If you have been on social media, you are probably seeing a number of post where people are showing off Korean flags. This can be confusing to some since it’s not time for a major sporting event or any other major international event. So why are so many Koreans showing national pride all of a sudden. For Koreans, it’s a reminder of a painful past and is one that many have not received relief from. This post will touch on a couple of very sensitive subjects for Korean people. It will be a very brief overview of things from the point of view of many Korean people. I encourage you to do more research on these topics to get a better understanding of why there is so much pain and joy behind these two events.
August 15th, 1945
August 15th is knows as National Liberation Day in Korea. It is a notable day because this is a holiday that is celebrated by both North and South Korea. It was on this day in 1945 that the Japanese occupation of Korea ended. The imperial rule of Japan was established in 1910, and it was on this day that Japan surrendered. This day is also called V-J Day, or Victory Over Japan Day. While this day is very important to Korean people, it is also internationally recognized as the end of World War II. While this date is a day of celebration for many Koreans, it is August 14th that is a very painful day for many.
August 14th, 1991
It was on August 14th, 1991 that a brave Korean woman named Kim, Hak-soon told her story and the story of many others like her. She was a woman that is now known as a “comfort woman” during the time of Japanese occupation. In multiple countries where Japan ruled during the 1930s and 1940s, places known as “comfort stations” were set up for Japanese military officials and other Japanese men. In modern English vernacular, these places would be called brothels. However, the women who were here did not come voluntarily. Some were tricked into going to these places, and others were kidnapped and brought to these stations.
The women here were forced into sex slavery. Whenever a Japanese man wanted to have sex with one of these women, the woman was forced into performing sexual acts with that man. This resulted in some women being raped multiple times a day, and many committed suicide after this ordeal. (It should be noted that not all of these women were Korean, since these stations were setup in other countries as well.) Because of the testimony of Mrs. Kim, August 14th is known as Comfort Women Memorial Day. While Mrs. Kim did file a class action lawsuit against the Japanese government, she died before her case could be settled.
Why Many Want An Apology A.S.A.P.
The reason why there is a great push for an apology and compensation to be made as quickly as possible is due to the fact that in Korea, there is believed to be less than 10 comfort women still alive. For those who feel that Japan has not adequately apologized for what happened, it is vital that an apology is issued while some of the women are still alive to hear it. The truth of the matter is there is no amount of money or apologize that can make up for a woman being repeatedly raped, traumatized and forced into slavery, with some of this happening while the woman was still underage. However, this is a vitally important issue to many Koreans who have vowed that they will not stop until the issue has been adequately addressed.
While there is no denying that comfort women and comfort stations were a reality, there is controversy as to if Japan has done enough to apologize to the women who suffered and if these women were compensated properly. The information that is out there is conflicting, which makes it impossible to link any articles or videos that I can recommend for you to look at to get more information on this tragedy. I would encourage you to be careful in doing research on this topic because it is an extremely emotional issue for both Japan and Korea.
The point of this post isn’t to stir up any anti Japanese feelings in those who read this. It is to help you to understand why these dates are important in Korean history. I hope this prompts you to do more research on this subject and to better understand how the events of a few years have shaped the minds and hearts of so many people. If you do so, you’ll have a better understanding of Korean people and about some of the events that have shaped modern Korean culture.