Wednesday, November 27, 2013

House of Sharing, South Korea

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time now but I really didn't know where or how to start as it is sort of a touchy subject.

Today, I wanna tell you about the House of Sharing. It is a place that houses a few Halmoni (grandmothers) whom survived kidnapping, torture and sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during WWII; back then, things between Japan and Korea were not very good -to say the least. These women are also known as "comfort women".

The first time I heard about this place was a couple of years ago, when my sister told me she'd visited during her first trip to Korea. She told me a little bit of their story and how they lived now and, for me, it was a very touching thing hearing about them and ever since I said to myself that if I ever visited Korea, the House of Sharing was a must to visit.

 As I said before, the story of these women is very touchy, particularly because they're not widely acknowledged, by Japanese nor by Koreans. To Korean society, they are a shame as they see the sexual slavery as something they did voluntarily and not against their will, as it really was. And Japanese, well, they just won't admit they did such terrible things to these women back then, in spite of the fact that they go every Wednesday morning and stand right in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, they have for many years now and still, nothing has really happened or changed, except the fact that some of them have passed away.

A private fund was set up for them by the Japanese but the Halmoni said they didn't want people to give them money, they -in any case- wanted the Japanese Government to give them that money and not only that, but they wanted them to acknowledge their wrong and apologize as this would, somehow, restate their dignity. However, some of the Halmoni did take the money as they were going through times of need and they couldn't afford to refuse it.

Currently, there are 8 women living at the House of Sharing, but they're such a low number considering they were among an estimated 200,000 victims. When you visit their House, you get to see some sort of Museum they have there, as well as a room which is especially set up as an old army room back from the War times; it is a really small, cold and dark room that gives you the creeps as you as you walk in -can't even imagine how it must have been for those poor women.

At the end of the visit, you get to meet some of the Halmoni (depending on their availability as, sometimes, they don't feel too well due to their advanced age) and talk to them or hear their stories and, if you're lucky, you can even get to hear them sing happy Japanese songs. The House of Sharing is located in Gwangju City, in the outskirts of Seoul.

For further information regarding the House of Sharing and/or tours, please refer to their Facebook Page.

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