The Apology, directed by Tiffany Hsiung and developed in association with Mu Films, explores the forgotten history of the “comfort women,” a term used to describe over 200,000 girls, some as young as nine years old, who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II in Asia.
In 1937 in occupied Korea, 13-year old Gil Won-Ok heard that there was work at a Japanese factory. Thinking she could help support her family, she boarded a train with a group of other girls who also wanted jobs. Instead of taking them to a factory, however, the girls were taken to a "comfort station," where they were repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers.
In 1941, Japanese soldiers entered Grandma Cao’s village in China. She was 18 years old and was soon to be married. But when the soldiers arrived, they dragged her out of a crowd, forced her to undress and raped her. She was imprisoned in a stone cave for three years where she was repeatedly brutalized and raped until her escape.
After Japan invaded the Philippines in 1941 Lola Adela, then 14 years old, was walking with a friend along the street when Japanese soldiers forced them into a jeep. Adela was shoved into a dark room and slapped so hard she fainted. When she woke up her entire body was in pain. Lola Adela: "I didn’t know what had happened to me until I looked down and saw the blood. They had raped me while I was unconscious."
These are the stories of three former "comfort women," now in their 80s and 90s, who are among the over 200,000 girls and young women who were forced into military sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Imprisoned in so-called "comfort stations" these girls were subjected to unimaginable abuses and torture, leaving deep physical, emotional and spiritual scars. Although these atrocities occurred between 1939 and 1945, the Japanese government has never offered an official apology and many survivors still keep silent because of shame and denial.
The Apology focuses on the stories of three survivors – Halmoni Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Lola Adela in The Philippines. The film chronicles the horrific crimes they endured over sixty years ago. But more importantly, the film chronicles their resilience and how today they work toward reconciliation and justice while struggling to make peace with the past.
As their stories evolve, we see Lola Adela lobbying for financial compensation from the Japanese government while also trying to make peace with her son who knows nothing about her past. We see Grandma Cao in a village in China struggling with her traumatic memories and a daughter who refuses to acknowledge her history. In Korea, we see Halmoni Gil demonstrating every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy, demanding a formal apology and witness her indefatigable efforts to obtain justice.
Together, these stories provide a powerful witness to history that will move audiences the world over not only to raise awareness of the continued injustice for former “comfort women,” but an awareness of the ways in which military sexual violence continues to impact women around the globe.