※ When using attached photos, please indicate the photo credit: “Photo by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul National University.”
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, February 18, 2019 — Three original photos of Korean forced “comfort women” by Japanese military will be displayed for the first time in Korea at a special exhibition. They include one photo of the late Park Young-shim who was in captivity and in the last month of her pregnancy at a time of being photographed, and two photos of several Korean comfort women taken in Myitkyina, Myanmar.
These pictures were obtained by the joint research team of the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul National University through the Japanese military sexual slavery-related records management project that has been conducted for the past three years. These photos are part of a photo album created by the US military during the Asia-Pacific War. They were taken on August 14 and September 3, 1944, respectively, and it is estimated that the US military produced the album between 1944 and 1945. One private collector gave three pieces of photos to the research team in September 2018.
Other photos of Japanese military sexual slavery that had been released so far were all scanned ones by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. It is the first time to secure original photographs of them. These three photos are being printed 29 centimeters in width and 21 centimeters in length, preserved in good condition.
The research team holds a special exhibition titled “Memories of Records: Stories of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, Words That Have Not Been Heard Yet” from February 25 through March 20 at the Seoul Center for Architecture and Urbanism as part of the March First Independence Movement 100th Anniversary Commemorative project. Visitors are allowed to see these three photos as well as historical materials and video clips of comfort women and hear their testimonies.
Since 2016, the research team has been working hard to find out materials related to Japanese sexual slavery in the United States. They made public a video clip of the comfort women for the first time in 2017, and officially confirmed the existence of 26 comfort women who were in Truk Island of the South Pacific. In 2018, they published two casebooks that contain the victims’ testimonies and evidence documents.
The main exhibits include the original three photos of sexual slavery, the original New York Times Newspaper dated on March 3, 1946 that reported about Japanese and Korean repatriation, and a photo of the late Bae Bong-gi, the first victim who made an official testimony (privately owned by Kim Hyeon-ok).
The exhibition consists of four stories so that citizens are able to easily understand the history of the comfort women. The first one is about Korean comfort women who were in Myanmar; the second one about those who were in Songsan and Tengchong, China, and the late victim Park Young-Shim; the third one about those who were in Chuuk Island, the mid-Pacific, and the late victim Lee Bok-Soon; and the last one about those who were in Okinawa, and the late victim Bae Bong-gi.
The research team of Seoul National University visited the areas in China and Okinawa where the victims had stayed and produced films about them. They will also screen these films so that citizens are able to empathize with their pain.