“You Should Never Forget”
- Born in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province.
- (5 years old)
- Moved to Busan.
- (17 years old)
- Abducted in Busan and forced to go to Manchuria.
Spent eight years as a comfort woman in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Hailin, Dalian, Shanghai, and Harbin for Japanese soldiers.
- (24 years old)
- Lived with a man named Kim for six months near Hailin immediately after liberation.
- (25 years old)
- Arrived in Busan through the Pyeongyang refugee camp and settled in Tongyeong.
- (37 years old)
- Moved to Masan.
- (75 years old)
- Registered as a former comfort woman under Japanese rule.
- (83 years old)
- Currently living in Masan (South Gyeongsang Province).
Busan→ Hailin →Busan (Even though she was transferred to many comfort stations in China including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Harbin in addition to Hailin, she does not remember exactly how she was moved around.)
I used to love to dance. I had a gramophone that played my favorite tunes. That was the only pleasure I had. Whenever friends came in, we danced together to the gramophone tunes. Even now I can’t help moving myself while lying down when a nice song is played.
“I love music. I love sad songs and tragic dramas. I don’t like comedies. You know how much I love it when a tragic drama is played on TV? Something like a young woman getting married to a man and ending up getting a bad rap from the mother-in-law. I like stories like a woman being kicked out of the house by the mother-in-law. I don’t know why I like them, but I do.
I don’t know why, but I love flowers...maybe because I am a lonely woman.
“Sometimes I wonder why I got so old so quickly. Even though I am old, my mind is still as young as a 20-year-old girl. But my body doesn’t work as good as before. Nobody can turn back the clock. (Sigh) Darn.
“That’s what makes me sad. It wasn’t like this even until last year. That’s what makes me feel frustrated. I get this sad feeling a lot these days. But I’ve got nobody to complain to.
“Once I die, I will become a bachelor ghost. I’ve never been married. I’ve been like this for 81 years. I have so much to tell you in my mind. Still, I get tearful whenever I start talking to somebody (sobbing). Who in the hell can I talk to?
I was about to get up after filling up the jar.
“I didn’t even graduate from elementary school. I dropped out in the fourth grade. What could I do? My family couldn’t even have proper meals. That’s why I had to get a job with a [rubber shoe] factory even before graduating.
“It was about one year after I joined the factory, when I was about 16 years old. After one year, I quit and began staying [home] to help my mother. Although I didn’t prepare meals, I carried water and cleaned the house.
“It was when I was 17 years old that they forced me to go. I was just a child. What could I know? That was when I was just cuddled by grannies. I didn’t know anything. Just an innocent girl.
“Back then there was no tap water, just spring water nearby. Tongyeong (Chungmu)Yeah, right above the spring, there was a Catholic temple [church]. And there was a spring this big [with her arms stretched] right below. It was like a neighborhood well. People from the whole neighborhood came and took water from it. The water was not much. It was always dripping little by little. So every time you dropped the bucket down the well you got just enough water to fill a tenth of your jar. That way it took so much time to fill the jar. Finally I could fill up the jar and was about to get up. Someone sidled up to me and touched my leg like this [touching the interviewer’s leg]. He touched me in the back, too. Looking back I found a Japanese soldier.
“It was a Japanese soldier. With stars on his shoulders and a sword on his belt and a cap on his head.
So I asked, “Who is this?” He said, “Let me talk, young lady.” The soldier right next to the Japanese one was Korean. He said in Korean, “Ladies, don’t suffer any more here and we will get you good jobs if you follow us.”
“He said he would get us good jobs. We won’t do anything to hurt you, he said. Someone I know built a big factory and he needs several good people to work in that place.
“He said it was a factory making clothes. I asked, ‘I don’t know how to make clothes. How can I get a job with the clothing factory?’ He said, “No, it’s okay. They will teach you.” The first soldier answered, ‘You will learn from the predecessors.’
“‘No I can’t,’ I said. ‘I am here to get water. I can’t go anywhere until I tell my parents.’ But they pushed me into the truck, in the cargo section. What could I do, I just complied.
“‘No, no, I can’t. I kept saying no. My mother will beat me up if I go without telling her.’ I kept crying. But they didn’t care.
“There was no way for me to get away because the two of them held me tight. I pleaded that I will go after I tell my mother. But they said it’s okay because you could send a letter later. How could I overpower the two men? The truck just drove away. That’s how I was abducted.
