"Whenever I see newspaper or magazine reports in China of Korean comfort women demonstrating in front of the Japanese Embassy or of the International Tribunal on war crimes, I scrutinize them in the hopes of spotting my mother."
Yun Young Shik (aged 58, living in Heilongjiang, China) came to Korea in July searching for his mother, who had been recruited for sexual slavery by the Japanese military before he was born. He has come hoping that this will be his last trip.
Yoon's first visit to Korea was in 1990, when he was told to give up the search by people who reasoned, "How can you find her if you don't even know her name?" Since then, Yoon has sent two letters to the Ministry of Health and Welfare appealing to authorities to confirm the whereabouts of his mother. The only answer he received was that none of the surviving comfort women were from Heilongjiang.
Yoon's mother, "who would be more than 80 years old if she is alive," was dragged to the brothel for Japanese officers in Heilongjiang, China, together with her cousin. Yoon was born in the brothel on December 14, 1944, and grew up there until the liberation.
Yoon's biological father, a Japanese officer, returned to Japan, and Yoon's mother left him with his adoptive parents, signing a note swearing never to look for him again.
Yoon began to discover the secret of his birth when he was about eight. He learnt from his neighbors that he was Japanese, and then when he was 20, he tried to find out more about his natural parents while keeping it a secret from his adoptive parents.
"My foster parents loved me very much, and I couldn't bring myself to ask them about my natural parents. After my foster mother died of stroke, I finally asked my foster father about my biological mother, but he was too old to remember," says Yoon. If he cannot find his mother, he would "at least like to visit the home for comfort women to meet other comfort women."
Yoon is currently working for 2,300 won an hour at a gas station. Back in China, he had a myriad of jobs from teaching to tailoring, iron casting and wasteland reclamation. Sighs Yoon, "If only my foster parents did not burn up the note my mother signed during the Cultural Revolution, I would have known a little bit more about my mother..."