The next journey begins CHINA!!

The next journey begins CHINA!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wedding Shoes

My roommate Robin sent me this link which reviewed the premier of the show we saw it was NOT called Flower shoes rather it was "Wedding Shoes." I think the link will also help to give background information about the "Comfort Women."


Blurred- (Written 7-23-14  for the “Grandma’s”)
A momentary visit to a
Strange world.
A place littered with words
That have lost their meaning.
Silence prevails.
Voiceless screams suffocated in
Endless images.
A woman-child of 92
With a warm embrace.
Hands and fingers entwined
With our own.
They speak the
Unspoken words
Erased forever.
Violently ripped out of
The dictionary.
Decorated with earned lines
The hands of  this
Still creates
A warm embrace…

                                                                           Debi Maller

reading blog

Since I had to post after the fact if you want to read it in date order you have to go to July 12 date and read up. Sorry

Home July 30

July 30
I have been home for several days, suffered from major jet lag and trying to catch up.  Overall this was an amazing journey, I learned so much about the plight of the Chinese during WWII and the little known issue of the "Comfort Women."  I urge you to google and you tube them and learn more about these remarkable survivors.  It was indeed political and cultural shock in China, especially in Harbin with all the communist propaganda on TV. No google, facebook and little news. Nevertheless I found the people so warm and welcoming.  Korea was quite modern and more expensive than China. I am posting some random photos here of the trip. Thanks for reading!!! Lets see where I will go next year!

July 23-24

July 23
I heard bad news out of the Middle east and  that the USA has cancelled all flights into Israel. I am saddened and concerned by these developments including the shooting down of the commercial Malaysian airline out of Amsterdam. 

Today was our last reflection session. Tomorrow I will go to the DMZ
Food in Seoul wonderful! Very healthy and good. I loved it.

I wrote a poem as my contribution to the reflection session and will post it.

This afternoon we had an unusual treat. Judy and Flora asked if anyone would like to attend a preview of a musical about the Comfort Women, which is being produced in Seoul, Little did we know what we were in for,! Although it was in Korean, the voices and music were wonderful and the story easy to follow. The girls we the age that the women would have been when they were taken which made it all the more poignant. It was called the “Flower Shoes”  We were all in tears but it was beautiful. I hope it is well received when it opens. It was a very special opportunity.
July 24

Demilitarized zone. We were given strict instructions about what to wear. Ot was pouring again torrential rain.  A very nice PFV Martinez. DMZ very weird.  We literally looked across to the North Korean side, seeing a soldier standing at attention. We could not point, gesture, or do anything that may be deemed confrontational. It was very interesting. We then toured an empty train station, beautiful and empty because it connected North and South Korea.  Finally thank goodness I am in fair to good shape- we toured a tunnel that was used to enter the South from the North it was about 1000 feet down and very narrow. The climb up was a challenge.

We ended the day by attending a rally in Seoul of thousands of people commemorating the disastrous ferry sinking in which 400 young people lost their lives due to negligence on the ferry owners part. The parents and families of those lost marched from the ferry site to downtown Seoul for three days. There were thousands of people there and many famous Korean singers who took the stage and sang sad songs of lament. We then took a lovely uplifting walk down a stream area that is a favorite romantic spt for young and old alike. We went out o enjoy some beverages, laughed and ending our last night in Seoul with my new friends and an awesome experience.

July 22

July 22
We visited the War and Human Rights museum established May 5,2012 so it is quite new. We viewed a film “The butterflies, flying high with hope.” A documentary, about the Comfort women, Or Halmonies, as they prefer to be called. Within the museum are actual documents found where he Japanese military actually has rules and regulations for soldiers using the comfort stations. In addition a ‘menu’ of cost is also documented. He women aged from 12 – approximately 30 when forced into sexual slavery. Japanese women were also subjected to this, as well as Chinese, Korean and Dutch. All places where Japan had invaded. The map clearly shows comfort stations set up in every place Japanese military invaded.  Sometimes the comfort statin was a mere tent, or a mound of hay in places of danger in the fields. “Grandma” Kim was the first Halmoni to come  forward ( she has since passed on) After she bravely told her story, 237 others came forward o testify and demand Japan apologize, which it has not done.  August 14th has been designated as a day of memorial for the victims of military sexual slavery. Many demonstrations are scheduled in Asia. A s I write this two of the remaining survivors , both 90 yrs old, are on a speaking tour in the USA. Grandma Kil said that “Whats left of my life I want to tell the truth” he wants the US and others to help to get Japan to stop lying and to tell the truth that will eventually come out. She had 3 brothers and 2 sisters and has no idea what ever happened to them. Over 70 years has assed and she feels that her family are those close to her now.  She did not want to share her story because she was uncomfortable with men in the room and particularly two of our participant’s guests from Toronto who are of Japanese descent.
There is a memorial to the comfort women in New Jersey (google it)
We drove 90 minutes through fields, farms and into rural area where the House of Sharing is. About 9 Halmonies still live there and are cared for by volunteers and other workers. We visited the museum there that also has documentation of the proof the the military slavery including a replica of a room, that they had to ‘live’ in.  Very tiny, one bed, one small window in which food was sent in, a basin for washing and nothing more. The steps down to the room were very loud and were purposely done so to simulate the sounds of the boots that the women heard daily as they had to service 40 to 50 men daily. They had to re use condoms by washing them out ( often soldiers refused to wear them anyway) they contracted STD’s had abortions, or lost babies, and the list goes on and on.
In “The House Of Sharing”, we sat on the floor, left our shoes at the entrabce ( this is done throughout Asia) and just held hands with, and talked to the women. They did not speak English, but words were not needed. Once again the women were visibly shaken at the sight of KoKo and Yushito the Japanese men with us.  It humbled them ( As I asked them later on) and they both felt that they too needed to face the reality of their motherland.
The stories of the Comfort Women are documented but they do not like to speak in public. One of the ones we met I recall reading her story, she was raped even before she had begun menstruating, and taken to a comfort station where she had to service 40 to 50 soldiers a day. She sufferd damage and was unable to have children, It is hardf to believe the Japanese governments claim that the women were volunteers when some were as young as 12 or 13. They were not paid, the owner of the comfort statin received money for this.

