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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Great timing (Day 266)

What great timing, Arriving at various places at the right time and great timing with our singing luckily...better than the pitch!

What great timing. We had just arrived at Gyeongbokgung Palace to see the changing of the guards. A quick photo with the main guard and then we were guided to the front of the gate for a great view. The replacement guards marched through the tunnel to the beat of the drums, flags flying high. Both sets of guards marched around a bit, a bell was rung to represent the changeover and off the former guards went. An inspection took place, straightening up the uniforms and that was it. Not quite as much pomp and circumstance that we have in London, but interesting to watch.

We checked out where our next destination was, thinking it was going to be a metro ride away and it turned out it was literally over the road! We wandered across to find a large crowd already waiting. We had come to join the “Wednesday Demonstration” outside the Japanese Embassy which aims to obtain justice and an official apology to the “comfort women”. Every Wednesday since 8th January 1992 people have come to protest. After visiting the War & Women’s Human Rights Museum (Day 223) we had decided to join this demonstration to give our solidarity to this cause. We were both shocked when we heard of the horrendous large-scale sexual slavery system established under Imperial Japan rule during World War II, and sadly this type of atrocity still happens in other countries around the world.

When we arrived, we saw a group of children of various ages dressed in traditional attire. We chatted to a couple of them and it turns out that many children volunteer each week to come and perform the Peace song. And later they sang it beautifully.

The crowd was good natured and there were a number of powerful speakers, especially one women who rallied everyone to yell out various slogans. A lady started chatting with us. Okjoo was born in Korea and moved to the States when she was 25. She was over here to see her family and decided to also join the demonstration for the first time. She was so kind, translating the words of some of the speakers for us. She shared that she had visited a care home where some of the elderly women who had been “comfort women” lived. People volunteer there to cook and clean for the women and she said that there was one Japanese lady who regularly volunteered, as she was so ashamed of what happened during the war.

The weather was stifling hot, so after a while, I went to find some shade. Sitting there with people of all ages, coming together to show a spirit of unity, justice and hope, was very moving.

Time to grab some lunch, we saw a banner advertising a vegetarian buffet. It turned out that it was in a church hall and a very nice lady made sure that we were comfortable and explained the food to us. Rice, Bean paste, Noodles, Aubergine, and many other native vegetables that we don’t know the names of. Delicious as usual.

We popped into an Exhibition called Truth & Justice: Remembering “Comfort Women”, however, it was very similar to the information given at the War & Women’s Human Rights Museum and mainly in Korean. There was a copy of the United Nations report of the systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices during armed conflict. We were both shocked to read the response that the “Japanese Government has forcefully denied legal liability on a number of substantive grounds,” The most significant is that advances in international criminal law may not be applied retroactively; the ban of slavery was not established as a customary norm under applicable international law at the time of the WWII; and the laws of war would only apply to people of countries at war with Japan and so would not cover the actions of the Japanese military with respect to Japanese or Korean nationals, since Korea was annexed to Japan during WWII! Good grief!

It is so sad how we humans can treat other fellow humans. We are all part of Planet Earth, all brothers and sisters. We sadly forget this.

We needed to have a bit of light relief so returned to Ik-Seon-dong and found a lovely little café for some refreshing drinks, relaxing and writing. We had been in touch with our friend Elizabeths daughter Monique who we met up when we first arrived in Seoul, and luckily she could meet us again this evening. A ping on WhatsApp and arrangements were made.

What a lovely final evening in this wonderful Country. Monique joined us for a drink in the same café as yesterday, we then found a Karaoke (or Noraebang as they are called here) on the same street as our Apartment. This area really is a great place to stay. Oh, what fun! We chose some classics to sing, Bohemian Rhapsody, Like a Virgin, a few Abba, Beatles and Wuthering Heights and sang our hearts out. Monique has such a beautiful singing voice, she actually sings in tune whereas Tim and I….mmm... we slip in and out a few times! I thought I used to have a good voice – what’s happened to it? Mind you, when Tim and I sang Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles, we must have had great timing as, to our surprise we got 100 full marks!

Next to our favourite cheap, local, tasty café for traditional Korean food which Monique was very impressed with. Lots of chatting and laughter. And that’s when we realised that Tim had lost his bag. “Did I have it with me?” he asked. Sadly yes, I had taken my sarong out of it as the café’s A/C was really cold. Oh Dear. We said a fond farewell to Monique and retraced our steps, finally retrieving it from the Karaoke bar – Phew! Great timing as they were just about to close.

Now to pack….we leave this amazing country tomorrow that we have both grown to love. Many great times here.

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