Seoul Searching for Comfort Women
After talking to one of my friends who lives in Seoul, I was shocked to learn about the House of Sharing where women who were used as ‘comfort’ by the Japan army in the 2nd World War now live.
I hadn’t heard of the ‘comfort women’ within my school history lessons or on my travels around the world. I wanted to know more and how I could show my support to these women, which is when I heard about the Wednesday demonstrations outside the Japanese Embassy.
When and Where does it happen?
Every Wednesday since 8th January 1992, when Japan’s Prime Minister visited the Republic of Korea, the surviving victims and others supporting their cause take to the street near the Japanese embassy asking for a proper apology from the Japanese government who deny that women were forcefully taken during this time. In December 2011, a golden statue of a women was erected next to the Japanese embassy in honour of the ‘comfort women’ on the 1000th demonstration.
Previously, the Japanese government have offered an apology but the women do not feel it is enough. They want their treatment to be part of Japanese history, and there is no mention of them in Japanese textbooks. In addition to this the new Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, appears to question the country’s earlier apology and one nationalist mayor speaks of the importance of these women (Source: BBC).
The Japanese Government have requested multiple times for the statue to be removed and this was agreed by the South Korean government in December 2015. She was still there on my visit in December 2016, one year after they agreed to remove it.
What happened to these women?
To avoid the Japanese soldiers from raping local women they were provided with ‘comfort women’ who provided sexual services to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War 2. Whilst at first these were Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for the job, as their empire grew, so did the need for women and they did not have enough volunteers.
Women were forcibly seized against their will, either lured by advertisements offering them other work or taken from fathers who had insulted Japanese army members. Some came from neighbouring countries or even as far away as the Netherlands to serve in comfort stations.
Approx 75% of women died and survivors were left infertile from the trauma or sexually transmitted diseases. Beating and torture were common and females who refused to provide services were executed. The women would have to service 25 – 35 men a day.
How can I show support to these women?
The demonstration takes place outside the Japanese embassy every Wednesday at midday. It is on a side street off the main road next to the Golden Statue. You can show your support here for these ladies.
In addition to this you can visit the House of Sharing which is located in Gwangju on the outskirts of Seoul.
Address: #65 Wongdang-ri, Twoichon-myon, Gwangju-si, Gyunggi-do, South Korea, 464-840
Here nine of the surviving ‘comfort women’ live. Next door is a museum which documents their story. The House of Sharing is looking for volunteers to carry out tours within the museum and help look after these women. Contact them on:
Did you know about the use of comfort women? Have you been to show your support or been to the house of sharing? Please comment below. Don’t forget to subscribe (It’s free!) to my blog for more posts like this and interesting travel tips.