“While I was being taken in the truck, two more women were picked up in Busan. One was from Gyeongju and the other from Goseong. She was an unmarried girl.
“After a night in Busan, the next day we were taken on the train. It seemed an eternity in the train.
“In the train, I was sitting in the middle with the two men sitting to my left and right. Maybe they were worried I might get away.
“I felt so anxious. I was so sure that they were taking me to hurt me. But I couldn’t jump off the train to run away. I would die if I did. What can I do if I die? I won’t be able to see my mother and father any more. I wanted to run away but there was nowhere to run inside the train. Damn it.
“I kept asking them where they were taking me. But they didn’t say anything, and finally we ended up in Manchuria.
“For two or three days on end, I was in the train. And my legs got swollen because I wasn’t allowed to get up for stretching. I wasn’t even given food to eat. I felt I was really dying right there.
Roomwith Tatami Flooring
I asked “What is this room for?” Someone answered it was a room for tea guests.
“The first place we arrived after getting off the train was Taiwan. They said it was Taiwan. But Taiwan is in Manchuria. “The men who took me there were already gone. What kind of people are they? They were just gone.
“A Korean lady at the house seemed to know the Japanese men. Maybe that’s how I ended up there.
“I asked the women there what is this place for. One of the women asked me, “How did you get here?” I said I was taken all the way here after being snatched at the well. The woman said, “Oh, what a poor girl, what can you do?” What kind of people are they? You are just a small girl! Girl, you came to a really bad place here, she said. So I asked what this place is about. She said this is a place where women receive male customers. I don’t understand, what do they do with the women? She answered you have to sleep with Japanese soldiers who come here. Ah, I am damned. I just sat there and kept crying. But what’s the use if I cried? I just exhausted myself and my throat became sore. I asked again, “What can I do to get back home?” She answered that there was no way for me to get out once I was brought in. All of the other women said, “We were abducted here just like you and suffer like this.”
“Until I got there, there were two women. The two girls who were taken with me were Jaya and Moye.Including myself, there were five in all. Five of us started serving customers.
“The house was like a Japanese-style house. There was a front door with space for shoes. and rooms with Japanese tatami flooring. In the middle, there was a garden, with a bigger garden in front of the master bedroom used by the owner’s family. There was even a pond with fish and flowers on the side. There were three small rooms in parallel in front of the wooden floor room, with the same three rooms on the other side. Every time I entered the front door I saw women sitting right out of the rooms putting on make-up.
“I was sitting in the tatami room and the men came at night to enjoy themselves. They came and called out all the pretty ones. They picked one and said “Ano onna ga ii na.” After that, I would take him to my room.
“My room was the third room on the left side. Tatami roomswere in yojōhan style. The room was square and as big as this room we are sitting in now. There was nothing in the room except the futon. My belongings consisted of a small cupboard and nothing else. What’s the use of having any belongings when I had to sleep with Japanese dicks? All our belongings were in the owner’s room with nothing in our own rooms.
“Once the guests came in, there was no set time for party day and night. Whenever there was a party outside, I had to ride the rickshaw in full kimono dress. I got that kind of invitation a lot. I don’t know why I got the invitation when others did not.
“Maybe that’s because I spoke rudimentary Japanese while other women couldn’t. Or maybe I was pretty back then. After putting on the make-up, with the Taka hairstyle,and the big wig.
“Then it would be “ Dōzō oagari kudasai.”While doing that you pour a glass of sake. If you are asked to sing, you sing. That’s it! If you are told to do the Japanese odori dancethen you dance to the tunes (singing and clapping) ‘ “O-geisha donnari” That’s all that it took. I was good at singing, I mean Japanese songs. That’s why they called me out whenever there was a farewell party. Come Sadako Hayashi. whenever they held a party. My Japanese name was Sadako Hayashi and many of them just called me Reiko or Rei-chan.
“Once I got off the rickshaw, the Japanese people would surround me and I had to bow to them with my knees on the floor. As I got so used to sitting kneeling, I don’t feel anything sitting this way all day. Even now I am more comfortable sitting this way. Although my knees are bruised.
