Musical dreams finally coming true for former comfort woman

Posted on : 2016-09-05 16:20 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Though in her late 80s, former comfort woman in studio recording album of old favorites, songs of sadness
Former comfort woman Gil Won-ok
Former comfort woman Gil Won-ok

Gil Won-ok, 88, a former comfort woman, has at last achieved her dream of becoming a singer, a dream that was dashed when she was abducted by Japanese soldiers.

“I’ve wanted to be a singer for a really long time, but I never had the chance. Since my dream has finally come true, I feel like I could fly. I feel like I’m in an airplane,” she said.

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop) announced on Sept. 4 that Gil is recording an album. The 20 or so songs on the album – selected from Gil’s childhood favorites and from songs that express the pain of displaced people – include “The Many Sorrows of the Daedong River,” “Arirang” “and “Tumen River, Wet With Tears.”

Gil spent the last couple of months preparing to record the album, and since Sept. 2 she has been working in the recording studio, according to Jeongdaehyeop.

Gil, born in Pyongyang in 1928, testified that Japanese troops took her to a comfort station in Harbin, China, in 1940. She was 13 years old at the time.

Blessed with a remarkable voice, Gil had loved to sing and had wanted to become a singer as a young girl. Today, this 88-year-old woman bears the scars of the war and of Japan’s colonial rule.

During the 76 years that have passed since that day in 1940 when her life was shaken to its very core, singing has been her companion, and it has supported her through the trials of life.

“When I felt lonely and was by myself, singing songs gave me something to do. I guess you could call singing my friend. When I sing a song, I forget about my troubles and sorrows,” Gil said.

“The fact is that the former comfort women are women, they’re people like anyone else. They all had their own dreams and talents, but the moment they were taken by the Japanese soldiers, those dreams and those talents were crushed,” said Yoon Mee-hyang, a corepresentative of Jeongdaehyeop.

“We’re trying to help Gil achieve her dreams and [showcase her] talents before it’s too late,” Yoon said when asked about the project.

Because of Gil’s unusually good voice and her passion for singing, people had been urging her to record an album for several years, but she had been putting it off because of health issues. But last year, her health deteriorated sharply, so she decided to make the album while she still could.

The album is being produced by Yun Min-seok, a composer of protest songs. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Gil’s album is not just about the songs, Jeongdaehyeop said. Rather, it is designed to commemorate Gil’s role as a historical witness and to encourage people to view the former comfort women as individuals, all of whom have their own dreams and potential.

“Gil will be remembered by us and our descendants not only as an activist for women’s rights but also as a singer,” Yoon said.

By Heo Seung, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles