Layer by layer

 The survived Korean women who had been left in China – ‘Comfort Women’

The processes of seeking the truth in a photograph would be difficult but enjoyable. A photographer is creating relations with the object that s/he takes in order to incorporate the inner truth, not the ‘seeing’ truth, into the photograph.

The relations with the surviving Korean Comfort Women, who were mostly in their 80s and 90s, were not formed accidentally. It took me a long time to get to know them. When I first encountered these women, they were very shy and treated me as a stranger. But we became closer to each other as we met many times. It was fortunate for me to have understood the deepest part of their hearts, listening to their stories and witnessing their hardships. I am privileged to make some contributions to them as a photographer.

I had been contacting the surviving Korean Comfort Women, who then were forced to live in China, and visited them since 2001. This made me understand their situations better: I saw the individual women selling things on a bus, or on a train, or on a ship for a living. Such a miserable way of living seemed to mirror their past lives as the displaced. In fact this harsh reality made me visit to China seven times to take pictures of them and to let the world know.

While staying with them, I captured the moments of their daily life into my camera, and this work required extreme tension. I was already thrown into their world and into their expressions of joy and sorrow. But when I looked into the viewfinder of my camera, I realized that it was not easy to cross freely the boundary and the object with freedom. But I tried to contain some truth about them, being tensely aware of the breathtaking boundaries between the object as the victims known as ‘Comfort Women’ and their human side.

The woman that was incorporated into my viewfinder was a human being. The photo revealed her grudging heart expressed in her tearful eyes, the deep furrow of her wrinkles and her stained belongings. This certainly reflected both the present and past life of the particular woman.

More than 70 years have passed since the surviving Comfort Women settled down in the barren land and lived alone. These women had only resentful vitality that overcame the given environment in a harsh reality of a foreign country.

Would they be forced to move to other place again? Or would they be blown away with a cold wind and dispersed and vanished to the back stage of history?