“Some of the guests who felt good with my service would stay the night in my room. Long-night guests would pay extra money. Every time I gave that money to the owner, she was so glad. Once you were ordered to serve a customer overnight, you had to stay all night with the customer no matter what. You can’t get out until the morning. You can’t, except to go to the bathroom. To make them feel good, make them feel they are king. That’s why the owner didn’t want to send me to some other place. I was the most popular woman in the house.
“Even though the owner didn’t want to let go of me, she had no choice because the military higher-up kept badgering her to release me.
“‘The women were talking, “Sadako Hayashi will be sent to some other country. The girls who were brought here with her won’t go, but it will just be her.
“Other comfort stations called the owner, too. They asked her to send me for a fee. They paid generously. I had to go even if I didn’t want to, because I had to do whatever the owner told me. It didn’t matter whether I wanted to or not. This is my body but not really mine. I was living like a slave, just because I was abducted.”
If you don’t make them feel good, you will be beat up.
“Haerom,it was Haerom where they took me.
“There were Chinese people and Japanese military stations here and there.”
“So they took me there and I arrived at ‘Takasako no ie in the end.
“At the station, there were so many young women. On the day I arrived, they gave me a room with a bed on the second floor.
“That’s where I slept and had meals prepared. Morning to late night, I had to serve the customers. It was from morning to late night or early morning. Sometimes Chinese customers came, as gunzoku (military dependents). The gunzoku were there mostly as short-time customers. They would spend just a few minutes. Whenever I gave the money to the owner, she would give me back (military) scrip in exchange.
“For example, if a girl at a room number pays such and such sum of money, then she will be given scrip of the same value. That way, the owner said, she would save the cash for my own sake. Still, I didn’t get paid at all even though I collected a lot of scrip. It was like the owner took it all.
“All I got was a little spending money when I went to the public bath or went to shop. There was no way for the owner to save money.
“How can you expect to save money from doing such a vile act? All the money would go to something bad. What good is the money earned from selling someone else’s flesh? I think the old fart must be dead by now. Back then she was about 40 years old. By now there is no way for her to be alive. She must be dead.
“The Japanese soldiers were savages. Do they consider what women think? As long as they are satisfied, they don’t think about anything else. If you don’t make them feel good, you would be badly beaten up. Some drunken ones came late at night and threw the women down the stairs. I think the Japanese people are evil. That’s what I think, evil. That’s how this arm of mine got mangled. (Moving her right arm left and right) it hurts whenever I turn my arm this way.
“I was sound asleep. I didn’t know when I fell asleep because I was so tired. I was sleeping with the door unlocked. [A Japanese officer] came into my room and grabbed me by the collar and threw me downstairs. I was sleeping upstairs.
“I fell so hard that my arm was broken completely.
“Oh my, I was in excruciating pain. I called out “Mom,” while holding my right shoulder with my left arm. I told her, “The Japanese soldier threw me from upstairs.” She said noisily, “I will report it to your boss and throw you in jail for this.” Upon hearing this, he hurriedly went back to his station. The next day he came back in a drunken condition and said, “Hey, where is the girl at Takasako no ie?” He said a girl at this house broke her arm because he threw her down the stairs. The “Mom” rushed out and yelled at him, saying, “What are you going to do, fix her arm or pay up?” He ended up paying money, saying, “OK, take her to the hospital.”
“It was a hot summer month and I had a plaster cast all over my arm (indicating her right shoulder). I had the cast taken off after six weeks and my arm looked so ugly. Because of the heat rash, the skin was horrible and my hair was a mess. I couldn’t do anything alone, even eat meals. All I did was sit in the room and do nothing. I couldn’t do my share of the work and suffered the whole summer. Lying down in the owner’s room alone, I had to be fed by someone every time I had a meal. Being spoon-fed like that made me always hungry. I was young back then and I had a good appetite. I was really hungry.
“Even today I feel pain every morning after getting up. Even yesterday, the [hospital’s] head asked me, “Where do you hurt most?” I said it’s my arm. But I couldn’t say that to him. I just told the doctor that I got hurt from a fall. After a shot and some medicine, the pain is relieved. But after a few days it acts up again.
“Look, this bone is abnormal, isn’t it? (showing her right shoulder) Even my blouses keep coming down on this side--like this. So I ended up this way. I didn’t think my life would be this pathetic.
“Still God helped me. I think surviving in that hellhole was a miracle.
