Film depicting horrors faced by comfort women for Japan army tops Korea box office

Thu Mar 3, 2016 7:17am EST
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By Jee Heun Kahng

SEOUL (Reuters) - A film based on the horrors experienced by "comfort women" in Japanese military brothels during World War Two, whose doubtful commercial appeal meant it took 14 years and the contributions of 75,000 individual donors to complete, is top of the box office in South Korea.

Cho Jung-rae, who directed "Spirits' Homecoming", was inspired in 2002 to make the film when he saw the drawing "Burning Women", made during a therapy session at a shelter for elderly former comfort women by Kang Il-chul, who said she was taken away by Japanese soldiers when she was 16.

At the time, Cho was a volunteer at the shelter, the House of Sharing.

"The grandmothers told me that if I was going to make a movie, I should make it well so that their stories could be told. That was the biggest motivation for me," Cho said in an interview with Reuters.

The term comfort women is a euphemism for girls and women forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels. South Korean activists estimate that there may have been as many as 200,000 Korean victims. Of 238 South Korean comfort women who shared their stories, only 44 are still alive.

In the first week of its Feb. 24 release, "Spirits' Homecoming" topped sales at the CJ CGV and Megabox chains, and drew a total of 1,735,174 domestic viewers, the Korean Film Council said.

The release follows the landmark December accord between South Korea and Japan to "finally and irreversibly resolve" the matter with a Japanese apology to the women and a new fund of about 1 billion yen ($8.75 million) to help the victims.

The issue had long plagued relations between the two countries. Many South Koreans, including some of the victims, oppose the accord, saying the government had no right to accept an apology on their behalf.   Continued...

A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, December 28, 2015.   REUTERS/Ahn Eun-na/News1