#throwbackthursdays | This no-filter photo in 2001 means a great deal to me. It documents the first time I met 80-year-old Kim Soon-Duk in Washington, D.C. and interviewed this survivor of sex slavery implemented by the Japanese military– about 200,000 women and girls as young as 11 were forced into sex trafficking and euphemistically known as ‘comfort women’ because their sole role was to comfort the soldiers on the front lines of war before and during WWII. This photo also marked a watershed awakening to social justice issues. After hearing Kim’s horrific testimony of enslavement and then learning of the Japanese government’s failure to accept moral and legal responsibility for this sex trafficking system (more than 1000 ‘comfort’ stations were in China) and failure to apologise for destroying the lives of so many girls and women, it impacted me and I could no longer live a selfish life for myself. I began to dream of a better life for those suffering and marginalised. I spent 10 years, while working a full-time, to collect the materials for my book Silenced No More: Voices of Comfort Women which was published last September.
At the time when this photo was taken, I was just a kid working as a TV reporter in Canada. Little did I know at that time that I would move to Beijing, China in 2004 and encounter many highs and lows and one rock bottom, while learning life lessons more precious than gold and becoming much wiser and stronger in every way.
I can say now that the lows were the best thing to happen to me. They were humbling and made me more empathetic, a quality that I really need to do the work of fighting modern slavery through the 852 Freedom Campaign. I’m currently writing a nostalgic book about my experiences in Asia and the people and events that have shaped me. The good, the bad and the ugly.