As the world marks the 72nd anniversary of the A-bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Director of Education Simon K. Li interviewed with Mr Kim, a 91-year-old Korean victim of atomic bombs, in Seoul, along with other elderly atomic bomb victims whose tragic stories have now been almost forgotten.
Korean Atomic Bomb Victims Association’s Director & HKHTC Director Discussed Cases of Korean Hiroshima Victims
On the eve of the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Director of Education Simon Li met with Mr Sim Jintae, the Director of the Korean Atomic Bomb Victims Association in South Korea. Mr Sim was a baby at the time when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands of Koreans who survived the U.S. atomic bombings of Japan in the final days of WWII have struggled for decades with debilitating illness, poverty and discrimination with little help coming from Tokyo or Seoul.
Mr Li and Mr Sim discussed the association’s journey of struggles and its mission, as well as the experiences of some Korean Hiroshima victims who were in Japan as forced labour or had left Korea voluntarily to escape poverty. When these survivors returned to a divided Korea after Japan’s defeat, they were shunned out of fear of radiation poisoning-related illnesses while many struggled for decades due to ill health and mounting medical expenses. According to Mr Sim, there were about 70,000 Korean victims in total at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, with 40,000 dying in the blasts or shortly after. Japanese data shows slightly smaller numbers.
This July, one of the few remaining Korean comfort women survivors Ms Kim gun-ja passed away shortly before HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li arrived in Seoul. Mr Li was invited to attend her memorial services and he also talked to former comfort woman Ms Lee Yong-su, a close friend of Ms Kim, after the funeral.
“I lived a hellish existence at the comfort station, facing an average of 20 Japanese soldiers every day, and sometimes as many as 40. I came to the US because I needed to hear an apology from Japan before I died… We want them to understand that there is a price to pay for the human rights violations and war crimes they committed.” Kim Gun-ja testified to the horrors of her experience of being a Japanese military comfort woman at a Feb. 2007 hearing on the issue before the US House of Representatives. Ms Kim is the third comfort woman survivor to pass away in South Korea this year. The number of survivors has now dwindled to 37 of the 239 registered with the South Korean government. Our Director of Education was at the site of commemoration in Seoul (video in Cantonese):
This July, Director of Education Simon K. Li visited the Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military and met with Mr Jeong Ho-cheol of its International Outreach Team. They had an in-depth discussion on the “comfort women” issue in Korea. Today, there are only 37 “comfort women” survivors alive in South Korea. The quote in the above photo is from the very first Korean “comfort woman” survivor who came out and spoke up for justice.
The Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military is an affiliate of the House of Sharing, which is home to the living “comfort women” survivors in Korea. It is devoted to reflecting the true history of “comfort women” during World War II in Asia. It is remarkable that the museum reconstructed a “comfort women” house in its exhibition. To listen to Mr Li’s explanation of how the setting of rooms in “comfort women” houses looks like, please click the links below for more information:
Seoul-based War & Women’s Human Rights Museum & HKHTC Director Discussed How They Teach Wartime History of Sex Slaves
In South Korea, the co-director of the War & Women’s Human Rights Museum Ms Mee-hyang Yoon and HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li met to exchange ideas on how South Korea and Hong Kong teach our students about the wartime history of sex slaves. The War and Women’s Human Rights Museum is an open space to remember comfort women’s history, to educate students as well as the public, and to tackle the Japanese military sexual slavery issue. It is also an active museum that attempts to make the world a place without war and violence against women by collaborating in solidarity with other organisations.
Victims of Indiscriminate Bombing & Chinese WWII Forced Labourers Discussed Their Wartime Experience with HKHTC Director in Beijing
In Beijing, HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li interviewed Mr Gao Xiongfei, who lost his arm during the Japanese military’s indiscriminate bombing of Yongan City. He also listened to the painful stories of the 92-year-old Mr Li Liangjie and the 87-year-old Mr Zhao Zongren, two Chinese slave labourers who were sent to Japan during WWII. The Japanese soldiers hunted for labourers throughout China and forced them into service. Statistics show that from 1931 to 1945, the Japanese soldiers enslaved more than 10 million Chinese labourers. These labourers were forced to be engaged in military project construction, road building, mining, reclaiming farmland and large-scale civil engineering projects. A large number of them were later killed. Mr Li talked to a number of survivors this summer.
Unit 731 Museum’s Vice Curator and HKHTC Director Discussed the History of Biological and Chemical Warfare in WWII China
The Unit 731 Museum’s Vice Curator Professor Yang Yanjun (楊彥君教授) and HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li had meaningful meetings on teaching the history of biological and chemical warfare during WWII at the old human experimentation site in Harbin. Lots of extremely brutal human experimentation as well as biological warfare tests took place here in 1935-1945.
Director of Education Simon Li Networked with Unit 731 Museum in Harbin as Visiting Delegate Educator This July
HKHTC Director of Education Simon K. Li was a visiting delegate educator this July at the 731 Museum in Harbin. Many students that HKHTC engaged with in the past school year were particularly interested in the topic of 731 human experimentation and biological warfare during the Second World War.
Director of Education Simon Li visited the John Rabe House in Nanjing and met with the House’s director Mr Yang Shangyou. They had a fruitful discussion on pedagogical approaches to teaching about the rescuers during World War II in Asia such as John Rabe.
In Nanjing this summer, HKHTC Director of Education Simon Li interviewed one of the few remaining Nanjing Massacre survivors Ms Ai Yiying (艾義英), who witnessed the bloody atrocities in her village when she was 9. Since experiencing the atrocities in her childhood, she had nightmares about being chased by Japanese soldiers and got nowhere to hide. She still has wartime nightmares today 80 years later. There are now less than 100 registered Nanjing Massacre survivors today. Ai Yiying is one of them.