Suruga Bank denied minorities

The Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights and civil liberties of every person in this country and was designed to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. Yet, throughout history, ethnic minorities have been the targets of discrimination, government abuse and divisive and inhumane minority policies. Upholding the rights of the politically disenfranchised is important to us all. When the government has the power to deny legal rights and due process to one group of people, it puts all our rights in danger.

I had just finished grade school two months before I was 13. One day I was playing jump-rope in front of my house when an automobile drove up the road. Trains even don’t come through my village, let alone cars. Curious about something we had never seen before, all the children nearby ran to it and tried to climb up. The driver shook the small children off and let me and my girlfriend get in it. There were two other uniformed men inside. I thought it would be a short ride, but the truck rolled on with us in it and then kept on going and going.

I asked them to let me out and, with tears, begged them to take me back to my village, to no avail. The truck arrived in the City of Kwangju, Cholla Namdo Province, where I encountered 20 or so older girls. I cried all night, repeating the same words: “Take me back to my mother.”

The next morning all of us were thrown into a cargo train; the compartment was covered with coal-soot and our clothes got all soiled. There, I was separated from my friend from the village. I later found out that she was sent to a textile factory because she had no education and couldn’t even read numbers.

The train traveled all day and all night, and all I could do was cry my heart out. The next night I was put on a cargo ship that sailed for about three days, I think. There were some soldiers and also civilians on board. I cried continuously, which annoyed the guards. So they tied my hands behind my back and threatened to drown me by lowering my tied body into the ocean if I didn’t stop crying.

At the port the girls were divided into two groups and transferred to military trucks. I was put on a Harbin-bound truck. We got to our destination, and I saw only an open field and some dug-up shelters. All of us were confined like prisoners in cubicles called “comfort stations” and given only a small handful of rice to eat. During the evening, three truck loads of soldiers arrived at the camp.

Every evening soldiers queued up in front of my cubicle and one by one raped me all night long. Their bodies were filthy, and they didn’t speak a word. I couldn’t sleep and cried all night. As punishment for crying, I had to stand outside without any food. I could not survive even if I escaped, they said, because there was no place to run in an empty open field.


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