중앙데일리

Japanese stands up for sex slaves

Jan 30,2008
Ippei Murayama is a Japanese citizen fighting for the rights of Koreas against the Japanese government.
Last Wednesday, he stood against a wall at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, asking for his government’s “proper apology” to the Korean women made victims of sexual slavery by the Japanese army during World War II when Korea was occupied by Japan.
The Wednesday rally was arranged by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. It was the 797th meeting.
Murayama has long been a regular. The 27-year-old is a full-time staff member at the House of Sharing, a shelter in Gyeonggi for some of the surviving victims of the war crimes.
In 2003 Murayama first served as a volunteer at the House of Sharing during his brief stay as an exchange student from his Hosei University to Yonsei University.
In his hometown of Kawasaki, Japan, he had a group of friends who were Korean-Japanese after their ancestors were forced to settle there during the colonial rule. Those friends got him thinking about the turbulent Korea-Japan history, and eventually led him to come to Seoul. His interest in the issue led him to learn about the House of Sharing, where he went to work cleaning and making friends with the victims, whom he called his “grannies.”
In the summer of 2004, he went back to Japan and completed a degree in politic science. But he soon returned to the House of Sharing, this time as a full-time staff researcher. What brought him to Korea again?
“The sudden death of Granny Kim Soon-duk,” he said. “She was so careful and considerate and we were close. Her death came as a shock, because she was like my family. Then I thought that something had to be done and that I should take action, not just talk.” So he joined the shelter in 2006 and remains there to this day.
Recently, he published both online and off line in Japan a Korean cartoon about the sex slave victims, often referred to as “comfort women.” Called “Born Again as a Flower,” the cartoon is by Kwon Tae-seong, who collected data by listening to the House of Sharing victims. Murayama suggested to Kwon that the cartoon be introduced in Japan, and Murayama did the translation. First published online, Murayama witnessed many right-wingers in Japan attacking the web sites. “Many said that the story is a fabrication, and will not admit that Japan is the one who did wrong,” he said. The cartoon is also available in English.
These days, Murayama’s little brother, Yota, 19, is spending several weeks at the House of Sharing on the invitation of Murayama. “I heard the grannies’ stories from my big brother, and thought that I could do something, too,” Yota said.
Yota cleans the house and talks to the grannies. Murayama is proud of this brother. Yota will return home in a few weeks. When will Murayama return? “I don’t know yet,” he said. “I’ll stay at least two years. There are so many things to be done.”
Visiting the Wednesday rally is one of them. Last Wednesday, the door to the embassy did not budge despite cries of the victims, including Kil Won-ok, 81, who said, “Do you think I will die soon and the truth will be buried for good. You are wrong. I will not die before your proper apology!”
As always, there was no response, and Murayama sighed. “There is nothing I can do but try again,” he said. Said Kil: “Although it’s frustrating to see the ignorant Japanese government, it is a huge hope that there are Japanese people like Murayama for us.”


By Chun Su-jin Staff Reporter [sujiney@joongang.co.kr]



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