Tincture of Iodine
Life in the comfort station was unspeakable. I was just a 17-year-old girl.
“What can you expect when a 17-year-old girl goes through such travail? I even got an injection of the so-called Compound 606 (arsphenamine, also known as Salvarsan). It was a Chinese hospital, I think. That’s where I got treatment.
“I didn’t get sick. I was always healthy. The doctors checked us once a week for the disease. It was quite an embarrassing experience. It was always men doing the test. They asked me to lie down and even open the legs. Maybe they were trying to find out if I had contracted baidoku (syphilis). Once you contract the disease from the soldiers, you will spread it to hundreds of other people. That’s why the doctors checked on us, for the soldiers, not us. I was 17 years old when I had the first man. I bled so much. I would put iodine tincture on the cuts. Iodine worked so well on small scratches. I got a lot of Compound 606 injections not to get sick. No matter when you are sick, you have to do it. It hurts. Just thinking about it makes me vomit.
“The Japanese soldiers worried a lot about contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
“We would have the customers use sakku (condoms). Some of them said nothing when I tried to put it on but some others said they didn’t like it. If they said no, then I did it without the condom.
“With a condom, it was much better for me because it wouldn’t leak. The hormone-like liquid comes out and all you need is to take out the condom and throw it away in the bathroom. To women, it’s so convenient and keeps them from getting a disease. Most of the time it was men who transmitted the disease. But women don’t get sick. That’s how women get syphilis and gonorrhea. Each time I received a guest, I asked them to wear a condom to keep from getting any disease. (With a long sigh) What’s the use? It was a long time ago. Let’s not talk about it. Just reminds me of the dark old times. No use talking about it.
“I never saw any pregnant women. Under the circumstances, there must have been pregnant women. Although I had sex so many times, I’ve never been pregnant. That’s strange. Maybe I had too much sex?
“Even if you were pregnant, all you needed to do was abandon the newborn baby somewhere. Some of them got aborted within a few months of pregnancy. I heard that a shot in the hospital could easily abort a baby. Within a few months, it’s not even a baby. It’s a fetus. If it’s past four months, it’s hard. But within three to four months, the women would get an abortion with an injection. So what are you going to do if you give birth to a baby? What kind of life would the baby have?
Let’s say you gave birth to babies as they were conceived. Then the place would have been full of babies and the women wouldn’t have been able to receive guests anymore.” And no one could know who the father was because the women had slept with so many men. How can you know who’s the father?
Like a Slave
It was like being a slave. Even slaves won’t be treated like that.
“For the whole eight years, I was forced to move to different places. They kept moving me around here and there.
“They kept moving me around even after they exploited my body. Like a slave.
“At Haerom, the Japanese soldiers took me to some other place where there were tents.
“It was a row of long tents. Maybe longer than five meters.
“Each tent was filled with small beds put together. Each bed was full of things for soldiers. Maybe there were ten beds for each tent. Someone told me to enter one of the tents. So I did. If I refused, it seemed like they would beat me to death. How could I not? After I entered, I had a dinner meal. This time someone told me to put on make-up. With make-up, I just waited there sitting. Some Jap soldiers came in with their swords and guns on the belt. One of them said to the ten or so women in the tent, “Ano onna ga ii na” (I like that girl) and took one with him. He took the girl to the bed. I thought to myself, “I have to do whatever the man tells me to do.” Otherwise, I will die, I thought. At that age I was too naïve. I will just let them use my body as they want and I will get out of this alive.
“Whenever I refused to listen to them, they slapped me. Sometimes they just left after beating me up. Sometimes when I was being beaten, I bit them with my teeth. If I bit their leg, they would scream “Ah, itai, itai!” (It hurts, it hurts). And then they would slap me again. So what can I do? All I had was teeth, and I would bite them back. That’s why my teeth are so weak and brittle now. As I got older, I mustered courage like that. Maybe thanks to the years of experience.
“Day and night all I did was sleep with the soldiers. Without being allowed to go out. Where can you go after spending several years of confinement? It was like slavery. Even slaves wouldn’t be treated like that.
“I cried alot thinking about my parents, and many times I tried to forget my family by drinking baijiu (Chinese vodka). Do you know how strong baijiu is? One shot of it makes you shed so many tears, with so many old memories of your hometown. Crying in the bathroom or in the corner of the house without anyone knowing. Sometimes I thought why it should be me who suffers this much. I didn’t know anyone else who suffered as much as I did.
