HERSTORY Movie Review: A Heartbreaking True Story of Korea's Comfort Women Stabbed & Tortured for Sexual Gratification

There are billions of real-life encounters recorded down in history that cast a giant beam of lurid light on the atrocities and horror that war begets. The Holocaust, the Nanking Massacre, the Bataan Death March, the Bangka Island Massacre, Operation Sook Ching, and the Rape of Manila barely scratch the surface at unveiling the countless evils committed during WWII. We have heard of the former war tragedies in history, but have you heard of HERSTORY?
HERSTORY Movie Synopsis: Based on a real life story, Moon Jeong-suk (played by Kim Hee-ae) is a hard-headed and successful Busan tour agency CEO who reluctantly volunteers and donates to an anti-sex-slavery movement after being persuaded by her fellow female entrepreneurs community. She finds it hard to empathize with the sufferings of the comfort women until she finds out that her housemaid of 16 years was a comfort woman and a victim of WWII. Determined to seek justice and compensation from the Japanese government for the group of comfort women she gathered, she funds for their trip fully and begins their 6 years of court rulings with the encouragement from their supporters.
The film chronicles and highlights the valiant quest for justice and the long term suffering that several of these comfort women endured as young girls being enslaved for sex by the Japanese forces all the way to old women being persecuted and spurned by society and even their fellow countrymen for the horrendous acts of cruelty forced unto them.
Unlike many other similar films about the former sex slaves, HERSTORY does not contain flashbacks. Instead, the tragic life stories emerge from the mouths of the elderly women as they painfully recount being tortured to each other and in the courtroom. This calm manner of storytelling in highly emotional tones makes their tragic life stories all the more realistic, like as though the women are speaking directly to the audience.
For example, one of the elderly women calmly recalled to her fellow comfort women that she got pregnant while she was enslaved by the Japanese when some of the women recoiled in horror at the sight of her puckered and heavily mutilated abdomen in a dressing room. When the Japanese found out that she was pregnant back then, they pinned her down and brutally sliced her abdomen open while she was fully conscious, ripped out her womb and threw it away. The contrast between the placid and controlled dialogue with the absolute inhumanity of the act jars the audience and sends a shockwave of horror rippling through the cinema.
The other elderly women expose their numerous old scars from being stabbed and mutilated by Japanese soldiers when the Japanese government tried to evade responsibility by citing a lack of evidence.
But even with all the evidence and witness testimonies from the comfort women themselves and the people who had unwittingly surrendered them over to the Japanese soldiers, many bystanders both in Korea and Japan watching from the sidelines through media reports continue to slut-shame them and accuse them of willingly prostituting themselves and regretting their actions thereafter.
This victim blaming and slut-shaming strikes a heavy chord in our hearts. It is still all too real in the modern world when innocent girls and women who have been molested or raped are accused of abetting their own sexual violations through dressing provocatively or “asking for it” when really the perpetrators of the crime should be the ones getting persecuted both by society and the law. This movie not only features a historically horrific event but it also shines the spotlight on the grim reality of this misogynistic world that still requires a lot of education on humanity, empathy and women's rights.
Presented and distributed by mm2 Entertainment, HERSTORY has been screening in theaters in Singapore since 14 August 2018.

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