I have recently finished reading Daughters of the Dragon, by William Andrews, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I was so affected by a story.
I knew nothing about the atrocities that took place in Korea and China during World War II, nothing about the hundreds of young Korean and Chinese girls that were taken from their homes and forced to work as sex slaves, or “comfort women”.
Imperial Japan ruled over Korea from 1910 until the end of World War II, and during its occupation Japanese soldiers abused thousands of innocent young girls. This is a fact the Japanese government are still refusing to acknowledge fully.
I was shocked and horrified as I followed Jae-hee’s tale. Although a fictional story, the elements of truth behind it were almost unbearable. The graphic description of daily rape and beatings left me stunned. It tugged at my heartstrings, it repulsed me… and it was certainly difficult to forget. I found myself desperately wishing for the girls in the story to find a way to escape. I wanted to reach into the book and pull them to safety.
I also felt inspired by Jae-hee’s courage and determination, her desire to live. She is resourceful and clever, and soon learns how she can play the Japanese soldiers. The love between Jae-hee and her sister, Soo-hee, manages to transport us away from the brutal reality for a few precious moments.
After finding myself so emotionally affected by just one girl’s story, and a fictional story at that, the enormity of the situation began to sink in. It is difficult to fathom that so many girls were treated so mercilessly, left physically and mentally scarred, or simply left for dead.
It is hard to believe that human beings inflicted such pain and humiliation on others. It’s appalling that the girls were then made to feel ashamed after the war was over. The stigma attached to being a comfort woman meant that they could never lead a normal life again.
As the Japanese soldiers were retreating, thousands of comfort women were slaughtered like cattle. It was an attempt to hide the truth from the world. Even now, those that did survive are awaiting an official apology. Many still march on the Japanese embassy in Seoul, every Wednesday, in protest. Will they ever find peace?
x Morts x