House of Sharing
House of Sharing

Located about an hour out of Seoul is the House of Sharing. This is an interesting nursing home, as it houses elderly former comfort women from the World War II era. Before and during the war, Japanese Imperial forces occupied much of South and East Asia, and set up a system today known as “comfort stations” in order to sexually service Japanese soldiers.

Founded by various religious and non-governmental organizations, the House of Sharing is a place where many former comfort women lived in their elderly years. The House of Sharing was founded in 1992 and is funded by various Buddhist organizations and socio-civic groups. It is effectively a nursing home facility in a Korean-style rental house in Seoul. In 1995, the complex was rebuilt to a more spacious facility. As well as a place to live, the House of Sharing offers art therapy programs for its elderly residents, which showcases artwork the former comfort women created while residing there.

Since the end of the war, the country of Japan has offered multiple apologies for their wartime transgressions, the majority of which focused on Korea and former comfort women. Many international organizations aim to discredit the Japanese apologies and accuse the Japanese government of not considering actual comfort women in their negotiations. It should be the responsibility of the South Korean government to include their own citizens in processes directly affecting them.

In the 1960s, a treaty between South Korea and Japan was signed, called the “Treaty on Basic Relations”. This was the first time Japan and South Kore developed official diplomatic relations since the end of World War II. Because South Korea was not a signatory state to the Treaty of San Francisco, it was not entitled to the benefits listed under article 14 which stipulated directly reparations by Japan. This invited high-level bilateral talk between the two nations who needed to form diplomatic relations for economic and security reasons. High level talks preceding the treaty were held over a period of 14 years, starting in the 1950s.

The underlying issue plaguing East Asia is their societal treatment of women. Through new initiatives such as the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the future of women in East Asia looks bright. The unfortunate plight of former comfort women living in the House of Sharing is a good example of how grassroots organizations are taking up the issue of gender equality within their societies.

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