By Clara Soonhee Kwon-Tatum, Ph.D., Marco Education & Research
In December 2015, I was told that Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, asked the Korean community not to mention the matter of ‘Comfort Women(Sex Slaves) raped in WWII’ anymore. Then, two months later, he explained himself that the news report was a little twisted by a Japanese reporter.
Regarding WWII in Asian countries, I felt that many were just like me who did not know about African American History because I had only some indirect knowledge from printed materials in South Korea. I recently felt their painful history only after long-time life experiences in United States. I believe that Mr Blinken and other political and social leaders in the United States also might not fully understand the painful history that Koreans had suffered in WWII. So I want to share some real voices from South Koreans who had lived in the war zone and witnessed all the happenings at that time.
In 1970, 25 years after WWII, I saw most of my teachers in elementary schools used Japanese language fluently in class even though they were born and raised in South Korea. It was because Japan had prohibited Koreans from using their Korean language even in South Korea and Koreans had to speak Japanese language during WWII (1910-1945). They controlled our social, culture, and political systems and japanized them. Even tens of years after WWII, our teachers still used Japanese language in Korean classes, which was very sad and painful evidence of Japan’s cruelty over Koreans in WWII. What if Russians had attacked America, prohibit them Americans from using English, and forced them to use only Russian language in the United States. It would be atrocious.
We learned of the painful experiences that our ancestors had in WWII, and how the Japanese had not been human like because of their cruelty over South Koreans. For example, Japanese invaded Korean family and took all kinds of house stuff including kitchen utensils in order to make their war weapons. Also, they took food away from us to feed Japan soldiers in the war zone. So Korean family did not have anything to eat and had to go out and eat even tree roots in mountains. What if Russian soldiers took all house stuff even Kitchen utensils to make war weapons and took all food away from American family to feed Russian military soldiers and then American family had to eat tree roots to fill their starving stomach. It would be so sad that all Americans would be heartbroken.
In addition, most young Koreans were drafted to very cold war zones, like Manju and Siveria in China’s Northern parts. Most of them never came back home. Women, even 13-4 years old young girls, were forced or raped by Japanese soldiers to use them as comfort women (Sex Slaves) in WWII. Thus, our ancestors used to say to us ‘Japanese were not human’. What if Russians forcefully drafted 13-4 years old young girls to place them in war zones as sex slaves for Russian soldiers. Americans would shudder to think of it.
A couple of months ago, the Japanese government mentioned that there was no evidence that Japan soldiers forced or raped Korean girls as ‘comfort women’ in WWII. I was shocked by Japan’s response about comfort women. They were lying. In fact, it was just like that Japan leaders try to ‘cover the whole sky with the palm of their hands’. Truth can never be covered forever, though. Japanese government leaders did not disclose their true history of WWII to their next generations. It is so sad that educated people, political leaders, in Japan misunderstood the facts of WWII and their young generations lack knowledge of what their ancestors had done in the war time.
Japanese is like a clown who make international society laugh because they do not accept the true historical facts that all Koreans and people in Asian counties are well aware of. Japan should acknowledge the historical war crimes, accept it, and then apologize sincerely from bottom of their hearts just like German people did in the past. If so, all victims’ pains from WWII scars can be healed.
Germen and Japanese, War criminals in WWII, produced similar war victims. But why Japan can’t sincerely accept the fact of historical torture they did over Koreans and other Asian people in WWII? For example, using teens as comfort women (sex slaves), mass murders of Nanjing, and live human body experimental activities of Japan’s 731 military were all so cruel that Koreans and people in Asian countries would not forget and forgive Japanese at all unless they sincerely accept their crimes and apologize us. It is a very crucial that the issues of their war crimes should be resolved as soon as possible. Delay, worser the results.
February is the month of Black History in the United States that all historical facts, including the painful ones, should be opened and shared. At the same time, it reminds me of the tortured Korean comfort women. Leaders should be aware of the deep-rooted prejudice against African American by political, social, and cultural systems twisted in the past. Also they may have to take a great effort to correct the prejudice with regret and apology. Just like this case, Japan should accept their war crimes, comfort women, and apologize to Koreans so that they can begin healing from the painful deep scars.