Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of wars won and lost. Often, we think of the battles and the victories. At times, we consider the inevitable war crimes: the massacres, rapes and other atrocities. Rarely do we consider the perspectives of those who are responsible as well as those who are injured. In a special hour long documentary, War and Forgiveness, we present two sides of the equation: the victims and the perpetrators of wartime atrocities. WNYC, RADIO NETHERLANDS, and SOUNDPRINT have collaborated on a two part program that looks at women in Korea who were commandeered to have sex with Japanese soldiers during World War II and Dutch soldiers who carried out a torture campaign in Indonesia. As different as their stories are, they reach the same conclusion: the need for a moral apology from the government.
In part one, The Korean Sharing House, Producer Judith Kampfner from WNYC follows seven women aged between 75 and 85 who live together in a communal house outside Seoul, South Korea. These Korean Comfort Women, the name given by the Japanese to women forced into sexual slavery during WWII, have never received an apology from the Japanese government. In pursuit of their goal, they travel weekly to protest outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. They talk about how they were taken by force as young girls to outposts of the Japanese empire. How they were raped 40-50 times a day. How they were tortured and electrocuted. How they had to keep their secrets and how they had to live in shame. And yet through their songs and sharing, they have managed to find a measure of peace.
In part two, Holland's Black Page, Producer Dheera Sujan from RADIO NETHERLANDS, traces the stories of four former soldiers who tortured and killed Indonesian prisoners. Now in their seventies, they remember the details of quieting an open rebellion in the late 1940's. They remember the electrocutions, the torture and the killing. They also remember how they had to live in shame with the secrets. They call for the Dutch government to accept some measure of responsibility for what they say they were ordered to do. Their solace lies in being able to publicly discuss the events.
In these two evocative, oftentimes emotional documentaries, ordinary people who found themselves as either victims or perpetrators tell their stories. Apologies may never come, and then, neither may forgiveness.