One of the greatest things about Donald Trump being the president is how the media put a microscope on his every move. He can spark controversy with everything, his actions in Asia had sparked a bit of media controversy. A couple of months ago, he tried to put pressure in North Korea by rallying the Americans’ allies in Asia: South Korea and Japan, but little did he realize the scars between the two countries.
The painful history between the two countries started in the early 20th century. Japan saw its chance to claim a slice of the pie of Asia as China was defeated in the first Sino-Japanese War. At the time, Korea under the Choson Dynasty started reforming its policies to strengthen defense. Then as Japan defeated Russia during the Russo-Japanese War, Japan was set to establish its occupation of Korea for its empire’s expansion by 1910. The occupation was brutal from the start as Japanese abolished the teaching of the Korean culture, language, and history. Most of the historical documents were burned. Businesses and buildings were occupied by the Japanese military. Farmers were either forced off their land or to fulfill quotas set by the military.
The brutality does not end there. By the beginning of the 1930s, Korean women were tricked into becoming “comfort women” or sex slaves for the Japanese soldiers. As the 2nd Sino Japanese War began, women were “recruited” from Japanese-occupied territories and Japan with the promise of a job or purchased by their parents to be “servants”. Once obtained by the Imperial Japanese Army, these girls got sent to different camps than what they expected. Most of them were sent to “comfort stations” where they were raped day and night by different soldiers. At the end of the war, there was mass murder as Japan tried to cover up its war crimes. Although not clear on the exact number, historians estimated that there were about 100,000 to 200,000 women who were rounded up as comfort women.
At the end of the war, Japan surrendered and Korea recovered its sovereignty. Most women stayed in silence since the topic in Korea is such a taboo topic. Not to mention, the west meddled with Korea and the country was split into two. However, the redress movement in South Korea was started in 1991 when Kim Hak-Sun testified in public about her experiences. Ever since then, more former comfort women stepped up to talk about their experience and a redress movement was ignited.
Since 1992, a demonstration organized by the Korean Council had been held in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul at noon happens every week. By the 1000th rally on December 14, 2011, A Statue of Peace, “Pyeonghwabi” was established outside the embassy. This is the statue explained:
In 2017, the Seoul Metropolitan Government installed 5 peace girls on buses and the buses featured audio excerpts of a South Korean film regarding the comfort women issue that played whenever the buses passed by the Japanese embassy in central Seoul. Many riders found it sobering to ride the bus with the comfort women statues.
The comfort women issue had since sparked discussions in the United Nations. However, Japan had still not moved on and demanded the statues be removed. After the establishment of the comfort women statue in San Francisco, Osaka ended its sister city relationship with San Francisco.
One of the peace girls installed in the Seoul busses will be at our upcoming event: Boba Making + Trivia! Come meet her as well as enjoy our community building event!
Miller, Linda Karen. The Japanese Occupation of Korea 1910–1945 (from Korea Lessons for High School Social Studies Teachers, New York: The Korea Society, 1999, http://caforumonline.net/CAFHandlerPDF.ashx?ID=403
Blakemore, Erin. “The Brutal History of Japan's 'Comfort Women'.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 20 Feb. 2018, www.history.com/news/comfort-women-japan-military-brothels-korea.
Information Service. “KOREA.NET.” Statue of Peace Boards Seoul Bus : Korea.net : The Official Website of the Republic of Korea, www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Society/view?articleId=148534.
“Voices of Survivors Must Be Heard, UN Chief Says after Meeting 'Comfort Women' Victim | UN News.” United Nations, United Nations, news.un.org/en/story/2016/03/524192-voices-survivors-must-be-heard-un-chief-says-after-meeting-comfort-women-victim.