GRASS is in stores!!: A memoir of a former Korean sex slave
"Comfort Woman" is a pretty inciting phrase. It was the euphemistic term the Japanese Army gave to the women who they enslaved as sex workers for the Japanese soldiers during WWII. These women typically came from the occupied countries—Korea, China, and the Philippines. So “comfort woman” was really a softening of “sex slave.” The acknowledgment of this crime is still somewhat disputed. The number of women enslaved is impossible to nail down—estimates run anywhere from 20,000 (a Japanese historian) to 400,000 (a Chinese scholar). Out of this history comes the story of Grass.
Korean Cartoonist Keum Suk Gendry-Kim began this story when she met Lee Ok-Sun, a former comfort woman who survived and was living in a home. Grass is Granny Lee’s story. At first she’s reluctant to talk, distant. But gradually she opens up and talks about her life. Her desire to go to school (only her brother was allowed) and how she was eventually sent away to another family to work. Her misfortunes mount and eventually she ends in a camp working as a sex slave.
The horror never lets up for young Lee but amazingly she perseveres and we see the intelligence and even mischievousness in the older Granny Lee. Gendry-Kim delicately shows Granny’s story with care and understanding. Her loose expressionistic brushy style captures creeping darkness, flowing blood, spreading bruises, hooded eyes, and fields of grass. We can only read on with dread as we watch humanity sink to its lowest depths while it tries to destroy this young woman. Monstrous acts have been committed throughout history. Can we ever know them all?
Ultimately Granny Lee is not destroyed. As of 2017, she was still alive and protesting for comfort women’s rights. She will not let this shameful chapter in human history be forgotten. Grass is an important story beautifully told. May Granny Lee live forever!