Comfort women stories rekindled on stage

Comfort women stories rekindled on stage
A scene from the theatrical performance “Bongsunghwa” (Garden Balsam).

"Bongsunhwa (Garden Balsam)" is not being staged to criticise the Japanese people because they were also victims of the war. It artistically accuses the Japanese government of refusing to offer a heartfelt apology for its imperialistic deeds, says its artistic director Kim Hye-ryun.

The play, which deals with the issue of victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery, euphemistically called "comfort women," will be restaged in Korea this month. Premiered here last year, "Bongsunhwa" received wide acclaim for its thoughtful and deeply moving content from audiences in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York this summer.

"I hope the play can be staged in Japan and China next year," said Kim, the artistic director of the city-run Seoul Metropolitan Theatre, at a press conference held in November. "It is a story about women suffering from the war."

Based on the novel "Mommy's Name was Josenpi," "Bongsunhwa" was written by the original author, Yoon Jung-mo. The play not only tells the story of the comfort woman Soon-yi but also of her son and granddaughter, depicting the issue not as a forgotten part of history, but as our own story and an issue that is deeply connected to the current generation.

"It is more than 20 years since the comfort women issue came to the fore in 1991," said Ku Tae-hwan, director of the play. "But nothing has been resolved despite continuing demands and efforts.

"We should no longer try to cover up the brutal history, but consciously open up and solve the issue."

Seoul Metropolitan Theatre is presenting "Bongsunghwa" from Dec. 6-25 at the Sejong M Theater of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. Tickets cost 20,000 (S$24) won to 50,000 won (S$59). 

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