What does that mean? To be frank, it means that she is a survivor of Sexual Slavery for the Japanese Military during the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945). "From 1932 until the end of WWII, the Japanese forcefully conscripted an estimated 50,000 - 200,000 women and girls from all over Asia, mostly from Korea, to serve as sexual slaves in the military's pan-Asian brothel system. These 'comfort women' (or more respectfully known as 'halmoni' - Korean for Grandmother) were raped, abused, starved, tortured and many were killed. At the end of the war, many were massacred or abandoned by military personnel" (1) far from home around the Pacific. After decades of silence and separation from home, some 220 women have come forward. In 2010 of these only 89 were still alive. To this day, the Japanese government still denies its involvement in the abduction of girls and women and the systemization of "comfort stations"all over Asia (1).
Now, these halmoni and their supporters continue to Protest the Japanese Embassy in Seoul each week, an effort that holds a world's record as the longest lasting Protest. They began their efforts in 1992.
My day at the House of Sharing was eye-opening, personal and powerful. I encourage you to learn more about the Japanese Comfort Women so that their stories do not disappear with them. The horrors of sexual slavery are still very real in modern day warfare. Perhaps by knowing more we can prevent current and future abuse to women and girls worldwide.
1. "House of Sharing: Become a Part of Living History."
Information for this essay comes from the pamphlet and my tour of the museum at the House of Sharing, the video they shared, and my session with Kim, Jung-ja.