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The desire of ‘grandmothers’

Following are excerpts of open letters to South Korean President Kim Dae Jung written by three Korean comfort women. The women are in their mid-70s and live with nine others in the House of Sharing, a hostel for comfort women sponsored by Buddhist monks in the Seoul suburbs.

‘I have lived my whole life trembling’

When I was 14 years old -- just a young child -- I was kidnapped ... I was hurt in body and heart. I have lived my whole life trembling because of this suffering. Even now that my hair has turned white, when I remember my past, my whole body shakes, my skin blushes red and my nerves are on fire.

And I cannot die this way without an apology from the Japanese government. With tears, I ask you, Mr. President, to see to it that the Japanese government apologizes and pays compensation and punishes those responsible according to international law for this inhuman conduct. -- Kim Yun Shim

‘I could remember every detail’

You must be very busy with all your work, and how is your wife? I am thankful for the warm care you have shown to us. I am Yee Yun Su, a comfort woman victim from Tae-gu. I am sorry to always give you a hard time about this issue. I am speaking to you because as president you are the protector of our country. Please, Mr. President, think deeply about this issue.

The Japanese killed countless lives mercilessly, and even though young women were raped night and day, they do not have a sense of guilt. ... If you think that human life is even a little bit precious when you go [to Japan] on October 9, demand strongly that the Japanese government provide legal compensation.

This August 20, I went to Taiwan to a city called Shin Chuk, the place where I was a comfort woman. I could clearly remember and point out things I had seen there [as a comfort woman 50 years ago]: a house, a river and a little dam. I could remember every detail. ... When you go to Japan in October, I will go with you to stop [literal translation: to stuff the mouths of] those people who would deny what really happened. -- Yee Yun Su

‘I have so much to say’

I am 76 years old and so am the same age as you, Mr. President. ... The times are very complicated, and now you must have many difficulties since you have entered the Blue House [the presidential mansion]. Even though our country is having trouble now, I thank you for providing money for our livelihood.

I am sorry for making such a difficult request to you. The victims are all close to the age of death and, even if there is only one victim left, it would be good for the Japanese government to make an apology and compensation, whether it is a large or small amount. I would appreciate it if it would be given quickly. That is the desire of the grandmothers.

Again, I thank you for the assistance you gave us. ... I would appreciate an invitation to visit you. I have so much to say. -- Pak Du Ree

National Catholic Reporter, October 23, 1998