Sunday, December 11, 2011

"My Heart Is Not Yet Broken"

In 1937/8 until 1945 Song Sin Do served as a comfort woman "위안부" during Japanese colonialism in various Japanese brothels in China. Taken as a 16-year-old from her family and experiencing brutal on-going sex, her life was shattered. After the war, she wanted to get back to Korea, but to do so she had to get a boat to Japan first and hope to get a boat to Korea from there. Without money or any legal papers, she couldn't get back to Korea, so there she stayed in Japan, working as a house-keeper for a man who was compassionate.

In 1991 when Kim Hak Sun became the first former "comfort woman" to lodge a public complaint and local and international communities suddenly became aware of yet another untried war crime of the Japanese, and one that took horrendous tole of women in the countries Japan occupied, committees started gathering former "comfort women's" names and doing research on the history that had been scrubbed from Japanese oral or written history. Someone tipped off a director of a Japanese committee about Song Sin Do, and when the director went to meet Song Sin Do, she found a woman who was a fierce and caustic and who used crude language and had no apparent chinks in her armor. However, once the director got to know Song Sin Do and she expressed the desire to battle with the Japanese in the courts concerning her years of ordeal, the committee agreed to back her and hundreds if not thousands of Japanese people sponsored Song Sin Do for the next 10 years.

During those 10 years, Song Sin Do filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government, which does have some documents authorizing "comfort stations" although the government still denies it. The lawsuit demand was for an apology by the Diet and an official letter also stating apologies from the Prime Minister. She also wanted compensation for war crimes done in the past.

The comfort woman issue is silently denied in Japan, but when confronted with the issue, it is adamantly denied. One present-day government official representing the Diet in Japan in 1990 declared, "The comfort women were imagined by private sector people." Statements also were made that entreprenuer businessmen were the ones operating the comfort stations (now these two statements are very contradictory!) and the government can take no blame for entrepreneurs' activities.

While awaiting trial, she did tours to gather more support and raise more awareness of the issue blackened out my Japanese war adminstrative amnesia. She would speak at press conferences where she could easily blast newspaper people for their 'stupid' questions, at meetings for various groups including business meetings in which elderly men sometimes attended and she was pleased because these men would 'know' what happened and could make the difference. She spoke at youth centers, but the place that bothered her the most to speak at was a high school with mostly 16-year-old girls in attendance, the same age at which she was taken into the Japanese brothel networks and lost that vital part of her very being. She fell apart emotionally and could hardly speak to the girls.

The date of the trial came and crowds gathered outside to support her. She went in wondering the outcome and came out depressed, yet she suppressed her own sorrow and she gave a victory speech to the large audience outside saying that though she had not won, she would not stop fighting. The ruling was that the 20 year statute of limitation had expired, so referring to this archaic law, the trial was dismissed.

In 2000 she then took the trial to the higher court system, the Tokyo High Court. Months of emotional battling and continually raising awareness passed, and the outcome was that is is possible that the international statue of limitation has expired. The court did acknowledge the responsibility of the government though, so some progress was made. She and her team decided to take the court battle to the highest court in Japan, the Supreme Court. And the battle continued.

In March 2003 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, and the dismissal seemed based on the statue of limitation not being filed within the 20 years. [Women were afraid to come forward and it took nearly 50 years for even one voice to make the public statement about her sexual abuse, a confession that had been suppressed for fear of cultural blame on the woman for her loss of virtue/virginity and not placing fault on any male.] Archaic laws were again pulled around the cloak of Japan's dark past to keep that past from having to result in loss of face, loss of public and international respect, admittance that the emperor (perfect in all ways) and the Japanese people (who fought only honorably) were even in part to blame. [A big irony is that in the same war, World War II, Germany apologized and paid enormous amounts of money in war reparation fees while Japan lost no territory, only its colonial holdings that it had taken by force anyway, paid no war indemnities and was not tried for the more serious war crimes; the comfort woman issue was even known about but never was part of the trials against Japan to decide its war crimes. Japan got off so lightly because the US and the UN needed Japan's blossoming economy for exploit in their own countries and they needed Japan as a buffer in the far east against the growing powers of USSR and communism.]

Although Song Sin Do lost the 10 years of court battles, her voice raised much public awareness and made the average Japanese citizens aware that their historial warring past needed to be researched and rectified. She might have lost the battle, but she gained interest in others for pursuing and rectifying the distorted history that the Japanese government purports to teach to its citizens via media, textbooks, lectures and laws.

The movie "My Heart Is Not Yet Broken" is a production of a strong character of a woman who has suffered in the past from the injustices of the Japanese government, in the present from the injustices of the Japanese court system, and yet she continues to fight for moral justice. Song Sin Do has turned her private wish - an apology to herself and others like her and compensation - into a universal plea for peace. At the end of every meeting or press conference held, her vituperous language and spitfire character shouts out, "Don't have any more wars and you won't have any more victims!"

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