Follow by Email

Friday, March 6, 2015

Korea's Comfort Women: The Remorseless Tragedy

It's a tragedy that asks little of us. Instead, many look away, ignore, or avoid the matter altogether.  It is easy to claim that nearly all the victims and perpetrators have long since passed. True enough. But the indignities are timeless; they continue today. They are monumentally exacerbated by Japan's unwillingness to apologize for its actions. The Japanese occupying force not only pillaged the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945, but the Japanese Imperial Army raped tens of thousands of women, and did so repeatedly, during an extended period that included the years of World War II.

For those of us not clear about that record, a new book Daughters of the Dragon: A Comfort Woman's Story, by William Andrews, reveals the story, snaring the reader into its web. This compelling tale will not allow you to look away or ignore the stark reality experienced by its main characters, two sisters living in the north of Korea who, like many others, were given written orders to leave home and support the Japanese war effort by working in a boot factory.

The historical account should be required reading for every Korean, friend of Korea, and anyone concerned with the abuse and torture of women anywhere. The story of the Daughters of the Dragon is riveting and searing and at times, unrelenting. But being drawn out of my comfort zone, I think, was part of my due diligence to more fully appreciate this important piece of history.

This bitter history continues today. The few surviving comfort women continue their weekly protests in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. And on the recent 96th anniversary of the Korean uprising against the Japanese occupation here, South Korea's president Park Geun-hye speaking before a national television audience "urged Japan on Sunday to have the 'courage and honesty' to admit to its historical wrongdoings against Koreans and other Asians, including its enslavement of Korean women in military brothels during World War II."

The president noted that “This year alone, two of the old women passed away with no healing of their sufferings" and "that the average age of the remaining 50 known South Korean comfort women was close to 90. Time is running out to restore dignity to their lives.”

In the Q & A section at the end of the book, Andrews shares that the book was influenced by his daughter who is from South Korea. He says (modestly) that he "learned about the country and thought it was fascinating." That is an understatement. The story of Anna, as revealed through the life of her maternal grandmother, Hong Ja-hee, is an intense and unrelenting emotional journey down Korea's roads and inside its relationships. It reveals a raw and real Korea like few other western books have done.

I am reminded of the powerful Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden, intriguingly also a book seen from a woman's perspective, likewise written by a man. Like Memoirs, Daughters of the Dragon is a mesmerizing story, one difficult to face, yet nearly impossible to put down. 

Note: The author of Daughters of the Dragon, William Andrews, is currently seeking a translator and Korean publisher for a Korean language edition.


  1. How lucky! I'm really excited that I got to know this great blog. I love all the posts here. And this book review is so touching that I'm tempted to contact a Korean publisher for the translation contract.

    1. Jissook, I think our luck runs both ways. I know you will appreciate the book on many levels. Warm regards, Steve

  2. I find it rich that an American should be lecturing Asians about this.

    US gave full blessing to Japan to colonize Korea.

    FDR was willing to allow Japan to keep Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria as long as Japan withdrew from China proper.

    The so-called 'liberation' of Korea happened only because US ended up fighting Japan.

    And how did US 'liberate' Korea?
    That pig FDR cut Korea like a piece of cake and offered half to Stalin to turn into a slave state.

    WWII began with Hitler dividing Poland with Stalin, and WWII ended with FDR dividing Korea with Stalin. North Korea is really an American creation. FDR cut Korea like a steak and tossed half to Stalin. It set grounds for the Korean War. US committed air holocaust by dropping more bombs than during the entire Pacific War.

    In the Philippines, US occupation killed 250,000 people earlier in the century.

    In Vietnam, US turned South Vietnam into one big brothel ad killed millions.
    In the name of protecting South Korea from North Korea(monster created by FDR), US GIs used Korean women as whores.
    Prostitution is so deeply ingrained in the Korean psyche that K-pop celebrates prostitutionism.

    US also aided in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians who, under Zionist imperialism, are worse off than Koreans under Japanese rule.

    And Zionist pigs routinely raped Palestinian women.

    Today, US uses homosexual proxies to subvert the values of Koreans so that Korea will also be force-fed the garbage of 'gay marriage'. But Korean collaborationist slaves are such whores that they just go along.

    1. Horang-ih-gomtoki,
      I appreciate your taking the time to comment here.You obviously are well informed and have many strong opinions about these issues. While I will not respond tit-for tat, I would like to share a few comments.
      No one here is is lecturing you (or anyone else). I certainly did not intend to lecture you or any of the readers of this blog. The author, Mr. Andrews, wrote the novel and as such, is not offering any lectures. He is rather using his characters to tell a story-their story. The political landscape you described probably has much more truth to it than I would care to admit. But no country is innocent when it comes to power and control--certainly not the U.S. or any other major power in the course of history. However, I must say that I totally disagree with what I infer might be your points about "homosexuality," which I do not see as "garbage," inappropriate, or in any manner, problematic. It is a sexual orientation no better or worse than yours. All I can say is that I am sorry for the intense anger you seem to feel. I personally try to err on the side of compassion, dialogue and understanding. They are the only things that are likely to make this troubled world a better place. Again thanks for offering your perspective. Please stay well.

  3. William Andrews ignores comfort women in Vietnam war and Korean war. There were lots of comfort women in Japan soon after the end of WW2. Army and prostitutes are universal matter. Daughters of the Dragon is controdictory to objective documents in those days.

    Japan has officially denied that the Japanese army did NOT kidnap the women. However, William Andrews did not explain it, just takes part in one-sided victim business. In William Andrews facebook page, It is full of entertainment by a government.