Current & Relevant: “Comfort Women”

I meant to write about this for months. I’ll even say years, because in my head, I justified my procrastination by imagining the  moment where I’d have the perfect words to intelligently articulate my raw emotions about this deeply unsettling topic.

I can’t pinpoint when I exactly learned about it. I was ashamed at first because while I was disturbed, I subconsciously relegated it into the category of inevitable atrocities that are inexplicably linked to war. As an adult I now recognize flaws in the school system and think it’s fucked up that topics like these are not properly addressed- and what’s more, for sexual violence to be simply labeled as a war crime by the teacher and then to swiftly move on. Why do we spend four class sessions on the types of weapons used in WW II but not the consequences and sufferings of the women involved (in any war)? Why is it such a taboo? Why did I have to spend hours outside of the classroom to learn about it- and ALL other related incidents? Why did none of my teachers have knowledge about it nor have the backbone to acknowledge it in class when I brought it up?

Some might say that this is sensitively charged with emotional, psychological, and political triggers. Yet if that’s the case, then why do we learn about war at all? I can see male colleagues, friends, or even professors plastering a sticker on my face as I bring this up- “wannabe feminist/won’t let the past go/hung up.” They look uncomfortable as I blame male perpetrators for this. But if they’re uncomfortable, how am I supposed to feel when my ancestors- and my gender as a whole, endured this atrocity? Had my grandmother not escaped Japanese recruiters, I would never have been born. It’s a chilling and jarring thought.

It saddens me more when I raise this topic with female colleagues, friends, and professors. As a Korean-American, I have to first reassure everyone repeatedly that I am not against Japan or Japanese people when I bring this up. My anger is directed towards the governments involved that let this atrocity happen back then and is STILL NOW letting it continue. Yet I can tell that something has not clicked within them as I argue for its importance and relevance in society today. While the men I tell this to look at me sceptically like it’s another feminist issue, some (white) women look at me as an outraged Korean woman, digging.

I spent my high school and college years trying to raise awareness of this- not only because it’s so fucked up, but because sexual violence is still occurring today. But it never gets the attention it deserves.

I devoted my dissertation to this topic and emerged even more angry and disturbed than when I started. There are plenty of resources written by all demographics alike that acknowledge the monstrosity of this issue yet- it has no priority in our world.

I really don’t know how to help anymore except to know about it and to never forget.

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