about 9 of the women reside. They are all in their late 70s or early 80s. The house is in the country. There is the residence, a meeting hall, and a 'museum'.

We got to hear the testimony of one of the women. Lee Oak-Sun is her name, I think. She was on an errand for her boss when she was I think, 16(?), and on her way, she was grabbed by two men, one Japanese soldier and one Korean (this was during the time of Japanese occupation in Korea). She tried to fight them off but could not. She was thrown into the back of a truck where several other girls were already awaiting their fate. They were put on a train for China. Then they were split into 2 groups. Lee Ok-Su was put with one other girl, onto another train. They were sent to a working camp at a construction site. She was resistant and tried to get away. She was then sent to a comfort camp. During her time there, she was stabbed and beaten numberous time. I guess the officers were the most offensive. One stuck a knife in her arm and twisted it to make it hurt more. She was beaten regularly, the blows usually to her face. She was beaten, tortured and stabbed in the foot when she was caught after running away. Running away did nothing, really, as she was in a foreign country with a different language, and no money. She had no idea how to get home. She saw other women being stabbed, and killed.

After the war ended, she still had no way to get home. She moved in with the family of a guy she had met at the construction site. She eventually married him. He was enlisted for the army during the Korean war and ended up somewhere in North Korea, never to be seen again. Lee Ok-Su eventually re-married. She finally was able to return to Korea only a few years ago. All of her family members in Korea are deceased, and they had listed her as dead, which meant that she no longer existed in the system. She had to fight to get her citizenship back and everything. If it weren't for the sharing house, she would have no home and no life.

Other comfort women had other experiences, some maybe better, some much worse. There were comfort stations all over Asia. To see the locations on a map is shocking. Most of the women have diseases from their experiences in the camps. If they got an std in the camps, they either disappeared, never to be seen again, or they were given mercury shots.Many people still say that it is all a lie, that the women are making up the stories because they want money. But is not only in their testimony, but also in the journals and testimony of many Japanese soldiers.

More information on the House of Sharing:
The House of Sharing

Other information:
Sex Slave Victims Bare Their Shame at 'Sharing House' The Korea Times By: Tim MurrayContributing Writer
(Chair, Asian Women's Solidarity Committee)

War and Forgiveness (see the script and the essay on The Korean Sharing House)
Korean Sharing House By: Judith Kampfner, WNYC
My Visit to the Sharing House By: Judith Kampfner, WNYC
Korean sharing house By: Judith Kampfner, WNYC

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