“Even if I wanted to run away, I didn’t know where to go in Manchuria. It was in Haerom, where there was no one to rely upon. It was hopeless.
“I was so tired every day. How can you do it all day long? It was for years, day and night. Even machines will break down without being lubricated. The human body without rest must break down.
“Do you think you could endure a life of having sex with ten men a day for years?” (looking at the interviewer)
In your case, you will die within months. When I was young, I was healthy. I would run up the mountains and feel no fatigue. Once I ran, nobody could catch up. Of course, right now I can’t even walk right. Where’s my ashtray? Let me take a rest and start again after a cigarette.
“Maybe I am getting depressed. Because of this constant anxiety. I quit smoking but started again. Smoking is real bad for me because I have bronchitis.”
“I shouldn’t smoke because it will kill me. But still I can’t quit it because I have this anger in me. The doctors always advise me not to smoke. But that’s easier said than done because without cigarettes how else can I relieve my stress?
Company Commander [Chūtaichō] Hatanaka
I still miss him, Chūtaichō.
“The officers, Japanese officers, were stationed around 4-5 kilometers away. There was a military station. He would come to me every night. The man who came to me was Company Commander Hatanaka. He was young, about 24 years old.
“Company Commandercared about my health a lot. Years at war, he would have thought about sex. But he was such a gentleman. He just cared for me. He would tell me about his family and that I reminded him of his imōto [younger sister] back home. He said, “How come Reiko-san ended up like this?” And he cried for me. While crying together, he would say “Sadako, nakuna yo (Don’t cry). Nakuna yo.” We cried like that all the time. He loved me like that. I was loved that much.
“He tried hard to make me sleep. “Nemurinasai yo. Hai, Sadako. Nemurinasai yo..’ He would say you have suffered enough and make me sleep like a baby. Once I fell asleep, he would get up and quietly leave the room with something under the pillow. Later I checked what it was and it was money. The money for the night. It was for spending the night with me. With the money, I could give to the owner. For sleeping in my room.
“So how could I not love him? He cared for my health and welfare. He always said that I didn’t deserve this and that I should go back home someday. He said, Kawaisō da, such a poor thing. He came to me once a week regularly.
“Sometimes he would write letters. Dear Reiko-san, you must be tired from hard work. Why were you abducted to this far-off land from Korea? Where in Korea did you live? He would ask. With those kinds of letters, I cried a lot.
“It was about a year later. Someone told me that Company Commander Hatanakawas killed in combat. I just fell and cried out loud. I asked the owner if I could go visit the military station. I said I wanted to see the funeral of Company Commander Hatanaka. But she said nobody would be allowed inside the station.
“Ah, where could I see him? All I could do was watch his funeral procession from afar and pray.
“No, I couldn’t go (with her eyes misty). I just saw the coffin go out of the station. I felt so sorry. He was from Tokyo. Company Commander Hatanaka I don’t forget his name, not even his rank.
“By now his body would have become dust.
“Still I miss him so badly.
Encounters and Partings
It was about five months, I think. Such a happy life for me.
“I woke up to the sound of gunfire. Walking outside from the room, there was nobody except the owner. Ma, where is everybody? She said they all ran away. She said again, “Why are you so slow? Hurry up and get the hell out of here!” You know, I was kind of slow. I asked, “Where should I go, mom?” She answered, “There is no way but to run to Haerom.” But what can I do after that? How can I survive?
“So finally I got to Haerom running away from the Japs. [A woman in the neighborhood said] you should get remarried, then no Japs will touch you. [Thanks to the matchmaking of the woman] I got remarried. The man was a Korean who had moved to China at the age of seven. His name was Kim. The man was so nice and gentle. Without the war, maybe I could have lived with him for the rest of my life, as a Chinese woman.
“After the wedding, we lived together for about five months. I had such a great time with him. Back then I just giggled whenever he said something. We were so young and we laughed together whenever one of us farted. He used to ask me, “Why do you giggle so much all the time?” I don’t know why I giggled that much. He said, “Yeah, giggle all you want.” “When you are young, you do that a lot.”
