Comfort women or those who served in Japanese brothels throughout World War II are being delegitimized by popular culture and media sources. Movies, romance novels, books and poetry often portray fictional and inaccurate versions of the experiences of those who served in comfort stations.
The trend of using comfort women as a premise for entertainment should be seen as a divisive move for those attempting to bring truth and justice to the story of the women. For instance, a new anthology by poet Emily Jungmin Yoon “A Cruelty Special to Our Species” is a series of poems which fictionally delves in to the lives of former comfort women.
If these women are to be brought true justice for their services during the war, this should be done by meticulous research and firsthand accounts. This manner of “presenting” information is both insulting to the women and to the scholars who have dedicated their lives to formally (and professionally) researching the subject.
In addition, a series of movies and off-Broadway plays attempts to romanticize the comfort women issue, wistfully forgetting to include the true complexities of the issue at hand. In the play “Comfort Women,” a review website summarizes the plot as the following:
Comfort Women: A New Musical revolves around a young Korean woman, Goeun, who was promised a job in Japan, but is soon transported to Indonesia as one of the Comfort Women – women who were sold to the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. The story explores how such a tragedy can permanently and painfully transform the life of a young woman. As the first ever all-Asian Off-Broadway cast led by an East Asian director, the show sold out in 2015. It was also nominated for Best Off-Broadway Musical by BroadwayWorld.
The issues arising surrounding the “Hollywoodization” of the stories transform a complex subject into profit for the creators involved. If the people involved in these productions had the best intentions of the former comfort women at heart, they would do their part to assure they live the rest of their lives in relative peace and comfort. Popular culture and media emphasize the need to paint sides into oppressors and oppressed, which fundamentally do not allow for nuances such as those from the comfort women era, including the fats that parents often sold their own daughters to the Imperial Army and the fact that local brokers, referred to as “middlemen” were complicit in what is today known as the comfort system.