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 Voices of the victims-recipients of the project of the AWF PreviousNext
Cries of a Korean former comfort woman
(As remembered by Ms. Mitsuko Shimomura, Director of the Asian Women's Fund at the time)

October 29, 1997. We arrived at the restaurant before her and waited in a room with tatami mats. Then she came. She had dressed up and looked very pretty. Her face was unsmiling, somewhat gloomy. She kept her eyes down and did not look at us. We started talking, but she still didn't look my way.

I began to explain procedural issues and other things... Before I presented her with the money I read the letter of apology from the Prime Minister of Japan. Right away, she began to cry. Next I began reading the letter from the President of the Asian Women's Fund. Soon she could not hold back her feelings, and wailed loudly, "Gyaaah!" Her cries welled up from deep inside her. Our President's letter seemed to have more of an effect on her, perhaps because it is longer and some sections have a little more feeling and emotion in them. I suppose the best way to phrase it is, she wept bitterly.

I had to stop reading the letter for a while - I too was in shock. She was facing me across the low, Japanese-style dining table, all of us sitting on the tatami mats. I went to her side of the table. I hugged her, saying "I'm so sorry, so very sorry..." We cried together for a while. I'm not sure why I said that - I simply kept repeating the same thing, and crying, "I'm so sorry..."

Then she said through her tears, "You've done nothing wrong." And then she said something about being thankful I had come from so far away to meet her. She was very disturbed, and still crying. We held each other for some time....

Finally I said, "Just now you told me I've done nothing wrong. But I'm Japanese, and as a Japanese person I am in the wrong. I have to apologize to you as a citizen of Japan." These are the kinds of things we said to each other.

She calmed down a little. I went back to my place at the table and read her the rest of the letter. After I finished, I looked at her - her face had lost its harsh, alarmed look and had become kindly. She had changed, had seemed to have moved beyond her sorrow to a calm state of mind. And then she looked at me directly and began speaking about herself, a little at a time.

Responses of Taiwanese victims

When the Asian Women's Fund arranged a gathering to deliver the Prime Minister's letter of apology and other items, Ms. R went there with her husband. She said not a word and remained with her head down, crying. Her husband composed a song on the spot, to express his feelings at that moment. After he sang it, a Fund representative asked what the words meant. He replied, "They mean, 'I'll never forget the kindness the Japanese people have shown my wife. When I pray, I'll be sure to pray also for their happiness.'"

As soon as another woman, Ms. S, returned to her room from the gathering, she read the Prime Minister's letter of apology again, this time slowly. Turning to a fellow victim, a friend of many years, she smiled and said, "The letter asks for our forgiveness. I forgive."

At the gathering, Ms. L met Bunbei Hara, who was the President of the Asian Women's Fund at the time. She expressed her thanks shyly, but without hesitation. On the way home she said, "Actually, I wanted the Emperor of Japan to apologize, but I met with the third most important person in Japan and got his apology. So I feel better now." (The late Mr. Hara had served as a President of the House of Councilors, the upper house of the Japanese Diet [parliament].)

Letters of Dutch recipients addressed to Ms. Hamer

3 June 1999
I herewith wish to thank you for all your work and efforts in this difficult matter. I greatly appreciate this. This is a large amount of money and I had not counted on it. I am also very pleased with the statement made by the Japanese Prime Minister.

4 June 1999
Thank you very much for everything you have arranged for me. This gives me a great feeling of satisfaction, which made me speechless. I also appreciate Mr. Hashimoto's apology. I sent a copy to my sister to have it translated. While I was on holiday with the Reuma Fonds (Rheumatism Fund), my husband called me to tell me about the letter. I will write or call you. Thank you very much.

9 June 1999
Thank you very much. I am very pleased to receive the project money, and I am also greatly satisfied with Mr. Hashimoto's letter. Finally there is some form of recognition after all those years. My emotions make me tremble. Thank you once again for your efforts.

June 1999
I herewith thank you in advance for everything you have done for me and will still do. Not only this financial compensation, but also the recognition of all the misery I had to endure as a 15 year-old girl. It salves the wound, which still opens every now and then, but with which I learnt to live. Dear Mrs. Hamer, thank you once again...


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