The Historical Museum of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery opened this past August near Seoul, South Korea.
The museum documents the Japanese military’s abduction and sexual enslavement of over 200,000 women during World War II. Most of the slaves, whom the Japanese military called “comfort women,” were young, poor Koreans. The young women were kidnapped or tricked into entering the military brothels by men who made false promises of legitimate employment. There, the women were raped by as many as 20 or 30 Japanese soldiers each day.
The museum includes a model of the Japanese military brothel rooms in which women were raped and abused, taped testimonies of former sex slaves, and dozens of art works that tell the story of the women’s suffering.
Japan has yet to apologize for its crimes or give the former sex slaves any direct compensation. Japan did set up a private fund that offered $17,000 to each victim, but most women refused this offer and demanded that Japan take official responsibility for its crimes. Societal stigmatization and shame has prevented all but 152 South Korean women from identifying themselves as former sex slaves.
Seventy-six-year-old Shin Hyun-soon is one of the 152 who have told their stories. She found it difficult to visit the museum, but feels that it is important for others to see. Hyun-soon said, “…this museum will keep telling people what happened, even after we all die. And we hope it will help prevent a horrible thing like that from happening again in the future.”