As the world marks the 72nd anniversary of the A-bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Director of Education Simon K. Li interviewed with Mr Kim, a 91-year-old Korean victim of atomic bombs, in Seoul, along with other elderly atomic bomb victims whose tragic stories have now been almost forgotten.
On the eve of the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Director of Education Simon Li met with Mr Sim Jintae, the Director of the Korean Atomic Bomb Victims Association in South Korea. Mr Sim was a baby at the time when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands of Koreans who survived the U.S. atomic bombings of Japan in the final days of WWII have struggled for decades with debilitating illness, poverty and discrimination with little help coming from Tokyo or Seoul.
Mr Li and Mr Sim discussed the association’s journey of struggles and its mission, as well as the experiences of some Korean Hiroshima victims who were in Japan as forced labour or had left Korea voluntarily to escape poverty. When these survivors returned to a divided Korea after Japan’s defeat, they were shunned out of fear of radiation poisoning-related illnesses while many struggled for decades due to ill health and mounting medical expenses. According to Mr Sim, there were about 70,000 Korean victims in total at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, with 40,000 dying in the blasts or shortly after. Japanese data shows slightly smaller numbers.
HKHTC Director of Education Simon K. Li met with Professor Lee (李聖順所長), Director of the Korea Chongshindae’s Institute, in Gyeonggi-do. The two researchers discussed the history of Korean women drafted for military sexual slavery by the Japanese during World War II. It is estimated that 50,000 to 300,000 Korean women were forced to become military sex slaves during the war. Since 1990, when the institute was founded, and Kim Hak-soon and Moon Ok-ju’s public statements were made in 1991, more former Korean comfort women survivors have since come forward or signed up as comfort women victims.
Korea Chongshindae’s Institute is the only research institute in Korea which aims at research on the Chongshindae issues. Since its establishment in July 1990, the institute’s voluntary research staff have been devoted to disclosing the truth about the Chongshindae, which, for half a century after WWII, had been neglected.
This July, one of the few remaining Korean comfort women survivors Ms Kim gun-ja passed away shortly before HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li arrived in Seoul. Mr Li was invited to attend her memorial services and he also talked to former comfort woman Ms Lee Yong-su, a close friend of Ms Kim, after the funeral.
“I lived a hellish existence at the comfort station, facing an average of 20 Japanese soldiers every day, and sometimes as many as 40. I came to the US because I needed to hear an apology from Japan before I died… We want them to understand that there is a price to pay for the human rights violations and war crimes they committed.” Kim Gun-ja testified to the horrors of her experience of being a Japanese military comfort woman at a Feb. 2007 hearing on the issue before the US House of Representatives. Ms Kim is the third comfort woman survivor to pass away in South Korea this year. The number of survivors has now dwindled to 37 of the 239 registered with the South Korean government. Our Director of Education was at the site of commemoration in Seoul (video in Cantonese):
This July, Director of Education Simon K. Li visited the Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military and met with Mr Jeong Ho-cheol of its International Outreach Team. They had an in-depth discussion on the “comfort women” issue in Korea. Today, there are only 37 “comfort women” survivors alive in South Korea. The quote in the above photo is from the very first Korean “comfort woman” survivor who came out and spoke up for justice.
The Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military is an affiliate of the House of Sharing, which is home to the living “comfort women” survivors in Korea. It is devoted to reflecting the true history of “comfort women” during World War II in Asia. It is remarkable that the museum reconstructed a “comfort women” house in its exhibition. To listen to Mr Li’s explanation of how the setting of rooms in “comfort women” houses looks like, please click the links below for more information:
Mr Don Tow, President of the New Jersey-Alliance for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia, visited our Director of Education’s office on July 11, 2017. Mr Tow and Mr Simon Li had exchanged different ideas on pedagogies of teaching the Second World War history in Asia and the educational tour that NJ-ALPHA organised.
In South Korea, the co-director of the War & Women’s Human Rights Museum Ms Mee-hyang Yoon and HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li met to exchange ideas on how South Korea and Hong Kong teach our students about the wartime history of sex slaves. The War and Women’s Human Rights Museum is an open space to remember comfort women’s history, to educate students as well as the public, and to tackle the Japanese military sexual slavery issue. It is also an active museum that attempts to make the world a place without war and violence against women by collaborating in solidarity with other organisations.
In Beijing, HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li interviewed Mr Gao Xiongfei, who lost his arm during the Japanese military’s indiscriminate bombing of Yongan City. He also listened to the painful stories of the 92-year-old Mr Li Liangjie and the 87-year-old Mr Zhao Zongren, two Chinese slave labourers who were sent to Japan during WWII. The Japanese soldiers hunted for labourers throughout China and forced them into service. Statistics show that from 1931 to 1945, the Japanese soldiers enslaved more than 10 million Chinese labourers. These labourers were forced to be engaged in military project construction, road building, mining, reclaiming farmland and large-scale civil engineering projects. A large number of them were later killed. Mr Li talked to a number of survivors this summer.
The Unit 731 Museum’s Vice Curator Professor Yang Yanjun (楊彥君教授) and HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li had meaningful meetings on teaching the history of biological and chemical warfare during WWII at the old human experimentation site in Harbin. Lots of extremely brutal human experimentation as well as biological warfare tests took place here in 1935-1945.
HKHTC Director of Education Simon K. Li was a visiting delegate educator this July at the 731 Museum in Harbin. Many students that HKHTC engaged with in the past school year were particularly interested in the topic of 731 human experimentation and biological warfare during the Second World War.