• Yi Ok-seon, 89-year old “Comfort Woman” Survivor to Speak on LI for the First Time at HMTC


    Yi Ok-seon, an 89-year old Korean “Comfort Woman” Survivor, will give her testimony for the first time on Long Island, this Saturday, April 9, 2016, at 2 p.m. at HMTC, as part of the program, “Comfort Women: Truth, Acknowledgment and Healing.” The program will examine similarities between the so-called “brothels” in Nazi concentration camps and the “brothels” created by the Japanese military during WWII. The truth of the sexualized slavery will be personally addressed by Ms. Ok-seon.

    Born to a poor family in Pusan in 1927, Yi Ok-seon was unable to go to school. In 1940 someone offered her “an opportunity to gather money for schooling,” and she began working in a hotel in Ulsan. In 1942 a Korean and a Japanese forcibly abducted her, taking her to Yanji, currently in the Jilin Province of Northest China. After her abduction, she lived as a “Comfort Woman” for three years. As the result of repeated injections of an anti-syphilis drug and mercury vapor treatments, she was left unable to bear children.

    While at a “comfort station” near East Yanji Airport, she fell in love with a Korean who was forced into conscript in the Japanese military. After the end of the war, she searched for him, eventually settling with him in Baodaozhen, also in Jilin Province. They married, but when war broke out in china, he was enlisted in the military and whisked away. She lived for years as a husbandless newlywed in her in-law’s home, as was the tradition at the time, but she finally remarried ten years later when he did not return.

    Until 2000, when she finally returned to Korea and started to live in the House of Sharing, Ms. Ok-seon lived in Yanji with her husband’s son from her former marriage. She greatly regrets that she couldn’t go to school as a child and so she reads with great ardor anything she can get her hands on. She has also evolved into a fervent and fiery human rights activist.

    Come to HMTC on Saturday, April 9 to hear Ms. Ok-seon’s testimony. There is also a special exhibit on display at HMTC through April 30 featuring art created by “Comfort Women” Survivors during art therapy classes. To RSVP for Saturday’s program contact Lara Carignano at (516) 571-8040 or laracarignano@hmtcli.org.

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