Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Legacy of "Comfort Women" at The House of Sharing

Image of comfort women from The Korean American Experience Website.
The House of Sharing is both a museum and home to former "Comfort Women" - survivors of sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War (1932-1945). 
The House of Sharing is the world's first human rights museum centred on the theme of sexual slavery. The museum opened on August 14th, 1998 to record Japanese war crimes, to restore the honor of the victims and to function as a place of historical education.

I happened upon a mention of "comfort women"--a euphemism used to describe the mostly Korean women forced into sexual slavery by and for the Japanese military during World War II--in my Lonely Planet guidebook. It mentioned a place called "The House of Sharing" run by a group of survivors who live together on the grounds and created a museum to tell their story and to educate the public about sex trafficking. These women--now quite elderly--are famous for their weekly demonstrations in front of the Japanese consulate where they continue to agitate for recognition and apology from the Japanese government, who deny their culpability ever after an 1998 UN report found them guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their well-documented comfort women system.

I went along last Sunday to check out The House of Sharing during one of their monthly English language tours. The stories I learned there were really beyond horrific. Kidnapping and deception of young girls, rape and murder, parents hiding their young girls under the floorboards to save them from abductions. Forced hysterectomies and mercury injections to cure STDs. Throwing women into group graves to await their death if they got very ill. Girls "conscripted" as young as 12 forced to service up to 60 men per day. Pretty horrible stuff.

In this system based on a Japanese restaurant menu, available
woman are signified by a sign facing outwards; if the woman is otherwise engaged,
her sign is turned over. 

A recreation of the simple chambers where a comfort woman would do her shift.

Photos of comfort women.

More photos of comfort women.

Artworks by the comfort women as part of their therapy at The House of Sharing.

One of the former comfort women who met with us and urged us to sing with her.
She especially liked Simon and Garfunkel.

Sushi making followed.

If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the comfort women, you can click here. You can find about The House of Sharing by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. hey, Joanna,

    I'm glad you posted an entry about this museum. I knew of it from the same source, but never managed to go myself. When you get back to Brooklyn, we should compare notes about Korea. Have you been to the demilitarized zone, or see how they make kimchi? ... good stuff. --C