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Three Women's Documentaries Examine the Pain and Legacy of War

Memoirs: Vietnam War widows', Japanese-American internees' and Korean sex slaves' stories shown.

March 21, 1999|JEAN H. LEE | ASSOCIATED PRESS

At the same time, in Asia, the Japanese surrender meant freedom for 200,000 women in military brothels, most of them Korean. For four decades, the women then listened as the Japanese denied they were forced into sexual servitude.

In 1991, the women began stepping forward. They speak in "Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women" of being seized by soldiers, of girls as young as 12 forced to see up to 100 men a day. Many were beaten, drugged and made infertile.

One woman refuses to feel shame though she lost the chance to bear children. "I want to die as a daughter of Korea," she says proudly, clad in an elegant traditional gown.

In all three films, moments of serenity contrast with brutal images of torture and death. Water lapping at a boat plying the waters off Vietnam, a voice soaring in song. The quiet roar of a waterfall in the Korean mountain countryside. The snowcapped Sierra rising above the cactuses of the Manzanar camp.

There is beauty even in a landscape of horror. Years after the barracks were torn down, a farmer dug up a rusty oil barrel that internees had filled with tiny, polished stones, each painted with a word.

She and other survivors are like those river rocks, Omori says.

"To bury them like a time capsule, people wanted us not to forget how we had all shattered and scattered and couldn't come back together in quite the same way. They've become messengers," she says. "When I would want to give up, they were a reminder that I owed it--to my history, to the community."

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