“The Apology” Shares Comfort Women’s Activism and Legacies – Watch on PBS.org/POV

By Lauren Lola. Posted October 17, 2018.

Editor’s Note: The Apology has its national broadcast premiere on the PBS documentary series POV (Point of View) on Monday, October 22, 2018. POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, now in its 31st season. The film is a co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

During World War II, over 200,000 women and girls from all over Asia were forced to be sex slaves, also known as “comfort women,” by the Japanese Imperial Army. In “The Apology,” director Tiffany Hsiung sheds a light on three of those women. While each of the women tells their stories of the horrors they endured, they come in bits and pieces. A thoughtful and compelling angle Hsiung took with this documentary is seeing where they are now, and how they continue to carry this part of their personal histories with them in their twilight years.

Meehyang Yoon supports Grandma Gil as she speaks at a conference in China. Photo: Icarus Films

Grandma Gil of South Korea channels her history in the form of activism, as she takes part in demanding a formal apology from the Japanese government. From participating in the weekly protests that have been going on since 1992 to traveling for speaking engagements, she refuses to stop despite being exhausted. When she proclaims, “I will keep talking until the day I die,” you believe it.

The film does not shy away from showing the rightwing protesters, primarily men, who scream “prostitutes” at Grandma Gil and other comfort women when they are on a protest march. Counter protests, along with resistance from the government itself, parallel the recent news of Osaka’s conservative mayor terminating its sister city relationship with San Francisco, due to the comfort women memorial statue erected in the latter city.

The past is a burden, especially when carried in silence. For the other two subjects, Grandma Cao of China and Grandma Adela of the Philippines, they struggle with figuring out when, if at all, they’ll tell their children about how they were raped and enslaved. Apart from the obvious, life-altering trauma from the experience – which, in Grandma Cao’s case, involved killing two children she was impregnated with – they also worry about the shame that may be cast upon their families even though what happened to them was far from their fault.

Grandma Cao. Photo: Icarus Films.

The act of sharing these stories provokes deep empathy among the younger generations, as shown when Grandma Gil recounts her story to a class at an all-women university in Japan. With tears in their eyes, the students acknowledge that this history has never been taught to them, and they vow to prevent such a travesty from ever happening again.

It’s hard to watch “The Apology” without thinking of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements where women – and men – all over the world address how sexual harassment and sexual assault is widespread and must be stopped. With Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the United States Supreme Court earlier this month despite Dr. Christine Ford’s testimony about Kavanaugh sexual assaulting her in high school, we know there is still quite a ways to go before apologies and confessions can be exchanged and such horrendous acts be put to an end.

Grandma Adela. Photo: Icarus Films.

That’s why films like “The Apology” must be seen. World War II may have officially ended in 1945, but as long as the Japanese government remains silent in the face of protests from and on behalf of comfort women, as Grandma Adela says, “The war is still going on.”

Click below to view the trailer for “The Apology.”



Director/writer: Tiffany Hsiung; Director of Photography: Tiffany Hsiung; Editor: Mary Stephen; Producer: Anita Lee; Associate Producers: Chris Kang, Deann Borshay Liem; Sound Design: Daniel Pellerin; Composer: Lesley Barber; Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan, Chris White

Author’s bio:

Lauren Lola is a San Francisco Bay Area writer, novelist, and third generation Filipino American. She has had writing published for Kollaboration, YOMYOMF, Multiracial Media, Hapa Mag, and other publications.

1 Comment

  1. What Did I Miss?: October 2018 | Lola By The Bay on October 28, 2018 at 9:33 am

    […] “The Apology” Shares Comfort Women’s Activism and Legacies – For East Wind Ezine, I review a powerful documentary centering on three women who were forced to be sex slaves during World War II. […]

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