Korean sex abuse survivor shares her story

Kathryn Monroe

Dozens of soldiers raped her daily for 12 years.

Kap-Soon Huh, 84, was a “comfort woman” during World War II, when Japan captured women and forced them to serve as sex slaves to boost soldiers’ morale. Huh, one of the few surviving comfort women, spoke to an audience of about 100 Northwestern students in Ryan Family Auditorium at the Technological Institute on Monday night during an event sponsored by the Korean American Student Association.

When she was 15, a Japanese policeman came to her family’s home and threatened to take her father for the Japanese army. Her poor family depended on the father for money, and without him, they would have died.

Her mother told the officer to take Huh instead.

In her new home in China, Huh received 30 to 40 soldiers during the day who paid five cents each to her “owner.” At night, she received officers, who would sometimes make her have intercourse repeatedly.

“I felt like my body was being ripped apart all the time,” Huh said through a translator. “I endured, telling myself that if I saved enough money, I could go home and see my grandmother.”

Huh said she cried often, and sometimes tried to resist the rapes. On those occasions, the owner of the comfort women would kick and hit her.

“I still have the wounds,” she said, covering her wrinkled face with a handkerchief. “I still feel the pain.”

Between the ages of 15 and 26, Huh suffered at the hands of strangers. And when the Japanese lost the war, they departed and took all of her money.

“It took me four years to travel home,” she said. “There was suffering and woundedness. I was hungry and cold, but I just walked and walked.”

Huh arrived home during the Korean War to find her parents and grandmother dead. She bought a small piece of land and adopted a 7-year-old orphan boy. People told her to marry, but the memories kept her from marrying any man with a penis, she said.

“I couldn’t even talk about my experience as a comfort woman during the Japanese occupation,” she said. “I couldn’t explain the suffering of my young days.”

Eventually she married a man who did not have a penis, and they lived together with her son in Seoul, South Korea.

At age 79, she registered as a former comfort woman and began receiving benefits from the government. Now she travels the world telling her story to others. Northwestern was her first Midwestern stop.

The powerful speech reached the audience, even through language barriers.

“It was unfortunate that she doesn’t speak English, but seeing her cry like that made me cry,” said Kirsten Hiera, a McCormick senior.

“It’s incredibly sad that there are such depraved people in this world who would exploit someone like that,” she said.

Michelle Kim, a member of KASA, said the event affected her as well.

“Hearing the story from a voice of someone who went through it really brought it close to home,” said Kim, a Weinberg sophomore.

“It’s important to reach outside our ethnicity and inform others of our culture,” Kim said. “It’s also really important for us as Korean Americans to hear this part of our history, something that could have happened to our own grandmothers.”