Tuesday, November 8, 2011

作成中 “Stolen Chastity”, by a comfort woman (halmoni)

“Stolen Chastity”, by a comfort woman (halmoni) living at the House of Sharing, a refuge for the sexually trafficked women. Over 200,000 Korean (and some ethnically Japanese) women were conscripted by the Japanese military into sexual slavery between 1930-1945.

As part of their healing process, some of the halmoni (literally meaning grandmother - it’s a euphemism) were encouraged by the House to paint art depicting what happened to them, to let out their anger and very complex feelings about their life history. Some of the paintings are relatively benign, but others, like this one, lay bare the trauma and anguish these women experienced.

To this day, Japan has never formally apologized for their role in systematic sex trafficking of these women, nor have they ever made any amends to the families involved. 70% of the 200,000 were killed immediately following WW2, and only a few surviving “comfort women” ever came out as survivors of the harrowing experience. It wasn’t until decades after WW2 ended, in 1991, when the first halmoni came forward to the public with her experience in the extensive system of sexual “camps”.

Katrina (hurricane-k) and I visited some of the halmoni today at the House of Sharing. What a fascinating experience that was. Unfortunately, there were so many people there we did not really get to interact with the women one-on-one. However, the museum on the grounds, and simply being in the presence of these survivors, was amazing.

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