A memorial in Nanijing dedicated to the Chinese “comfort women” of World War II finally opened to the public on Tuesday.
Incredibly, it is only the first memorial of its kind in China to specifically commemorate the many female victims of Japanese military brothels.
The memorial covers more than 3,000 square metres and is housed in a grouping of eight buildings that was the actual site of a former military brothel run by the invading Japanese more than 70 years ago, reports Xinhua.
The brothel, which is situated on Liji Alley, was opened at the end of 1937 and closed in 1945, and is the largest former “comfort station” still standing in the city.
Formerly the capital of China, Nanjing is unfortunately synonymous with the atrocities of the Nanjing Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking, in which an estimated 300,000 Chinese were killed. It has also been estimated that there were 200,000 “comfort women” from China and similarly many more from Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and other neighboring countries.
A sculpture of three “comfort women” dominates the memorial’s courtyard, one of which is victim, Pak Yong-sim from Korea. Pak, who passed away in 2012, was forced to live in Room 19 of Building No. 2. She revisited the horrific site for the first time in 2003.
The main exhibition itself is comprised of 1,600 articles, 680 photos and many other assorted objects, the majority of which were donated by victims themselves or their family.
One such item is a disinfectant powder used by the women, given to the memorial by late victim Lei Guiying.
“My mom was raped at the age of nine, and became a ‘comfort woman” at 13,” said Tang Jiaguo, Lei’s adopted son. “She didn’t want to talk about her past until 2006, when she testified for the crime of Japanese.”
In her will Lei wrote: “May the tragedy not be repeated. May there be no more wars.”
“For a long time, the history of ‘comfort women’ was buried,” said Su Zhiliang, a professor with the Shanghai Normal University. “In recent years, the Japanese made repeated attempts to tamper with history. The move angered many whose countries had been plagued by the ‘comfort woman’ system. That is why countries like China research and protect the history.”
Attending the memorial opening cermony was president of the history museum Independence Hall of Korea, Yun Ju-Keyng. She spoke about the need for cooperation between China and her own country in order to achieve recognition and justice for those who suffered.
“Denial of the Japanese government over the past crimes hurt the victims, who are elderly now, a second time. China and South Korea should join hands in exposing the atrocities of the Japanese imperial army, so that the former ‘comfort women’ could live to see the offenders apologize,” she said.
China, like South Korea, has been working hard this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Japanese invasion. Although they successfully bid to have documents related to the Nanjing massacre added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, efforts to add files on the “comfort women” failed.
“While my mom was alive, she told me that she was going to bear witness until the Japanese fully recognized the fact,” said Tang Jiaguo. “Before she died, she said ‘I have a son and grandchildren. They will fight for the truth, generation after generation’.”
By Daniel Paul