“But one day [Kim] was forced to join the army. It was the No. 839 Army. I walked all the way to the No. 839 Army with a woman next door. But they said there was no such person. Of course, they wouldn’t tell me. How can I find out if he was dead or alive? I miss him a lot, still. He was good looking, with a broad face. Every time he came back home he would call me “Honey!”
“So I had to go back home and live alone with the money he left behind. I was surviving on meager food with the money, when an older lady I knew called me. She used to call me baby sister. That day, she said, “Come to my house, baby sister.” Let’s make sticky rice and chat all day. My husband is not home. So I did. But that day war broke out. I didn’t have enough time to get back home and pack up. I just ran away from her house and went up to the mountains and ended up in a refugee camp.
“Gunfire was everywhere and I felt someone would kill me right there. That’s why I ran away, with the older lady. I didn’t even have time to think. I walked on a black patch of land but it was a mud field. My shoes were stuck and I struggled to free them from it. Later I just ran without the shoes. Walking up the mountains, I got pricked by thorny vines. I was bleeding from down there and there was no cloth to cover. I had no extra clothes to change. As I had to walk and run without rest, my down there (indicating her lower part) hurt so much from abrasion. Whenever I was thirsty, I would use my two hands to scoop water from the stream. I saw a woman strangle her baby to get away from the Japs. If the Japs in the No. 839 Army heard the baby crying, they would be caught. Especially at night the sound of crying goes a long way. It was about a month in the mountains, hiding and running. Without taking a bath, I felt so dirty.
“My face was horrible. Where could I wash myself? Just run away not to get shot. Horrible, horrible. Still, the sound of China gives me chills. You know, I suffered a lot.
“I ended up in some village above Haerom after running away. But I don’t remember exactly because it happened so long ago. In that village, I saw the Soviet Union soldiers come in. They were tall, with blue eyes and black hair. I was terrified, hiding here and there. But they didn’t hurt women. Even if they didn’t, I was scared nonetheless. Maybe the Soviet Union was not far away from there. I ended up in the Soviet Union because there was nowhere to go.
“I had bronchitis after coughing a lot in the mountains. I have had it since getting out of Manchuria. I slept outside on cold nights too many times. Now that I have had it for too many years, it’s still with me. I think it will kill me.
“I don’t know how, but I finally went into a refugee camp in P’yang [Pyeongyang]. Why were there so many lice in that camp? Maybe because it was summer.
“There were about 50 refugees including men and women. Once I arrived at the P’yang camp, I had to eat corn dough. Sometimes the dough was full of bugs. The dough, as big as this [with her three fingers opening], was small enough to eat in one bite. One piece of dough is one full day’s meal. How can you live on that much food? I was hungry all day with that much food. I thought to myself, I will die like this without even seeing my mom again. Even if I die, I want to die in my home. But it looked like I would die in some strange place. I spent about three months in the P’yang camp.
“After three months, I was taken to Korea [Busan] in a large navy ship. Everybody said the boat was bound for Busan. What did I know? I just did what other people did. Inside the boat, it was huge, with a giant kitchen and a lot of sleeping quarters. It took about a month in the boat. What an unending ordeal!
I told my mom about what happened to me, but I couldn’t possibly tell it to my father.
“It was when I was 17 years old. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24, for seven years! It was seven years. I was abducted at 17.
“Now that I counted, I was 24 when I came back home. I was taken there at 17. I was 24.
“Now that I arrived in Busan, I visited my uncle’s house. I entered the backdoor with tattered clothes and rag-like shoes. I had spent months in the mountains sleeping exposed, so I looked just like a beggar. I entered my uncle’s house and a woman was washing something at the well.
“‘Excuse me, I am looking for my aunt. The old lady at this house is my uncle’s wife.
“Really? And [the daughter-in-law] ran to the house.
“‘Mother, mother, someone’s here. It looks like she is a beggar. But she’s looking for you.”
“Who is that?” And the aunt ran to the well and looked at me.
“You poor girl, you must be Jung-ja! What happened to you, you are almost a beggar! What happened to you, poor thing? She didn’t know I was abducted by the Japs. How could I tell her? I was so ashamed of myself.
“Where did my parents go? I went to my house and they were gone.”
“Your parents moved to Chungmu [Tongyeong]. I will write a letter tomorrow to your father and ask him to pick you up. So father came and he cried, “Ah, my child! Where have you been? You look terrible!” He was crying like someone died.
