Friday, January 9, 2015

Story of a Comfort Woman

In my freshmen Academic English class, the students were to conduct an interview and get a story from a time before they were born. They were to listen to detail and relate that detail in a narrative structure. Here is a particularly sad but descriptive story of a comfort woman from the Japanese colonial period of Korea, written by Lee Kang Hee and printed here by his permission. Thank you, Kang Hee.

Sad Story in the Era under the Japanese Colonial

            When I was a high school student, I visited ‘The Sharing House’ to participate in an assembly. The assembly was held every Wednesday in front of the Japanese embassy in Korea to get an apology from the Japanese administration for a lot of elderly women who were sacrificed as comfort girls in the period of Japanese imperialism. After that assembly, I had the chance to meet one of the victims named Lee Oak Sun and interviewed her.

            I politely and carefully asked her to describe some experiences about the Japanese military’s sexual slavery. “You guys could not imagine how terrible those experiences were,” she said, starting her story. About seventy years ago, she was fourteen years old. When her parents went out for farming, two Japanese policemen came into her house and took her somewhere, saying that she had to go because of problems concerning her parents. At first, she resisted. However, the two men hit her head with long guns so she could not help but go with them. A scar from that day is still on the back side of her head, she said.

The old woman then described the next days after she had been taken. She arrived at a Japanese base in China and there were a number of other girls of a similar age to her. She said that she had been made to do chores on her first day, but was directly taken to a Japanese general and raped on the second day. After that terrible night, she started doing the same kind of work every day and night. Sometimes she was forced to have sex with over thirty Japanese soldiers a day. One day, when another woman refused to work, the soldiers struck her and threatened her with knives. One of the most brutal punishments was to throw the naked girls at boards with many needles, she said. The floor of the room was red with blood.

            In 1945, when Japan started to be defeated in the Second World War, Ms. Lee said there had been even crueler mistreatments towards the women. Even when one of them said she was hungry, the soldiers killed another woman and made soup from her and fed the remaining women. Additionally when Ms. Lee’s friend caught a sexually transmitted disease from numerous rapes, a soldier brought a heated stick and pierced her womb, saying it was to prevent contagion. Then the day came when Japan was defeated and the sexual slavery had to be concealed. She said they had not had a single thought to let the women go from the beginning. They put tattoos of children doodling on the women’s skin and killed them. That night, the corpses were thrown away and she pretended to be dead. A passing Chinese person found her and nursed her until she had recovered enough to be moved, she said.

            Several days after she was rescued and the war had ended, she came to Korea to meet her family. She said there had been nobody in her house. She sat there and cried. All that remained to her was just an empty heart, an empty house, and tattoos all over her skin. She could not marry because there was the social stigma on people like herself who had had sexual relations outside of marriage. Besides, the Japanese administration had covered up the existence of military sexual slavery so what could she prove, she said. The Japanese administration had deleted the facts from their school textbooks and sometimes even said the women had worked voluntarily receiving money. The grandma said, “I cannot forgive Japan.” 

            Today’s Japanese administration is run by descendants of war criminals from the Second World War who were released because of China’s communization. She hopes that the Japanese administration still run by the war criminals will one day give reward and apology to their victims. Most importantly, she wants facts about previous Japanese evil deed to be known and remembered by everyone all over the world.

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