House of Sharing

This past Sunday, I spent the day touring Nanum House of Sharing with Steph and Ric. As I already touched on this in my last entry, I figured I would share with you Steph’s blog post about the house and about the victims and survivors of the Japanese Imperial Army’s sexual slavery:

— taken from Trotamundos

“On Sunday I visited the House of Sharing with Ric and Sydney. It was perhaps the most moving and emotional experience I’ve had in Korea and I would like to share with you what I learned.

House of Sharing

The House of Sharing is a residence and museum for the survivors of the Japanese military’s sex slavery during the Asia-Pacific war.

Between 1931 and 1945 approximately 300,000 girls and women from across Asia were kidnapped, sold, or tricked by the Japanese military and sent to army bases to work as “comfort women”. These women were habitually raped up to 40 times a day by the soldiers. They were beaten, starved and tortured. They were treated like animals and considered nothing more than a military provision; there to boost moral and reward good performance on the battle field.

Approximately 50-80% of the sex slaves were taken from Korea, which was under Japanese colonial rule. Girls as young as 12 were taken from their homes to as far as Burma, where they stayed until they died of starvation, torture or execution.

When the war ended in 1945, thousands of these “comfort women” were massacred. The rest were left for dead in a foreign country where they didn’t speak the language and had no means of returning home.

The survivors lived in silence for almost 50 years, too afraid and ashamed to tell their stories. Then in 1991, one lady spoke out and demanded the Japanese government formally apologise for the atrocities it committed. Since then over 100 women have come forward and given their testimonies.

The House of Sharing is located in the countryside of Gwangju, south-east Seoul. It is home to 8 women who survived slavery and made it home to Korea to tell their horrific stories. We were guided around the museum by two English-speaking volunteer guides who were inspiringly passionate about helping the survivors and well informed on the history of what happened.

During the tour we heard testimonies from the women; they spoke of how they came to be sex slaves, the brutality they were subjected to and the conditions they were made to live in. Whilst listening to their stories I felt so many different emotions: I wanted to cry for the women; I felt sickened by what had happened to them; I was angry that humans can treat other humans so terribly; I also felt despair – that this is what the human race is capable of.

The current Japanese government denies that women were taken and kept as sex slaves during the war. It claims that the women were working at the “comfort stations” as prostitutes, voluntarily. During the museum tour we were shown numerous documents that prove otherwise, yet the Japanese government denies them.

Monument to survivors who have passed away.

Every Wednesday a group of people, including the residents from the House of Sharing, protests outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They have been demonstrating since January 1992, demanding the Japanese embassy take the following actions:

  1. Admit responsibility for the drafting of sex slaves during the Asia-Pacific war.
  2. Make an official apology.
  3. Reveal the truth about what happened.
  4. Erect memorials and a museum for the victims.
  5. Pay reparations to the victims or their families.
  6. Record what happened in textbooks that teach about the war.
  7. Punish those responsible.
There seems to be little to no international pressure on Japan to acknowledge what happened. With Japan being such as major player in the global economy no country wants to rock the boat.
Sculpture donated by an artist
At the end of the museum tour we were able to meet the survivors who live at House of Sharing. They are women in their 80’s and 90’s, who have no families, who have endured more suffering than I am able to imagine. In spite of the sombre and upsetting nature of the museum I was able to draw inspiration from the bravery and courage of the women at House of Sharing. For women of their generation, living in conservative Korea, to have the courage to come forward and speak about what happened to them, in spite of the stigma associated with “comfort women”, is incredible. They are such strong, brave women. In spite of their age and their ailing health they still go to the Wednesday demonstrations in Seoul, they are still fighting for what they deserve: an apology from Japan.
It was a very powerful experience for me. I strongly urge anybody who comes to Korea to go there, to learn about this dark, disturbing part of history and to feel the strength and resolve of the survivors.
Photos from the museum tour and the Q&A meeting with the survivors.
(Taken from House of Sharing’s facebook page)

Tour Information
English language tours are held once a month, you can book onto a tour by emailing the outreach team at nanum365@empal.com”

Here are some more photos of the house:

Nanum House

A sculpture donated by a local artist

A sculpture donated by a local artist

Bronze busts of some of the survivors who have stepped forward

Bronze busts of some of the survivors who have stepped forward

One of the women entertained the group with a delightful song

One of the women entertained the group with a delightful song

 

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