“I told my mom what happened to me. But I couldn’t possibly tell my father about it. My younger sisters and brothers didn’t know. How could I tell them what happened to me?
“When I told my mom, she cried all night. Her eyes swollen with tears. And she said, “I shouldn’t have sent you for water. Next time don’t go too far, just go to a well nearby.”
“My mom suffered a lot after I was gone. Her daughter disappeared after going out for water. There was no place to ask or find out. [After I was gone] she fell ill from anxiety. She complained of faintheartedness, all because of me. Who wouldn’t be like that if you are a parent?
“So I settled in Chungmu and I was ashamed of myself. As I appeared suddenly, people talked about me behind my back. Some said she was not the daughter of Mr. Lim. That family had three children, two daughters and one son. The girl is not their real daughter. One day I went to carry water in the well and someone asked me, “You are not really the daughter of Mr. Lim, are you?” So I asked my mom, “People said I was not your daughter.” Mother was so angry and yelled, “What idiots are talking such nonsense? I will kill them all!”
I never got to wear a wedding dress in my life. That’s one thing I miss in my whole life.
“I dated a man, I mean dated and lived with a man after arriving in Korea.
“His name was Hong and he graduated from Meiji University in Japan. I met him when I was 24 and lived with him until 37.
“While living in Chungmu, he visited my house many times. He was a friend of my younger brother and he came to visit my house many times. One day we hit it off and became lovers.
“I was two years older. There is no age restriction on becoming lovers, right? No age restriction.
“My body was already damaged and how could I live a normal married life? I couldn’t. My conscience told me I couldn’t. I was tainted and how could I fool anyone that I was a virgin. I never wore a wedding dress in my life. That’s one thing I miss in my whole life. My parents accepted me because I was their own daughter. But the parents of the man never accepted me. So he got married under an arrangement in Busan without me knowing. Later I saw some palanquins come in for the wedding ceremony. Still true love was somewhere else. Even though he got married to someone else, his heart was with me. He came to my house every day even after marriage. He ended up getting divorced from the woman.
“He lived with me in my parents’ house. My father liked him and my mom loved him, too. The only problem was his parents who kept opposing our union.
“I even had a daughter with him.
“But she was not my real daughter, she was adopted. Since my body was mangled from prostitution, I was unable to bear children. Maybe there was something wrong with my womb. That’s why I couldn’t get pregnant.
“When I lived in Chungmu, we rented out a small room to a young woman. She dated a man and eventually gave birth to a child. She had the baby in my own house. But the young woman said she couldn’t raise the baby and gave it to me. So that’s how I ended up raising the daughter.
“(With a pause in thought) I even have pictures of her. She was pretty.
“But she died. At around her one year birthday, she got sick and died. Her name was Hyun-ja. After her death, my husband walked out of my house. Maybe he put so much hope in her. After she died, my husband started to become aloof. He would leave home and stay away for days.
“If she were alive, my life wouldn’t have been this lonely.
“Even though I think I have lived my life with confidence, I become regretful when it comes to having a baby. I ruined my body early in my life at the age of 18. That’s what I think.
“When I was 37, I moved to Masan with my mother.
“I worked for a restaurant doing laundry and took care of the women’s children. That’s how I made a living. I could survive without him [Mr. Hong].
“Even after I settled in Korea, I suffered a lot doing laundry and cleaning for an inn.
“I am strong and resilient. I was willing to do anything to survive.
“Once I moved to Masan, this one [Mr. Hong] followed me.
“Yeah, he came to my house in Masan.”
I said to him, “Go to your woman. Why did you come here?”
“‘Huh, you know why I got married. I didn’t want it. It was just my parents who wanted it. I still love you. Without you, I can’t live,” he said. He was trying to stick with me no matter what.
“But I tried to keep him away because I knew he belonged to the woman he married. Still I feel sorry. I still miss him.
“Damn, whatever you do, you can never forget. Still I have this feeling of wanting to see him if I can. But I don’t know where he lives and there is no more contact.
“Maybe I could find out if I go back to Chungmu. But what’s the point of going there. I don’t go to Chungmu anymore. And what’s the point of meeting him now at this age? I am sure he is living a good life. To me, he was my first love, even though I spent years in China.
