Independence Day and Comfort Women

Hello all!  I know it’s been a while since my last post, but that’s because I’m back in the U.S. now.  My fun days of living abroad are over and now I’m back home in Indianapolis.  Although I miss Korea a ton, it’s good to be back home and getting ‘back on track’ with work and stuff.  I still plan on updating this blog with some of things I did that I didn’t have to talk about while I was there.  Also, I think I’ll keep it going with posts about stuff going on in Korea, Korean food, Korean stuff here, etc.  Maybe I’ll need to change my blog title now, eh?  I probably won’t do that, but it might confuse some people!  I’ll have this blog and also will probably move my real estate one over to wordpress too now that I’m more familiar with using this thing.

Anyway, two days ago (August 15th) was a national holiday in Korea- Independence Day of sorts.  It’s called Gwangbokjeol (광복절) which translates to “Restoration of Light”, but basically that day in 1945 signified the end of Japan’s colonial rule over Korea (aka pretty much the end of WWII).  In Korea, a lot of people wave about their national flag proudly, and there’s also a song about the liberation too.  The colonial rule lasted 35 years and during that time because so many of the Japanese men were fighting in the war, they forced Korean men to work in mines and factories (in both Korea and Japan) to kind of make up for all of the workers who were gone.  If Koreans were allowed to go to school, they were forced to speak and write in Japanese only.

During this time, many Korean women were forced to work as ‘comfort women’ in Japanese brothels.  Many of these women were poor, from the countryside, or even kidnapped.  Some were lured in with the promise of working at a restaurant or factory, and then when they got to Japan or certain areas in Korea, they found out what the real deal was.  To this day the Japanese government denies that this took place and so many are still outraged by this.  Every Wednesday at noon in Seoul, in from of the Japanese embassy (which doesn’t look like a very pretty building, compared to those surrounding it) comfort women who are still alive come and protest.  I decided to attend one of these and see what it’s like.  Surprisingly, there were a handful of foreigners who showed up and they even have a few pamphlets in English.  Every Wednesday they bring out extra security in case these ‘grandma’s get out of control or something, ha!  Most of these women live at a place called the House of Sharing, which is half house, half museum.  You can read the stories of some of the halmoni (translates to grandma) on their website.  Below are a few pictures I took while at the protest.

At the end of the whole thing, everyone bows down and thanks the halmonis for coming out and telling their stories.

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Radiation Rain, Go Away

Today while I was riding on the bus, my aunt called and told me not to run around wet, but to buy an umbrella as soon as I got off the bus at the nearest 7-11.  She was watching on the news that there was a possibility of some of the radioactive rain headed to Korea since it was raining today.  After getting off at my stop, I grabbed one of the free newspapers to cover my head (more like my face) until I reached a “Buy the Way” which is like a CVS with no pharmacy.  Really it’s more like a gas station without the gas.  I got a simple white umbrella for 3,500₩ (do you remember how much that equals?).

Anyway, a lot of the schools near her apartment were cancelled, and her husband told her not to leave the house all day.  Probably better to be safe than sorry though, since she’s going to be giving birth in 3 weeks. 

Maybe eventually I’ll get one of those face mask things, but really more because of the yellow dust storms, not so much the miniscule radiation that Korea might get.  Here’s an article about about the school closings today because of the fear of radiation rain.

(borrowed pic from msnbc- Korean environmental activists today)

Dok D’oh!

Recently, things seemed to have turned a tiny bit sour between Korea and Japan.  They were doing so well too, after the earthquake and tsunami.  I heard on the news a week or so ago that South Korea donated more to the disaster relief than any other country (over $19 million, I think).  This is a pretty big deal, considering the bitter history in the past century between these two countries, but South Korea is putting all that behind them and acting like a good neighbor. (photo borrowed from dokdo-takeshima on flickr)

So the reason why things aren’t exactly 100% peachy between the two is because of a little thing called Dokdo.  Well actually it’s two things.  The Dokdo territory consists of two small islands- Dongdo and Seodo (with some other tiny nothings around) that have been part of the territory/history of Korea since around 500 A.D.  Recently, Japan approved middle school textbooks for the 2012 school year, which show Dokdo belonging to Japan and not to Korea.  Even after WWII, Koreans were using Dokdo for various reasons, building a lighthouse there in 1954, so it’s pretty clear that Dokdo belongs to Korea and has belonged to them even despite the hardships of wartime.  On the Dokdo website, it says that there are officially three residents on the island, but several hundred people use it as their permanent address, maybe as a way to claim Korea’s authority over the land?

photo borrowed from gossing2

Dokdo isn’t just about drawing a line down the middle of the ocean and dividing what’s mine and yours, the sea around Dokdo has some great maritime resources, which makes it all the more valuable.  Besides the manned lighthouse there is also a fisherman’s lodge, docks, power plants, helicopter pad, and more stuff. 

Anyway, right after Japan made that announcement about the textbooks, Korea’s donations to the Japan earthquake/tsunami relief immediately started to go down.  They’re a little upset, but who can blame them?  Anyway, it’s important to remember it is the Japanese government, not most of it’s people, who are trying to claim the islands as their own.  I would like to go check it out sometime, although it’s really not that big.  We’ll see how this conflict is resolved in the next upcoming weeks or so.

borrowed from 임프레자