On a chilly autumn afternoon, crisp colorful fallen leaves decorate the Ansan Jarak-gil in Seodaemun- gu.
As classical music plays on speakers on both sides of the road, visitors wearing masks stroll down the path. It was around 2 p.m. on Nov. 13 when Ewha Voice gathered at the entrance of Ansan Jarak-gil.
The Seodaemun-gu women-friendly theme road YEOGI-ro stamp tour is a 2.2-kilometer trail, ranging from the Meeting Plaza located in Ansan Jarak-gil to the Book Cafe Shelter. The title is an abbreviation of the phrase “A path that contains the history of women.” The tour has been hosted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family from Nov. 8 to 21.
Storyboards including female historical figures related to Seodaemun-gu were installed at eight points on the walkway. Visitors could participate in the event by utilizing a walk-on application which provided a stamp whenever they passed a story board installation point.
“It has already been three years since I started this job,” said Kim Mi-kyung, a commentator on the tour. “While I was wondering how I could use my time wisely after I quit my job, I stumbled upon this meaningful stamp tour. Additionally, I have a second job of teaching elementary school students about history and Korean traditional plays. These activities help me feel more alive.”
The tour began with five great female figures in history who were not afraid of challenges: Kwon Ki-ok, Korea’s first female pilot; Lee Tae-young, Korea’s first female lawyer; Park Wan-suh, a renowned female writer; Kang Joo-ryong, Korea’s first female labor activist; and Kim Maria, a female independence right activist and educator.
As we walked along Ansan Jarak-gil, the storyboard about Japan’s comfort women caught our attention. As of Nov. 13, 240 Japanese military sexual slavery victims and 13 survivors were recognized. From 1931 to 1945, between 50,000 to 200,000 girls and young women, also known as “comfort women” were forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese military.
It was in 1990, 45 years after liberation, that the existence of comfort women became known to the world. Until this time, authorities and the victims had been unable to reveal the fact that these women had been the victims of sexual enslavement. This was because they were ashamed of themselves being the victims of sexual violence.
Yoon Jung-ok, a professor from Department of English Literature at Ewha Womans University, was the one who made the Japanese military sexual slavery issue known to the world. Having nearly been taken by the Japanese military herself at a young age, she was interested in the issue regarding “comfort women.” Meeting sexually assaulted victims all around the world, she investigated the issue personally and released the truth to the press. Thanks to this brave act, The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan was organized to unveil the truth and urge the Japanese government to make a formal apology.
The Seodaemun-gu women-friendly theme road YEOGI-ro stamp tour was opened by its manager – Jeong Hwa-I.
Jeong mentioned that Seodaemun- gu has been designated as a women-friendly city in 2012 and has been promoting various women-friendly projects since then. In 2017, the Seodaemun-gu women-friendly theme road YEOGI-ro stamp tour was designed as a barrier-free road to tell the story of women around Ansan Jarak-gil.
“The survey conducted last year on the satisfaction of people who participated in the tour shows that about 74.1 percent of them regarded that the tour as helpful in recognizing and commemorating significant female figures who shaped history,” Jeong mentioned. “The tour provides a valuable opportunity for people to contemplate on and indirectly experience the stories related to women who changed the world. We hope that this tour can acknowledge women’s contributions and accomplishment that were overlooked.”