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Can’t Believe What Our Ancestors Did to You

Posted August. 13, 2002 22:40,   


“I have a nosebleed oftentimes. It’s because I got beaten like a dog when I was forced to serve as a comfort woman. I was beaten all the times, first for being too young to have sex and later for refusing to have sex…”

Some 25 Japanese college students from Nanzan University and Okinawa International Studies School were shedding tears as they listened to Kang, a 75-year-old Korean woman. She thought she got a job when she was taken to Japan as a sex slave. She was only a primary school student.

The meeting was held at ‘House of Sharing,’ Gwangju, Gyeonggi-based shelter for 10 ex-comfort women, on August 13. It was organized by Hannam University in Daejeon, an academic institution helping the shelter house.

Stories of two poor Korean women continued for one and a half hours, and then the room fell into silence. With their heads held down, some Japanese students said in low voice, “I am sorry.”

“I will remember what I heard today and tell it to my friends when I go back. Please take good card of yourselves.” (Sasaki Yu, a 21-year-old student from Nanzan)

“What these women went through is beyond our imagination. As a woman myself, I felt so sad and painful…” (Doyama Yukino, a 21-year-old female student from Okinawa)

“This was the first time I heard from a comfort woman. I want to study more about the Korean history as well as ours.” (Hasekawa Sae, a 21-year-old female student from Okinawa)

The students wrote their feelings and thoughts on notes and gave them to the old women. The meeting was a part of Hannam University’s ‘Experience Korea’ program in which it invites Japanese students from partner colleges for a month-long stay in August.

Before the meeting at the shelter house, the visiting students met two ex-comfort women at the university church on the 12th, where they burst into tears listening to their stories.

Yamato Geiko, 21-year-old female student from Okinawa said that she would not forget what she saw and heard for the last two days. “I will tell my friends their stories and do my best to heal the wound between two countries,” she added.

Meantime, there are 207 former sex slaves officially registered, according to the government, of which 69 passed away and 138 are still alive. As they get old, however, the number of the dead is increasing fast. Since the beginning of this year, 7 have died including Suh Bong-im (80, Daegu) who died most recently in June. Considering Kim Eun-rye (67, Seoul) is the youngest of the living, time is not on their side.

Although the government has repeatedly said that it is seeking an official apology and compensations from Tokyo, there has been little progress in negotiations. And the aging women protest that they will all die waiting.

“They wish to see the Japanese government make a sincere apology before they die,” said Yun Mi-hyang, deputy director at the Organization for Korean Comfort Women. “Japanese are trying to resolve the issue by offering compensations, which is yet another insult to those women.”

mhjee@donga.com sublime@donga.com