who ... moi?

a social butterfly: scared of much, but not of many. never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. not a fan of acronyms, snakes and angelina jolie. a HUGE fan of Fathead.

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thanks for your understanding.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

63 years on

our team co-ordinator and friend is rather actively involved in a voluntary international outreach team who work tirelessly, to grow the awareness of the little-exposed issue of "comfort women".

in the asia-pacific war (1931-1945) an estimated 200 000 asian women (most of whom were korean) were forcefully recruited (through deception and kidnapping) into sexual slavery.  these women are / were known as comfort women and for many years, were held hostage, raped, abused, tortured and deprived of food and adequate medical care.

on sunday, we attended the screening of a documentary made about these women.  it was shown at this temple in insadong.

the juxtaposition of this peaceful sanctuary of worship and the disturbing personal accounts we heard, only made this issue even more deeply moving and frighteningly eye-opening.

such an atrocious part of history has, for decades, been kept a dark and sordid secret.  only decades after the war, one woman spoke out - exposing the harrowing truth about what had happened to her during those years.  it was the first time the world had heard of comfort women.   following this, other women (now well in their twilight years) have slowly come forward.

in korea,  220 former comfort women identified themselves - only 89 of these are still alive.

courtesy of www.houseofsharing.org

although these women were taken from all over asia, the majority were from here.  most of them were between the ages of 14 and 19.  comfort stations were established all over military routes - including bases in laos, cambodia, korea, vietnam, the philippines and many in china. 

they "serviced" japanese soldiers.

the documentary told the first-hand accounts of 5 of these women.  the halmonies (respectful korean term for "grandmothers") spoke of their sexual slavery - being raped day and night by soldier after soldier.

over and above the torment they had to endure during the war years, their stories continue beyond the end of the war. when it finally ended, these women were either massacred or abandoned.   left stranded in foreign lands, with no money, no identity papers, no means of communication, they had no possible hope of ever regaining the life that had been taken from then.  some were able to return to their homes, or remarry - but often they were rejected in shame and stigma, by their new husbands and families, once the truth of their wartime experiences emerged.

i had only heard very brief mention of the issue, prior to watching the screening - and as i my understanding if it grew in detail, it was an incredibly hard pill to swallow.  watching this documentary makes you feel so angry, sick to your stomach, passionate and helpless all at the same time. the reason for it's screening was to grow awareness of what happened.     

actually, to simply state that it did in fact happen in the first place.

to this day, the japanese government refuses to acknowledge its existence.  they offer no explanation for these women and their stories.  they deny any involvement in the abduction of these girls - despite documented proof that the comfort stations were the "brain child" of the japanese government (established as an initiative to control the spread of STD's amongst their troops).  it goes without saying that they also refuse to apologize, or include it in the historical textbooks ... seen as, according to them, "it never happened".

the house of sharing (which is a home for healing for some of the last-remaining survivors) dedicates it's time to supporting the women, both in care and activism.   every wednesday, volunteers and former comfort women hold a peaceful protest outside the japanese embassy in korea.  inside the house, there is also a public museum showcasing photographic and video evidence, documents and artefacts, as well as therapeutic artwork by the survivors.

in their protests, programmes and awareness events - they ask only that these war crimes be acknowledged by the japanese government.  63 years on, they have yet to receive a personal apology.  63 years on, the history books remain silent about this sickening truth.  63 years on, and the last remaining survivors (whose entire lives have been shattered, molded, determined and destroyed by this) - are the only, diminishing, voices who are brave enough to come forth and take on a powerful national government like japan's.

as a child of south africa - i only know a history that is filled with violation of human rights, protest, uprising and reconciliation.  to come to this seemingly "random" place, all the way "over there" on the other side of the world - and hear of human degradation of this magnitude is mind blowing.  why the hell doesn't the world know about this?  this was one war, in one part of the world. how many other wars have had similar comfort women systems - how many female lives have been shattered in their wakes? how many women are comforting soldiers right now?

the helpless feeling i mentioned earlier hasn't gone away.
but in a way, this post will help to grow awareness of these war crimes:    if you didn't know about comfort women three minutes ago - then at least you're one more person who does know now.

and that's important - not because you know something about what happened to those people, over there on the other side of the world.  but because this is living history.  this is part of our shared, world history.  and even though it's 63 years on,  it's not a past reality, but one of the present.

if the truth of this issue isn't spread across the globe, then we run the very real risk of it becoming a future reality too.

to learn about comfort women and the house of sharing, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Amy and I went Ffi to the house of sharing and it was such a great experience. I am glad that you are sharing this on your blog because so few people know about the atrocities that occurred. If your interested in reading about my experience from last year here is the post: http://vanessayrogers.blogspot.com/2009/03/sharing-house.html