I won’t forget what happened. All I want right now is to hear apologies from those who inflicted pain on me.
“Once you are old, your body goes out of whack. Way out of whack.
“My body doesn’t work as well as before. Maybe that’s because of what I went through when I was young. Your body goes out of whack as you get older. My legs hurt all night. I didn’t have this problem when I was young. But now my legs hurt and my arms are killing me.
“Even now whenever I hear someone on the street speak in Japanese, I just want to take a knife and slit his throat from the back. That’s how much I suffered from the Japs. I know that not all Japanese people are evil. But that’s what I feel. Even my younger brother was killed by a Japanese soldier. In addition, I got raped thousands of times by the Japanese. So that’s why I hate the Japs.
“My parents gave me a clean body, but I had to give it away to dirty Japs. (With a long sigh) Sometimes I feel I want to cut off my legs and arms from the pain I suffered. I wonder why I should continue living. There is nothing good about it. I just feel tired from living. As I get older, I feel that way more often. I wasn’t like this when I was young.
“Today it’s getting worse. My body aches. I spend the whole day watching TV, sitting, and lying down. That’s how I spend my days, getting close to death. There is no one to complain to. I’ve got no one. Mom is not here anymore and no sibling any more. My youngest brother is still alive. But how can I talk small things with him? He is a guy. So I keep it to myself.
“Please tell him about this. How many things I have to tell in my mind.
“I won’t forget what happened. All I want right now is to hear apologies from those who inflicted pain upon me.
“(Shedding tears) Where can I tell my stories before I die. I’ve got no one to tell. No one.
“If I were younger, say, 50 or 60, I would have gone to Seoul and tried to meet the President at the Blue House (Cheongwadae). I would have told my stories to the President. They’re shameful stories. But I am willing to tell them. If it’s not the President, who else can I tell?
“Maybe I can talk freely in heaven after I am gone.
“All I wanted in my whole life was to marry a good man and live a happy life with him. Sometimes I wonder why it had to be me who suffers a lot, not other people.
“So everyone has one life and goes away after a while. Why can’t I get married to a nice person and get a lot of love? Maybe in my next life I want to be born as a pretty woman and be loved by a man to the fullest. I just envy those people. Because I didn’t have that life.”
- [note 069]
- Although Jung-ja Lim said she was abducted in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, it is more likely to have been near Busan from the circumstances she described.
- [note 070]
- It means bringing up water little by little with a bucket.
- [note 071]
- Goseong County, South Gyeongsang Province.
- [note 072]
- She thought Taiwan was in Manchuria. It seems that she was transferred later to the south, including Taiwan, as it is impossible to go to Taiwan by train.
- [note 073]
- The names of the two girls abducted with Lim.
- [note 074]
- Meaning “I like that girl” in Japanese.
- [note 075]
- Yojōhan is a Japanese term meaning a set of a four tatami mat room.Four tatami mats are equivalent to about two pyeong (6.6 square meters).
- [note 076]
- Taka Shimada is a traditional hairstyle when women wear a kimono in Japan.
- [note 077]
- Meaning “Please come in” in Japanese.
- [note 078]
- Traditional Japanese geisha dance.
- [note 079]
- Lim said she was called by many names including Reiko or Rei-chan, in addition to Sadako Hayashi.
- [note 080]
- It seems that she is talking about Hailin (海林), Heilongjiang Province.
- [note 081]
- The name of the Hailin comfort station.
- [note 082]
- Lim said she used to call the owner “Mom.”
- [note 083]
- The story of her being thrown down the stairs by the Japanese officer.
- [note 084]
- An antiseptic in yellow color.
- [note 085]
- For eight years from 17 to 24 years old, she was transferred throughout China, including Taiwan, Hailin, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Dalian, and Harbin.
- [note 086]
- ”Japanese phrase for Sadako,, Sleep well.”
- [note 087]
- Lim kept using the word “remarry” for the marriage with Mr. Kim.
- [note 088]
- Jung-ja Lim was the eldest daughter out of seven siblings, four sons and three daughters.
- [note 089]
- By the time Lim returned to Korea in 1945, her younger brother (23 years old at the time) had been shot and killed by a Japanese soldier for fighting against the occupation. She didn’t even know he had died, and found out only after she returned to Korea.
- [note 090]
- The only surviving sibling is her youngest brother.