Korean Peninsula Affairs Center

Comfort Women: A Brief Explanation

Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women is a powerful documentary about Korean women forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese Imperial Military during World War II. Today’s film dramatically combines the testimony of former comfort women, who demand justice for the “crimes against humanity” of which they were the victims, with contravening interviews of Japanese soldiers, recruiters, and contemporary scholars.

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During the Asian and Pacific War (1937-45), the Japanese government mobilized approximately 200,000 Asian women to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers in officially authorized military brothels. The majority of these victims were unmarried young women from Korea, Japan's colony at that time. In the early 1990s, Korean feminist leaders helped more than 200 Korean survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery to come forward to tell the truth, which has further accelerated the movement of the women to have the wrongs done to them redressed by the Japanese government.

 

Democratic and feminist activists in Asian countries, aided by the victims' own testimonies, have led to an active redress movement. Although this movement has pervaded several Asian countries, it has been most active in South Korea, the country with the majority of the victims, and Japan, the country of those who perpetrated the crimes. This issue continues to emerge in worldwide headlines as Koreans still seek a heartfelt apology from the Japanese government. Most recently, on October 29, 2012, a monument commemorating Korean comfort women was vandalized in Palisades Park, New Jersey. This was the first monument of its kind in the United States. For more information, please refer to this article

[Edited excerpt from Korean "Comfort Women": The Intersection of Colonial Power, Gender, and Class by Pyong Gap Min, Gender and Society, Vol. 17, No. 6 (Dec., 2003)]

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Today’s guest, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, is a former professor of religion at Mount Holyoke College with a Ph.D. in religion from Boston University and a renowned independent filmmaker/writer. Kim-Gibson is well known for championing the compelling but often neglected issues of human rights. All of her films have garnered many awards, including the Kodak Filmmaker Award, and have been screened at numerous festivals worldwide, in addition to being broadcast nationally on PBS and the Sundance Channel in the United States. Kim-Gibson has received grants from the Rockefeller and MacArthur Foundations. The author of many articles, Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women was her first book. It was described as "unforgettable" by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her second book is Looking for Don: A Meditation. She also has completed editing and compiling a memoir by her late husband, Donald D. Gibson, titled Iowa Sky, a Memoir, which is scheduled to be published in January 2013.