DOWN THE KOREAN COMFORT WOMAN MEMORY LANE
I have always heard the phrase that a problem shared is a problem half solved. We all have a role to play in this world and the sole purpose is helping each other. More reason why we were all placed together on earth. It is said that when things are a mess, we need others to know what we are thinking, feeling or doing we must hence share our feelings with people who will not reprimand us for our thoughts, we need to share these feelings with someone who will encourage us to move forward. This article is based on the story that was shared by a former Korean comfort woman. Her sharing the story has made several impacts as it has educated other people and allowed others to make an effort towards other people needing support and help and not overlook common life issues.
The comfort women stories have stirred a lot of friction especially between the countries that were involved that is Japan and Korea. The stories about the comfort women were not well known in a wide scope as not so many survivors have been able to share their stories as it brought out painful memories that the women were not ready to open up. A courageous woman from the Philippines broke all the barriers and decided to share her story and this step made other women as well to open up. It was a very helpful step as it was a part of healing after decades.
Maria Rosa Luna Henson is her name, the courageous woman who decided to break her silence and open a wound that deeply hurt for the sake of others to learn and understand her hard times and stepped up and chose not to hide anymore. She decided not to cover her pain but let it out there. Luna Henson was the first Philippine who made her story public as a comfort woman during the World War 2 period. Maria was born in 1927 and grew up in Pampanga with her mother. She was a member of a communist guerrilla movement that was resisting the Japanese invaders. In 1943, she was taken in by the Japanese soldiers as a comfort woman in Korea and was later taken to Angeles in August of the same year. She was freed by the guerrilla movement that she was in in 1944. She had worked as a comfort woman for about 9months. This experience caused her physical and psychological trauma. She lived with this for years but decided in 1992 when she was 65 years that she ready to tell the world about her experience.
Rosa said that by her sharing her story was the best kind of revenge. She shared that she was taken to a hospital in Angeles city which the army had made it a garrison. She met six other women after two to three days. She stayed for three months in the hospital which was a garrison and later was taken to a rice mill there in Angeles and at times they would be taken to houses of the Japanese soldiers. She particularly remembered the Pamintuan Historical House. She explained that they were allowed to move around the garrison s during the morning but under the supervision of a guard but you would not get out. Rosa was not even allowed to talk to the fellow women who were in there with her. She shares that she was held there with two women who seemed to be Chinese. The other women were also from Pampanga and were still not allowed to talk to each other.
After she was freed by the guerrilla movement that she was in, she only shared her experience with her mother. She was not able to share with the man she married. However, her husband died as an army soldier and was forced to raise three children all alone. She worked in a cigarette factory. After hearing a radio program, that was then she decided to speak out of her own distress. She came out with her story at a press conference in September 1992. Rosa decided to write a book about her experience during the war period. In this book, she provided a straightforward voice to the silent and invisible existence of Filipino comfort women. This led other women to share their stories for the first time not only to the world but to their families for the first time ever. She was followed by other Filipino women as well. It also led other women from Korea and China to join the Filipino women to file action class lawsuit against the Japanese Government. They demanded justice in the form of formal apology from the Japanese Government. They also demanded that the Japanese Government include the actions that the soldiers committed into the history books in Japan. They also demanded that they are given monetary compensations for all the abuses and the violence committed against them.
The Japan government set up funds that they collected from private Japanese citizens and offered them as atonement. This was a project especially for the former comfort women as they would get 2million yen each.
Henson was the first to accept unofficial compensation from the Japanese. Although she believed obdurately that the Government owed her official indemnity. Rosa added by saying that if she was asked if she was still angry with the Japanese, she would answer by saying that faith has helped and she has learned to accept suffering. Her anger and resentments were no longer fresh and that by her telling her story, it has helped her reconcile with the past.
Thanks to Maria Rosa, she opened a leeway for justice to be served to other women that had gone through the same plight as she did and brought the women together and made them stronger. They were able to step up and seek what they deserved. Rosa remains to be a hero among the comfort women as other women have been helped through her initiative to seek justice.
Comfort women were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II. The name “comfort women” is a translation of the Japanese ianfu (慰安婦), a euphemism for “prostitute(s)”. Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 (by Japanese conservative historian Ikuhiko Hata) to as high as 360,000 to 410,000 (by a Chinese scholar); the exact numbers are still being researched and debated.
Most of the women were from occupied countries, including Korea, China, and the Philippines. Women were used for military “comfort stations” from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, Taiwan (then a Japanese dependency), the Dutch East Indies, Portuguese Timor, and other Japanese-occupied territories. Stations were located in Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, then Malaya, Thailand, Burma, New Guinea, Hong Kong, Macau, and French Indochina.
A smaller number of women of European origin were also involved from the Netherlands and Australia with an estimated 200–400 Dutch women alone. According to testimonies, young women were abducted from their homes in countries under Imperial Japanese rule. In many cases, women were lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants, or opportunities for higher education; once recruited, they were incarcerated in comfort stations both inside their nations and abroad.