Grandmother Park Ok-sun, “Now, you feel like dying, right? But we won’t!”

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared on the <Voice of People (VOP)> On Dec.12, 2011, covering an interview with one of the Japanese military ‘comfort women’. She relays her life in a calm and unimposing way, which makes the whole experience the more intense. Although the 1,000th weekly Wednesday protest got substantial media attention, the end is not on the horizon yet. All rights regarding this post stay with the author of the original article or with the <VOP> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link at the bottom.

A ‘Wednesday protester’ grandmother Park Ok-sun “Now, you feel like dying, right? But, we won’t!”

Choi Jee-hyun 최지현 (

입력 2011-12-14 18:43:53 l 수정 2011-12-14 19:14:03

Japanese military ‘comfort women’ victim grandmother Park Ok-sun (88) at ‘House of sharing’ on Dec.14 ⓒ Voice of People 민중의소리

Dec.4 when 1,000th weekly Wednesday protest takes place is rather cold from the morning. News programs are talking about plunging temperatures as well. Anyway, grandmothers are preparing to leave the residence as always to attend the weekly Wednesday protest they have been doing for the last 20 years.

In the ‘House of sharing’ in Gwangju-si, Gyeonggi-do, eight Japanese military ‘comfort women’ victim grandmothers live right now. Some grandmothers already left there, like Park Ok-ryeon who died last spring. On the door of each room in the first floor are the name and the picture of the grandmother who stays in it. I knock on the door of Park Ok-sun (88) whose wrinkles wave on smile.

It’s already 10 years since she came to this ‘House of sharing’; she has attended the weekly Wednesday protest in front of Japanese embassy all the time. “‘Compensate for our lives’, this is all we want. Every time we go there, we demand ‘compensate for our lives’ and ‘apologize your wrongdoings’ but they say ‘don’t demand it to us, we don’t know’. Presidents are noble people so we ask them to demand compensation to Japan for us but they say they don’t know anything about things happening here.”

Grandmother Park Ok-sun knows the fact that today is 1,000th weekly Wednesday protest very well. From the morning, news programs keep mentioning that and grandmother, pointing the program, says that peace monument will be finally elected. But besides that, nothing changed during the last 10 years of Wednesday protest that she attended. “That’s why I feel so heavy. We should get compensation at any rate. I won’t die. They may just step back and think ‘all of you are going to die’. That makes me sad.”

All of a sudden, telephone rings in grandmother’s room. Saying hello to the phone, grandmother Park Ok-sun hangs it up quickly. She says it’s her daughter. Though she lives in the ‘House of sharing’, she has family.

Naturally, our conversation treads back to the past. Her memory fades as she grows old but her memory of her feeling at that time seems vivid. Grandmother Park Ok-sun shudders and closes her mouth “you will know without my answer” to a question what kind of experience she had to go through when she was dragged away as a ‘comfort woman’.

Grandmother Park Ok-sun’s hometown is Milyang. She was born in 1924 and had seven siblings. When she was 14, her father died and her mother started to make money herself. And she was snatched to China as a ‘comfort woman’ at the age 15. After that, no member of her family knew anything of the whereabouts of grandmother Park Ok-sun.

“A friend one year older than I came to my home one day and asked me to go and draw some water for dinner cooking together. When we almost crossed the bridge on the stream to get clean water, someone called us ‘wait for a moment’ in Japanese from the other side of the bridge. A Japanese police in knee-high leather boots with long sword called us and dragged us who were imploring to him to spare us with another soldier.”

According to grandmother Park Ok-sun, there were already other girls of her age in the truck she was thrown to. After days of trip to nowhere, she was in China. And as soon as they arrived, soldiers pushed those young small girls into small rooms. Grandmother Park Ok-sun said “and we suffered like that. I don’t need to mention what it was.”

On 14th, grandmother Park Ok-sun in 1,000th ‘Wednesday protest’ wipes her tears away. ⓒ Yang Ji-woong 양지웅

And before the liberation, the war broke out when grandmother Park Ok-sun was 20. In the camp, soldiers were out of their minds running away and planes were flying in the sky. Around there was nothing to eat. Then she found a house over a few mountains. That was a place where they prepared meals for soldiers; other people in that place were also coercively dragged from somewhere else she explains.

“We said to each other that ‘since Japanese are all gone, let’s live here for a while and get back to Korea when it is liberated. I lived there in that house for several years and married to a man whom the old man who lived there introduced to me. I had a son and a daughter. When I was 50, my husband died first.”

Grandmother Park Ok-sun came back from China in last Sep. 2001. It is known that, at that time, she was reported as dead in the residence registry, which caused troubles to those who helped her return. As soon as she returned here, she looked for her family but her mother and older brothers were all dead already. To grandmother Park Ok-sun, the images of her family before she had been dragged to China were the last.

Grandmother Park Ok-sun came to the ‘House of sharing’ in Feb. 2002 after staying in her niece’s home in Seoul. Grandmother Park Ok-sun said “I came in here saying that I would stay here for the rest of my life.” She attends the Wednesday protest since she came in the ‘House of sharing’. It becomes 10 years now.

But to her, the memory of ‘comfort women’ experience is still a shock something she cannot forget. She says she thinks of those days time to time. She also says “When I was in China, I didn’t want to go out thinking like everyone was watching me. My son doesn’t want my pictures taken. They may feel ashamed of me.”

Notwithstanding, grandmother Park Ok-sun stands in front of people this day in high spirits. Even in the future, she says she will go out to the Wednesday protest unless she is not sick. She says “Any hard feelings? Nothing, other than they do not compensate for my life. That will resolve all my bad feelings. All people here had to suffer a lot in very strange places. They think the numbers will go down when we die, but we won’t die” and she heads to the Japanese embassy again.

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