Love. When you wish to talk about love, it opens up the door to so many conversations – the weird, the funny, the endearing, the memorable. The Daegu Theatre Troupe did it again. We took something and ran with it. When I heard that the next show was going to be a collection of skits and monologues about love, I was a bit hesitant to think it would work. How can various takes on love and expressions of love come together to make sense?
But it really did! It came together smoothly through the connecting songs of the Magnetic Fields (album: 69 Love songs), which Ed sang between every skit and thus bringing the whole show together. Man, do we have talent out there. For those interested, here are a few bits from some of the skits:
Love, just do it
So I was asked to do a monologue from Shakespeare and I racked my brain for a week, seeing as I had two weeks to practice before opening night.
I chose Viola’s monologue from Act 2 Scene 2 of Twelfth Night. Great play by the way. In it, Viola, cross dresses and takes the name of Cesario. She enters the service of the Duke Orsino, whom she falls in love with. Duke Orsino is madly in love with Olivia, who thinking Viola is a real man, in turn falls in love with Viola’s alias Cesario. In the scene, an upset messenger brings Viola a ring that Olivia claims Cesario “left behind”. It’s really an excuse for Olivia to see Cesario again. Viola puzzles over the ring and questions if Olivia has fallen in love with her. Oh Shakespeare, how you like playing with our minds.
The best part was getting to dress like a boy! haha…seriously, guy pants are soooo much more comfortable. I think I made a cute lil boy ^_^
Aaaaaanyways, needless to say, I had my first experience ever freezing on stage. Yep, that’s right folks. I was basically first on stage, after Ed opened with a song, and I just blanked. And I saw the faces of the 90 people in the audience straight up staring at me and Shakespeare left the building. It could have been worse…I could have actually been doing a whole Shakespearean play. Or vomited… hmm. The audience was great though, and I left not fully traumatized.
The Stardust monologue went a whole lot better. I got a chance to try out my British accent, and apparently fooled some audience members into second guessing that the boyish lookin’ chap at the beginning of the show actually wasn’t me. Yeay!
This past Sunday I had the humbling and amazing opportunity to visit the House of Sharing in Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do province, about 45 minutes from Seoul. The House of Sharing is both a museum and home to former “Comfort Women” – survivors of sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War (1932-1945). It is the world’s first human rights museum centered on the theme of sexual slavery.
Eight of these women live in the house today. They are called the halmonis (할머니), or grandmothers. During World War Two, they were what many called wee-an-bu (위안부) or “comfort women”, 200,000 of the girls and young women from all across Asia who were taken by the Japanese to work as sex slaves.
The term “comfort women” is obviously a euphemism used by the perpetrators in order to lessen the horrific reality of the situation. The official name for these women is “Women drafted for military sexual slavery by Japan” or Cheong Sin Dae 정신대.
A bronze statue that represents what these women would have wanted from their life at the time – she wears a traditional marriage crown, on her right is a suitor and on her left is a family. The waves symbolize prosperity in childbirth.
Across from the first bronze statue, a second one reflects the juxtaposition of their reality – bayonets rise from a Chrysanthemum flower (the official flower of Japan) and pierce her, ripping through the traditional Korean hanbok, falling doves reflect fallen hope while her right hand drops the rose of sharon (the official flower of Korea).
Location of the Japanese Military “Comfort Stations”
The First One
In 1990, amid rumors of sexual slavery by the Armed Forces before and during World War II, a Japanese official spoke at a session of the Japanese Diet. He denied any governmental involvement with the recruitment of comfort women. He denied the forced abduction of these women, claiming they were never forced against their will. The outright denial of what had happened finally provoked one woman to speak out, Kim Hak Soon 김학순.
She was born in old Manchuria, but grew up in Pyongyang. After her father passed away, she was adopted. When Hak Soon was 14 years old, her stepfather enrolled her at The Gisaeng School (an all-girls performing arts school ). It was here that she was sold to a Japanese platoon in Northern China. Eventually she married, and emotionally abused by her husband who repeatedly insulted her for the life she had had. His death and the 1990’s denial by Japan pushed her to submit an official testimony. She protested until her death in December of 1997.
“I was born as a woman but never lived as a woman….I suffer from a bitterness I do not know how to overcome. I only want to ask the Japanese government not to go to war again. I feel sick when I am close to a man. Not just Japanese men but all men–even my own husband, who saved me from the brothel–have made me feel this way. I shiver when I see the Japanese flag. Because it carried that flag, I hated the airplane I took to come to Japan. I’ve kept trying to disclose the facts….Why should I feel ashamed? I don’t have to feel ashamed.”
The last painting Kim Hak Soon vowed to make before her death, “Punish Those Responsible”.
The Japanese government set up the Asia Women’s Fund in 1995 to compensate some comfort women, but it established the fund with private donations, not public money. Many of the survivors refused the “unofficial” offering. The following is a list of their demands:
7 Demands to the Japanese Government
Admit the drafting of Japanese military comfort women
Make an official apology
Reveal the truth about the crime and reveal all official documents
Erect memorial tablets for the victims
Pay restitution to the victims or their families
Teach the truth in schools so that the same crime is not repeated
Punish the war criminals
The Netherlands prosecuted some of the soldiers who had captured 35 Dutch women during World War II when the Japanese Army overran Dutch colonies in Asia. Those responsible were sentenced to prison. The Japanese government officially apologized for these women only.
The Korean Government ignored the sex-slavery issue in 1965 when it negotiated a treaty with Japan which settled other grievances due to war damage and colonialism. Interestingly enough, it was also mentioned during the tour that perhaps a reason the Korean government has not done more for these women is because they themselves have crossed that line – comfort stations were a reality during the Korean War.
Shortly after the war, the U.S. Government appears to have had knowledge of various Japanese war atrocities. They were aware that the Unit 731 biological warfare lab conducted experiments on human beings and “against entire populations and was responsible for anywhere from 3,000 to 200,000 deaths.” 7 The unit’s commanders were given amnesty in return for access to their research records. [Source]
Specifically, following WWII, the primary interest of the United States was to rebuild Japan into a strong ecopower to help in the Cold War fight against communism. Even as late as 2001, Washington actively opposed a class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. by former comfort women demanding redress from Japan. [Source]
It was a lot to take in as I walked through the dark displays and cringed every time my boots clicked agains the purposely placed wooden floor. The questions that came to mind were:
What were the responses of US and United Nations both at the time and presently?
Has this issue become a platform for other groups to open the door of discussion to the current issues of sex slavery in Korea?
Unfortunately, it there was no time to answer them fully. My impression was however, that initially because America wanted to establish Japan as a power in order to counterbalance the rise of the Soviet Union and other communist nations, it bypassed and looked over the human right’s violations Japan had clearly violated. Currently, the UN and America is pushing for Japan to apologize.
Some of you may recall, I had the pleasure of caring for a KAPS dog back in October. I got an awesome update about him I want to share with you, so click on the image to better read it:
PS – Seeeee, he was a Yorkie! I know a bunch of you swore to the end he was a Chihuahua
The Korean Animal Protection Society (KAPS) is one of the few long-standing animal shelters in South Korea. KAPS rescues animals from the streets of Daegu, it houses, cares for and feeds them at its three shelters in Korea.KAPS also focuses on campaigns to end the consumption of companion animals in Korea, to increase awareness about the importance of neutering and to educate young Koreans about animals.
My sister has been wondering what I actually eat here in Korea. And I was thinking of this organized way to present my food choices of a certain week – but hey, I’m on vacation and thinking of being organized simply failed. So here are random pics of food I’ve been eating during my vacation.