[ENTERTAINMENT]Comfort Women Give Voice to Their Stories

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Comfort Women Give Voice to Their Stories

"I was hurt and I cried, though flowers were in bloom. I threw myself away and locked me inside myself," sang Mun Pil-gi, 77, who was a comfort woman beginning in her teens for the Japanese army during the Second World War. She sang a song titled "Deprived Innocence" on the recently released tribute album for Korean comfort women.

The idea for this tribute album was conceived by Im Sang-hun, 23, a musician who debuted in 1998 as a songwriter and singer in both Korea and China.

At first glance, Mr. Im, who sports an ultra-hip hair style and a loud hip-hop shirt, would seem a curious person to be interested in Japan and Korea's stormy past. Mr. Im explained how his interest began. "I saw the painting called 'Deprived Innocence,' by Ms. Kang Deok-kyeong, who had been a comfort woman and passed away in 1997." The painting of a naked young woman, whose hands cover her face in shame, moved Mr. Im to research the history of comfort women. He later used the painting on the cover of the tribute album. "I am aware that there's no use in holding on ceaselessly to the past. However, to rummage over what we have gone through is meaningful," Mr. Im remarked.

It took one year for him to carry out his ambitious project. "I had difficulty finding a record company that would release this album, since the album is not likely to earn a profit," Mr. Im said. But soon his savior appeared, in the form of his own mother, Im In-ok, who is now a managing editor of the Women's News, a weekly tabloid that deals with women's issues. With his mother's help, Mr. Im made his dream come true. He was introduced to Ms. Mun, whom he calls "Grandma," and produced the 10 track album. Though Ms. Mun cannot sing like a young pop star, Mr. Im said he was satisfied at the mere thought of the collaboration. Ms. Mun said, "It took me more than 10 hours to record my voice, but I had a good time. Now I want many others to enjoy the song." Ms. Mun was awarded the "2000 Human Rights Prize for Dignified and Honorable Women" from International Lawyers' Association for Human Rights, along with four other comfort women. Other tracks such as "Jeung-eon" ("Witness"), are narrations by comfort women.

"But a bigger problem was waiting for me," Mr. Im went on. "The broadcasting stations banned the main track and 'Witness' from being aired. I don't understand why they want the local music scene to be filled only with love songs."

Mr. Im is to stage a tribute concert Monday, under the title "Cheer up, Grandma, We Are Here for You." Profits from the album and the concert will be contributed to a welfare fund for the surviving comfort women. The concert will take place at Yeon-gang Hall, Jongno, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. For concert information, call 02-2638-0460.

The Korean National Independence Day, Wednesday, called Gwangbokjeol, means "the day that people got the light back" in Chinese characters.

This year's 56th anniversary, however, is to be marked by somber sympathetic songs at the tribute concert to comfort women rather than festive fireworks.

by Chun Su-jin

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