July 21 Seoul

July 21- Seoul
Hotel Vabien II is very nice! I changed roommates because Robin is not participating in the final day. I am now with Sheri from Toronto, a retired teacher of the deaf and hearing impaired. We went to the North East History Foundation located just down the street, for our sessions.
Seoul looks like Manhattan! Modern, lots of cars -none from Japan- all Kia and Hyundai. No one finds me interesting or different as in China.  The obvious standard of living is higher and we have INTERNET again!  I defiantly felt the difference being in China as opposed to Korea. Especially in Harbin, where the tv had only military movies- no news. I felt very isolated from the world.
The morning session included Korean students who did some presentations in regard to the Comfort Women. The director of the center, Dr King presented to us. The center was established in 2006 to foster peace and reconciliation in NE Asia. Teachers also spoke about peace education. Professor Asakawa ( Japanese) started the “Bridge for Peace” program. The other presenters included Arita Jungya- secretary of the Nigata Peace Center, Hae Soo History teacher at Bopung HS in Korea. The history teacher told us that their SAT includes extensive questions about national perspective in modern day politics. The teachers spoke about the ‘grades’ being so important and that issues are on the back burner. School is from 8 am until well after 4 pm and many stay until 10 pm for ‘extra’ classes.
Peace is difficult to define in Korea. Text books are skewed and biased. A new text book is in the works for history, that focuses on the relationship of North and South Korea in order to create global citizenship. Education in Japan in remiss about  teaching WWII. Many stories told about the atomic bombs but virtually nothing about Japan’s part in China. However, more teachers in Japan are on board to change this paradigm. The teaching about chemical warfare and forced sexual slavery is taught ‘under the radar.’ Korean curriculum is nationalistic. Anti- Japanese rhetoric is embedded in text books.
Over lunch, I was able to talk to the students, who all spoke English quite well. I asked about what they learned in school about The Holocaust. They responded that they did not learn much about European Jewry and that the Holocaust is about 2-3 pages in their text books.
We were shown a documentary which featured Japanese soldiers who spoke about some of the atrocities they committed and, similar to the Nazis, said they were following orders. Although some regretted what they did. One soldier said he looted, killed in the name of the Emperor- but rape he did that for himself! They felt themselves a superior race therefor it was easy to commit these crimes against humanity (sound familiar?). The documentary also included the testimony of a Philippine civilian (Phillipines were also invaded by the Japanese and subjected to atrocities) ironically, he tells about the terror and then drives away in a Honda.

Comfort Women is a focal point of this trip. The euphemism used is similar to what the Nazis used such as resettlement, special treatment, bath etc. The survivors do not use the term and prefer to be called “Halmoni” meaning grandmother. Much like my students who have met Holocaust survivors, these teens in Korea, China and Japan who are fortunate enough to meet any of the known 54 comfort women, are the last generations what will meet any of them in person.  They are all in their 80’s and 90’s. There is little government involvement in support of the remaining women, although the “House of Sharing” a place in Korea that is like an assisted living community for these women is subsisted as a welfare residence. There was an estimated 250,000 women forced to become sexual slaves to the Japanese military- an unprecedented event in wartime. The survivors remained silent for many reasons: Cultural shame, embarrassment, fear and wanting to forget. It was not until the 1990’s that any one came forward with her story.  The Japanese government has denied the forced sexual slavery and every Wednesday for 20 years there is a demonstration in front of the Japanese embassy by civilians, school children, the remaining Comfort women and all advocates that want to see the Japanese government pay restitution and acknowledge what they did. Our group attended the Wednesday demonstration.  It is peaceful but nonetheless many police are there. The embassy closed its blinds during the demonstration and use back entrances to avoid any contact with the demonstrators.  
Photos from Museum, survivors, and demonstration day