Updated January. 17, 2013 05:45
Lauren Hussey, 19, a freshman majoring in bio-engineering at the CUNY Queensborough Community College in New York, interviewed an 80-year-old Korean in Flushing, New York on Tuesday. An intern in the Northeast Asian history internship program at the school`s Kupferberg Holocaust Center, Hussey learned of Japans wartime atrocities against its Asian neighbors.
She is among U.S. students looking for Asians who suffered from Japanese atrocities in World War II and now live in the U.S. Nine Queensborough students are taking the first course of the internship program, which was set up jointly by the Korean American Voters Council and the Kupferberg Holocaust Center.
Over the 12-week program that ended Jan. 2, the students took classes on sex slavery committed by the Japanese imperial army in World War II, forced conscription, torture and human experiments conducted by Unit 731 of the Japanese military. While knowing of wartime victims in Europe, Hussey said she did not know of Japan`s atrocities committed in Korea and other parts of Asia.
An American student of Chinese descent also said at the interview, I told of what I learned to my parents, and they didn`t believe it. The sexual slavery issue was particularly shocking, reminding me of my grandmother.
Ten Korean men in their 80s and 90s initially hesitated to talk to the young students, but slowly began to tell their stories. Jeong Hyeon-mo, 80, said, When my sisters disappeared, I thought they`d been dragged to a plant for labor. When several of them returned, they avoided us and lived in huts away from us. I learned much later that they were dragged away as sex slaves. He added many parents in Korea had their daughters get married early to prevent them from being taken as sex slaves. Another elderly man said, It`s a lie that the Japanese government was not involved. On the surface, it looks as if the Japanese government wasn`t involved because village chiefs recruited sex slaves and conscripts. But whos going to believe this?"
Kim Ji-min (a Ph.D. in Korean history at Columbia University), an instructor at the Kupferberg Holocaust Center, said the courses were modeled after those given by the nearby Holocaust Centers. He said Jews collected large data on the Holocaust based on what they told others about the genocide. We also plan to make materials based on survivor interviews and distribute them to American schools, he said.
Kim Dong-seok, a senior member of the Korean American Voters Council, said, "We opened the courses to let Americans know how Asian countries suffered from Japans war crimes, adding, I hope that the Korean community, the government and businesses pay great interest to our cause.