Publicizing the truth
Since the Korean government announced that the settlement on wartime sexual slavery by Japan was final and irreversible, I thought of the young Korean people I met in the United States.
Kim Hyun-jun, a 25-year-old student and musical director, is one of them. Last summer, he produced the Off Broadway musical “Comfort Women” in New York. He was shocked that Americans were not informed of the issue and thought that a musical could be an effective way to publicize the tragedy in the United States.
He planned, produced and directed the musical. He also wrote the script. It was a bold challenge for the student director. Funding was the biggest challenge. While he hoped to get corporate sponsorship from Korean companies, he did not get replies. But help came from unexpected places. Korean stores offered fabrics at one quarter of the regular price, and actors and staff volunteered without getting paid. Despite difficulties, he was able to open the musical.
Kim’s next challenges are bringing the production to Broadway, as well as to Korea and China.
Kim Ja-hye, 37, is the president of the Hudson Fine Arts Foundation. She was the one that helped get the comfort women memorial installed in Union City, New Jersey, in 2014. She was inspired by the wishes of the comfort women victims to publicize the issue to people. Kim, who is also the artistic director of the Union City Philharmonic Orchestra, persuaded city officials that the comfort women issue was not about the past but about the universal human rights of women. The memorial (in the photo) stands in Union City overlooking Manhattan.
Kim has also produced a play titled “Comfort,” which deals with the horrific violence of sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. American actors said that it was frightening to act, and that the audiences were shivering. Last year, Kim held an art contest and exhibition for the comfort women victims in Korea and the United States, and she plans to make this an annual event.
The works by the two Kims and many other Koreans are voluntary. They are not urged or ordered by anyone. The government is not involved. In fact, the Foreign Ministry and local consulate sit back and watch.
Their endeavors tell us what we really need to bring about for a true resolution of the issue. It is to publicize the truth of comfort women to the world constantly. Kim Hyun-jun said, “When more people learn about the issue, no matter how Japan tries to erase the history, it cannot and will not be erased.” I agree with him.
When people learn about the brutality of sexual slavery, they are greatly shocked. And they ask why Korea does not publicize the issue more aggressively and more extensively.
Publicizing the truth of the comfort women to people around the world and educating the young generation should have been the focus of the Korean government all along. The government needs to do this now. Only then can the current administration and generation be less ashamed when thinking of future generations.
The author is the New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 12, Page 30
by LEE SANG-RYEOL