August 18, 2017

Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women: Japanese Denials

Going into writer-director Dai Sil Kim-Gibson's saddening doc Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women, I already knew a little bit about the systematic mass sexual enslavement of Korean women by the Japanese Imperial Army (although I didn't know it included minors and forced sterilizations) and it's remarkably painful to see Japanese historians and academics and soldiers denying the fact with the ultimately flippant explanation, "We'd never do something like this." When they're pushed as to why these female survivors would make up stories about being raped and drugged, the self-righteous men fall back on the old "blaming the victim" excuse as they label these women — all of them old, unashamed, and refusing to fade into the background — as amoral mercenaries who made good money on the front lines. Someone literally says there was no bigotry by the clientele as if that were a progressive way to spin it. Well, while there's a great pain that comes with admitting a great crime, there's also a great character stain that comes with denying it. One leaves this documentary aware that some of these nay-sayers are leaving a record of their own complicity for future viewers to watch. "Look, there's grandpa defending rapists as soldiers satisfying a biological need!"

And while it is rare for members of a given group — in this case soldiers active in World War II — to bear witness to the atrocities inflicted on innocent civilians (truly prisoners of war) by their fellow soldiers, a few do bravely come forward to speak truth. One is a Japanese translator who witnessed crimes firsthand; another is a Western soldier who admits that while apologies were issued to European women used as sex slaves by soldiers, evidence documenting the crimes inflicted on the Korean women was largely destroyed after the war. What could be the possible motive for these men? Huh? I, for one, admired the tenacity of all these old women who are using their last days on earth to cry out for justice or at least an official apology. I'm only sorry their battle is an uphill one.

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