Only 53 Halmoni Remain

In January of this year, two halmoni, or former comfort women, passed away and now there are only 53 remaining.

Comfort women is a euphemism for women that were coerced into sexual slavery by Japan during WWII. These women now preferred to be called halmoni, or grandmother in Korean, because they were anything but comfortable or comforted in the situation they were forced to endure. With time dwindling for these women and still no end in sight for their campaign to receive an apology from Japan as well as an accurate depiction of them in the Japanese text books among other things, it is vital that more people reach out to them, support them and support their mission even when they can’t any longer. Every Wednesday from 12:00pm to 1:00pm, they brave whatever weather is thrown at them and sit outside of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. It is one of only a few protests that the Korean government has allowed continuously and so these women march on. While crowds can range from just 20 to a few hundred, the women are always there.War and Women's Human Rights Museum

Hwang Seonsoon (황선순) was born in 1926 in Jeollanam-do and was just 17 when she was lured away to what was supposed to be a factory job in Busan. Once she got to Busan, she was transferred to Japan and ended up at a comfort station in the South Pacific Islands where she stayed for three years. She was 89 when she passed away last month. The other halmoni’s family would prefer to keep her information private. But two of these brave women have passed and that’s what you should know.War and Women's Human Rights Museum

To learn more about these women and their struggle, visit The War and Women’s Human Rights Museum (전쟁과여성인권박물관) in Mapo-gu which provides a look at what these women went through and how long it took to find proof of Japan’s concerted effort to ship women around the world to “comfort” their soldiers. Raped 20 to 60 times a day, the museum is full of harrowing stories and details that bring tears to almost every visitor. There is also information on what is happening now and how you can get involved and show your support. Add the Women’s Global Solidarity Action Network on Facebook to keep up with news related not only to these women but also women around the world that are still struggling with oppression and sexual slavery and get involved.

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4 Responses

  1. Bree says:

    This is so difficult to read. I have had a life-long love of Japan and lived there for five months in the countryside of Aomori. But recently, I have become really good friends with a few Koreans. As I learn and read more and more about Korean culture and history, I find it more and more difficult to reconcile my love for both countries; as if I am being cornered into choosing one over the other. One Korean friend especially makes me feel guilty for loving Japan as much as I do, but at the same time I don’t want to invalidate her feelings. Also, having romantic feelings towards one of my other Korean friends doesn’t really help the situation either.

    • Bree says:

      I did some further reading and came across this article from Korea Times:

      The author suggests that rather than demanding Japan confront the atrocities that they inflicted on these women during the Occupation instead extend forgiveness to them. A lot easier said than done, but not impossible. “Why are we ceding Japan the power over the healing process? By hanging the success of the whole resolution on Japan apologizing (or not), we are allowing it to basically hold everyone hostage.”

      • Hallie says:

        I think one of the biggest points the halmonis want to make is that when the Japanese government concedes that this actually happened it will be a part of their history. As it is, it doesn’t get mentioned in history books and we know that those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it so much like Germany after WWII and educating Germans on what happened in their history, the halmonis want young Japanese people to learn as well. It’s mostly just the government that denies it though because if you visit the museum they have in Mapo-gu they explain that civic groups and locals in Japan have said it happened and raised money to help the halmonis.

    • Hallie says:

      I hope that you have some friends on both sides that don’t make you feel like you have to choose. There are plenty of Koreans that learn and remember but don’t force people to choose a side. It’s important not to dismiss anyone’s feelings but it’s important to surround yourself with people that accept your feelings as well.

What do you think?