Visitors Log in more or less chronological order. Please scroll down to read, thanks! We would love to add your thoughts to this page, so please feel free to email us at sharinghouse #at# gmail.com

March
2006:
This is Maria’s mini-confession to her friends after her first tour and her first time translating.

Thank you again for the wonderful experience that made me understand myself and my country better. I really wanted to write a letter with a heartfelt message to you all because the experience really changed my view of what it means to “live” (not just “breathe” and stay alive… but really “live”). This email is like my little confession/oath to you all so that I will not let the feelings that I felt that day fade away easily.

When I went to the Sharing House last weekend, I was only vaguely aware of the historical background and the existence of these “comfort women”. I was in for a shock… I did not expect to feel so many emotions in one day… When Tim and Saroja asked me if I could translate the testimony of the halmoni, I cheerfully agreed without knowing what I was getting myself into.

As I was translating halmoni’s testimony, it was hard for me to continue… Words were glued to my throat as I was trying to take in the enormity of her story and trying to interpret it for others…. I felt that words are not enough to express her emotions. How can you possibly translate the million feelings passing through her mind during the brief pauses and tears? How can you translate the unsaid? My voice was trembling as was the halmoni’s….

This whole experience was beautiful. 30 foreigners from all over the world were sharing not just a story but feelings… During that valuable 1 hour, our sex, race, nationality didn’t matter. We were human beings sharing the pain of another human being.

The fact that us human beings can commit the most atrocious things possible to another human being is appalling… But we also possess the power to speak the truth and share our sufferings with others. As human beings, we are also able to shed tears for a complete stranger. In that instant, we are not strangers anymore: Halmoni is our loving grandma, and we are her beloved grandsons and granddaughters that she could never have.

April
2006:
Annie wrote an essay for OhMyNews.com after visiting for the first time.

In the museum, between the newspaper clippings and the relics, there is a photo labeled “The sadness of liberation” for all the women left behind. In mass graves. Left standing in Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Manchuria, after the transports steamed off to Japan without them. I don’t know what happened to them. So many records burnt, documents destroyed.

We don’t know what happened to all the hundreds of thousands of women. But we know of nine women, living in a house among trees and behind a museum, a 40-minute express bus ride from Eastern Seoul. These grannies are living history. History’s survivors.

October
2006:
Tania published her thoughts as an article for the JoongAng Daily.

As I listened to her testimony on a recent visit there, the horror she had endured wasn’t visible from the outside. She curled into the worn sofa like any little old lady in her late 70s would, her gray hair neatly in place. She first alludes to her ordeal when she squirms uncomfortably, her hands gingerly touching her back. “My back still hurts – it never fully recovered after I was kicked by a soldier,” we hear through one of the Korean interpreters. The emotional pain she suffered is conveyed in her sorrowful comment, “I have bruises on my heart.”

There is a sense that seeing some sort of resolution to this grave injustice — having it officially documented in text books and accurately inscribed into history — is the only thing that keeps these women going.

“They put a nail in my heart that still hasn’t been removed,” Moon Pil-gi whispers.

October
2006:
Steve wrote the following after his first visit.

I like to think that my University major in history has given me a sound knowledge and understanding of global affairs in the past century. So when the email popped up in my inbox inviting me to the ‘Sharing House’ – a place for Korean women abducted and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WW2 – I was initially surprised that I hadn’t heard of the issue before. Nevertheless, with my keen interest
in human rights and Buddhist ideology I immediately expressed an interest in the tour of the ‘Sharing House’ on October 29th.

We met our volunteer guides and tour group at Gangbyeon and made our way to Kwangju, arriving there shortly after 11am. I was immediately struck by the peacefulness and solemnity of the site and the surrounding area. We watched a DVD that introduced us to the history of the Halmoni (often referred to by the Japanese term ‘comfort women’) and chronicled their fight for acknowledgement and justice. The DVD focused particularly on the life of Kang Duk-Kyung, one of the most active and passionate Halmoni, who right up to her death in 1998 participated in weekly protests and regularly went to Japan on a publicity campaign. Watching the DVD,
I realized my naivety on this issue has not been caused by a lack of personal knowledge, but by a conscious and concerted lack of recognition on behalf of those responsible for these atrocious crimes.

The tour continued with a trip in and around the on-site museum. The museum chronicles and documents the mobilization of the Halmoni and the location and different types of ‘comfort stations’. There is an exhibit of the room used by a ‘comfort woman’, alongside various physical artifacts such as a military issue condom (rarely worn we discovered), and comfort station ‘tickets’.

Our guides informed us at this time that the Halmoni were raped up to 30 times EVERY DAY (and more on the weekend) during their imprisonment. As I turned this number over and over in my head an increasingly sick feeling worked its way into my stomach. It is still a number I think of on a daily basis. In a modern society that is beginning to realize the shame, invasion and brutality of a single rape, the number ’30’ has an awful connotation.

The tour continued with some informative displays of the Halmoni movement and the various testimonies they have to offer. The museum tour finished with what was, for me, the deepest and most profound display. The Halmoni have used art to express their feelings and tell their story. Looking at the pain and corruption imbedded in pieces of art such as “Purity lost forever” and “Abduction” gives some insight into the memories that the Halmoni continue to carry with them.

After lunch and the chance to talk with the volunteers and fellow visitors, it was time for the ‘coup-de-grace’ of the visit – the opportunity to meet and talk with one of the Halmoni. We were met by Moon Pil-gi Halmoni a diminutive but robust looking woman with searching eyes and an affable candor. She told us the story of how, as a 15 year-old girl desperate to study, she was tricked by her neighbor who promised her the opportunity to learn and turned her over to the Japanese military instead.

Moon Pil-gi Halmoni told us of her 4-year imprisonment in Manchuria, her desperation for justice and pleaded with us all to lend our assistance in any way that we could. She invited our questions, of which there were many. The variety of backgrounds and interests evident in the group was clearly displayed in the diversity of questions. I was impressed with the openness and honesty with which all of our questions were quickly met. Moon Pil-gi Halmoni was also eager to know our nationalities, hear our impressions of Korea and was very enthusiastic when a photo opportunity arose!

This signaled the end to an informative, moving and inspirational day. I felt drained, but moved. Sickened, but inspired. Saddened, but touched. I believe it is the responsibility of we – the educated, able and compassionate – to take up the fight for the Halmoni and work towards the justice they so passionately and rightly seek.

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