‘Spirits Homecoming’- a movie of the forgotten ‘Comfort Women’ of WWII

After he saw the painting of  Japanese soldiers taking some young girls to a pit of fire, Korean filmmaker Cho Junglae decided to let the world know about these girls. The girls depicted here worked in Japanese brothels during WWII, and were mostly kidnapped from their homes. He decided to make a feature film about these young women who were known in history as ‘comfort women’ of WWII’.

For the next decade or so, this feature stayed a dream;Cho could not find any funding for his project. People he presented his idea to advised him to let this go, as it had the potential to upset many people especially Japanese. This is particularly significant considering the close ties of South Korea with modern Japan. And on top of that he was not a mainstream filmmaker, his indie background caused more problems for him. Everyone asked him why he wanted to pour salt on old wounds, since this subject is very sensitive and sensational for many.

However, recent changes in the political arena paved the way for Cho’s ambitions. Japan is coming under strong influence of far-right nationalists, who are sparking a debate inside Japan. They demand a reassessment of Japan’s apologetic stance on its actions in WWII. This has created an outrage in some nations of the world and South Korea in particular. Projects like Cho’s feature were given more thought then before.

Cho is now planning to release his long awaited feature; he named it ‘Spirits Homecoming’, in August this year. He is hoping to start the filming in a few weeks. Mr. Cho has already made over 200 documentaries, short films, music videos and 2 feature length films.

Recently there has been a surge in the demands by the Koreans – at home and abroad – to create more awareness amongst people of the world about the atrocities of their ex colonial master, The New York Times reports.

Though Mr. Cho is very hopeful and ambitious about his movie, he lacks adequate funding for his project. He has plans to send his movie to film festivals around the world. The unique subject of this film has already sparked a sense of curiosity amongst various circles. Cho is planning to release the movie in August, on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of WWII.

There is a sense of denial in recent days by the Japanese government, which is leaned towards the right. Last yearthe government passed a statement in which it agreed to review Japan’s continuous apologetic policy over wartime aggression. Although the Korean government is demanding a formal apology from the Japanese government, for the so-called ‘comfort women’, Japan is denying the legitimacy of these claims.

Mr. Cho is determined he will eventually be able to release a part of his movie in time for 70th anniversary of WWII. Though he is well short of his proposed budget – 2 million short – he believes he will get there.

‘Spirits Homecoming’ is the story of two Korean girls who are kidnapped and then put to work in a Japanese brothel. One of them dies while trying to escape. They meet again years later spiritually through a Shaman.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE