In 1992, two women from South and North Korea embraced one another at a hearing held in Tokyo.
They were victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery, and the moment symbolized unity between two Koreas in seeking redress from the injustices they suffered during the colonial era.
“The photo is now on display in central Seoul, as part of a special exhibition of comfort women from both South and North Korea. It is the first time that photos of North Korean victims were on public display.”
Japanese photojournalist Takashi Itoh visited North Korea over 10 times since his first visit to Pyongyang 17 years ago and met with victims of Japan’s wartime sex slavery.
He is the only person who has met face-to-face with 14 North Korean comfort women to hear their testimonies.
“Because I’m a Japanese man, some victims were hard on me. A woman with a scarf on her head came straight to me and told me her experience.”
One of the victims that he vividly remembers was Jeong Ok-soon, who was still carrying physical scars and tattoos forcibly branded on her by the Japanese.
“I thought she was being fashionable with her scarf, but later I learned that she was hiding scars left behind by a Japanese solider. Her bodies and even the inside of her mouth was covered in tattoos.”
He hopes the exhibition can raise awareness on the unheard voices of North Korean victims across the world.
The exhibition also features photos and stories told by 10 comfort women from South Korea, compiled by documentary filmmaker Ahn Hae-ryoung.
Ahn presented them next to each other in careful sequence, that focused on the emotional dimensions of the surviving victims.
The exhibition, with about 40 photographs on display, will run until March 11 and is open to the public for free.
By Lee Min-sun, Arirang News