A poster for “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue,” left, and “My Name Is Kim Bok-dong.” Courtesy of cinemaDAL and at9 Film.
A handful of movies about the Korean wartime sex slavery during World War II ― “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue,” and “My name is Kim Bok-dong” ― are scheduled to hit the local theaters this summer, raising awareness on the unresolved issue.
The issue of comfort women, a euphemism for the victims of wartime sex slavery, has been one of the most contentious debates between South Korea and Japan.
Amid the growing tensions between the two countries, the movies are intended to shed light on the perennial yet unsettled issue.
“Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue,” the directorial debut of Miki Dezaki, takes a different approach to present a new perspective on the matter.
The documentary lays out the controversial issue by acknowledging both supporters and detractors of the comfort women issue. Dezaki interviewed about 30 scholars and experts from Korea, Japan and the United States to closely examine the information and context behind each argument.
This film is unique in the sense that it features in-depth interviews from extreme nationalists and those arguing against them. With a Japanese-American background, the filmmaker was able to meet with core experts from both sides in an attempt to understand the logic behind what each side has to say.
The movie premiered in Busan International Film Festival in October 2018, before making its official debut in Japan in April.
The movie caused a stir among the right wing in Japan, some calling for the movie to be removed from theaters. Some Japanese nationalists who were interviewed in the film sued Dezaki saying they never knew the film would be commercialized. The claim was soon refuted when Dezaki revealed the agreement signed by the interviewees, informing them that the film might be commercially screened.
The film has made its way back to Korea for an official release in theaters on July 25.
“My Name Is Kim Bok-dong” is another documentary on comfort women. This film focuses on Kim Bok-dong, a human rights activist and a survivor of sex slavery during World War II.
Her story was unveiled in 1992 when she publically came forward with the testimony of her violent experiences. Since then, she traveled to different countries to spread her testimonial, and sought a formal apology from the Japanese government.
This documentary will walk through her 27-year-long battle against the Japanese government to fight for justice, until she passed away in January at the age of 93.
This is the third film produced as a journalism documentary by the nonprofit organization Newstapa, after the investigative documentaries “Criminal Conspiracy” and “Spy Nation.”
Directed by Newstapa’s producer Song Won-geun, the movie will feature the voice of actress Han Ji-min as narrator. It was first screened at 20th Jeonju International Film Festival in May for the Korean Cinemascape section. The film is due in theaters on Aug. 8.
By Gyu-lee Lee, The Korea Times