During World War II an estimated 200,000 Korean women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. Those who survived the war lived with their memories for decades in silence and shame. As their stories began to emerge in the 1990s, Director Byun made a trilogy of films documenting the past and present lives of these former "comfort women." Byun's films helped advance the women's demands for a formal apology and compensation from the Japanese government. Habitual Sadness (1997), the second film in the trilogy, was initiated at the request of the women, who asked Byun to film the last days of a survivor "who had been diagnosed with cancer. In this film the women are seen gaining self-confidence, eventually moving behind the camera themselves to utilize the medium of film as a means of both protest and healing" (Darcy Paquet). (Directed by Byun Young-Joo. 1999. 72 mins. Distributed by Filmakers Library.)
Director Byun Young-joo is best known for her documentary trilogy on the comfort women of Korea: The Murmuring (1995), Habitual Sadness (1997), and My Own Breathing (1999). The trilogy reached international acclaim and broke new grounds for Korean feminist cinema and documentary filmmaking. Her feature film Ardor was presented at the Berlinale in 2003 and her latest film Helpless won the Best Director award at the 2012 Paek Sang Arts Awards. Byun Young-joo is a founding member of the women's feminist film collective, Bariteo. She received her law degree from Ewha Womans University and completed her graduate studies in Theater and Film at Chung-Ang University.
Presented in partnership with the Institute for Korean Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington and made possible by the Core University Program Grant from the Academy of Korean Studies.