The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_2

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea


Historical Background of the Campaign

Political Relation of Korea and Japan

Economic relations between South Korea and Japan are improving as they deal with various issues together, such as tax evasion or disaster relief planning. In terms of political relations, there is a disconnect until now, as continuous territorial claims in relation to islands or history have threatened the relationship (Bang & Kang 2012). 

For example, Japan’s territorial disputes with South Korea over an island named as “Dokdo” by Koreans or “Takeshima” by Japanese have been worse since the end of the Second World War. Even though the island is currently occupied by the Republic of Korea, and it has always belonged to South Korea, the Japanese government has claimed that “Takeshima” is a part of the Japanese territory. The claim of the Japanese government is based mainly on the twentieth-century agreements with Korea. Conversely, the South Korean government argues that Japan returned the island after its liberation from Japanese colonial as a result of the two states’ bilateral agreements (Fern 2005).


Aside from the historical territorial claims, the issue of human rights abuse has also made the relationship worse. The term “Comfort Women” refers to teenage girls or women from Korea, Northern China, Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan who were forced to become sexual slaves for the Japanese military during the Second World War. Few of them survived, those that did began to request a sincere apology and compensation from the Japanese government (Kim 2014). The surviving comfort women symbolises the collective wish to reclaim national integrity and bolster Korean nationalism in Korea and to remind Japan of its moral commitment to the Korean nation. On the other hand, the Japanese government has not tried to represent the issue as a crime. As a result, Japanese junior high school history textbooks do not mention “Comfort Women” and describe it as ‘paid prostitute camp followers’ (Orreill 2008). Therefore, the Japan’s colonial rule as well as its ignorant attitude and behaviour have made the serious tension between Korea and Japan.

Women’s Oppression in Korea

The system of comfort women is not an issue limited only in Korea, is rather found in almost every conflict zone. The gender-based military violence in Korea became a root cause of oppression of South Korean Women. Even though the comfort women are the victims of the forced military prostitution system, they have not been able to speak up and to share their tragic experiences freely for the sake of international peace and security. A social atmosphere has remained in Korea even until now that it is shameful for women to talk about stories in relation to sexual abuse. The oppressive atmosphere for women in Korea can be explained in relation to the historical background of Korean Women who had lived under the Neo-Confucianism law of chastity since the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) before the Republic of Korea was established (Pae 2011). As a result, a first statement was made by one of the comfort women in Korea, Kim Hak-Soon in 1991, when that woman became really old (Orreill 2008).


The Value of Autobiographical Memory in Media Advocacy Campaign_1

A Case Study of Crowdfunding: the Campaign for the film “Sprits’ Homecoming” in South Korea 


“Bottom-up memories began to replace top-down historiography since World War One” (Kim 2014, p.85).

A new movie “Spirits’ Homecoming”, directed by Cho Jung-Lae, was released in South Korea on February 2016, drew 2.21 million viewers by March. This film is not only considered as an art form, but also a media campaign since the movie production was funded by more than 70,000 Korean citizens through crowdfunding. The film was based on the testimony of comfort women, their memory mediated through art drawings, and by the film itself. This campaign constitutes a meaningful process, shaping the cultural memory of Korea in relation to the comfort women issue.


About the Movie

The movie was directed by Cho Jung-Lae who is an indie movie director. He typically directs movies related to minority or Korean culture. His previous movie includes “Duresori” which is about students who study and practice traditional music in Korea. His documentary, “Youths on Feet: A Great Journey to Our Nation” also shows his passion towards the Korean peninsula and the people of Korea. 

The film “Sprits’ Homecoming” was produced based on a true story of one comfort woman in Korea, Kang Il-Chul. According to her statement, teenage Korean girls were forcibly taken by the Imperial Japanese Army to be sex slaves for them during the 1940s.

Kang Il-Chul is portrayed as one character, Jung-Min in the film. Jung-Min is an innocent and clumsy teenage girl, an ordinary girl living in the 1940s. She lives with her father and mother, peacefully thinking of getting married to someone in the future. One day, some Japanese policemen take her away from her family and put her in a car with a bunch of teenage girls. She arrives somewhere in China, and starts to work as a sex slave for the Japanese armed forces.

In the meantime, there is a character named Eun-Kyung who lives in the twentieth first century. Her father is murdered while he tries to save her from a burglar. Since then, she develops a mental disorder, and her mother takes her to meet a female shaman. The shaman finds out Eun-Kyung can talk to dead souls. One day, Eun-Kyung sees Jung-Min’s soul and her life as a sex slave.

Jung-Min and the other girls are saved by Korean independence armed forces when they are about to die. However, Jung-Min dies when she is shot by a Japanese. Eun-Kyung consoles the ghost of Jung-Min to make her spirit come back home. The movie shows how the teenage girls’ tragic experiences, as it was without any human rights or dignity, their bodies only for the purpose of war and the militarism.