Since human stories began being recorded, countless people have been killed and born. However, most stories have been about men and superior things in history. Stories about historical women are rare, compared to those that detail the actions of men. Women, though, were not present throughout all events in history. However, the human population would not even exist without women. Presented next are some not well-known and forgotten stories about women. The past can be reflected on and learned from by knowing about their stories. Let's look at some of those women through “herstory” rather than history.
Princess Deokhye (2009)
“My last wish was to be free.”
In 1910, Joseon lost its sovereignty and became a colony of Japan. The Joseon king, at the time, then gave birth to a daughter who became princess of an unnamed country. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gojong but was not acknowledged as a princess at birth. She was only granted princess status after the age of five. It took four years for her to be granted the name 'Deokhye'. After finally being anointed with her title, her father, Emperor Gojong, was poisoned and died. Her older brothers, Emperor Sunjong and King Yeongchin, were deprived of their power by Japan. Deokhye grew up watching her family, the royal family of Joseon, being abolished from existence. Deokhye left Korea to live in Japan from the age of thirteen. She became disheartened and her distain for the Japanese grew because she was denied access to any fellow Korean people and everything about Joseon. Soon after her mother’s passing, she had a nervous breakdown. After completing her studies, she was forced to marry Takeyuchi, a Japanese man. The two had a daughter, but her mental state kept weakening and she had to be admitted to a mental hospital in 1946. Her daughter Junghye went missing in 1956, but was later found to have committed suicide. Her life too was tragic. In 1962 Deokhye returned to her homeland of Korea with the help of a South Korean journalist. She lived her final days alone at Nakseonjae in Changdeok Palace. How dreadful her life was!
Everyone learns or reads about people who have had historical success. History remembers the strong and the great, but it turns its back on the weak and lonely. Deokhye was born from royal blood. She was the daughter of an emperor, but in the end, she died alone, forgotten by all in her homeland. Even her name is left out of history books. This book, however, informs readers of a noble lady that should not be forgotten. Princess Deokhye was isolated from all in her kingdom at the young age of 13. Basically, she lived life as a hostage, missing her land and fellow Koreans every day. She was constantly monitored by the Japanese Empire after her father was removed from power by poisoning. She always feared death and could not live on her will for a moment. In the book, Deokhye is quoted as saying, “My greatest sin is that I was born from the last blood of a Korean Emperor.” She lived her whole life ruined by her birth and status, shunned by Japan from her childhood to adulthood and then shunned by her own country in her senior days. This book presents an honest picture of her ill-fated life and makes readers remember her. Her life is not her own but a life that needs retelling.
Snowy Road (2017)
“Are you afraid of dying? I’m more afraid of living, not being able to die.”
- Kang Youngae
The film is set during the Japanese colonial era. Youngae, from a rich Korean family, is sent to a Japanese school while Jongboon, who is from a poor family, is called upon to do an errand for Youngae’s family. Jongboon envys Youngae. Youngae treats Jongboon as a mere errand servant. One day, the Japanese army comes to Youngae’s house and arrests her brother because her father refused to obey an order given by Japan. In the midst of this happening, Youngae decides to go to Japan to continue her learning there. She believes the Japanese doctrine and dreams of becoming a teacher in the future. Jongboon wishes to follow Youngae to Japan, but her mother does not allow it. At night, the Japanese army comes and forcibly removes Jongboon from her home and places her in a truck filled with other young Korean girls. Youngae and Jongboon meet in the truck. They start to fear that something is terribly wrong. The truck arrives at some undisclosed location and the ladies are pushed into a small room where they are used as tools fulfilling the sexual desires of soldiers in the Japanese military. Youngae wished for death would come to her, and she tried to kill herself. Jongboon would always stop her from killing herself and remained by Youngae’s side. The Japanese army killed all the young ladies after they were done with them, but Youngae and Jongboon were able to escape. The film shows them walking in the snow with Youngae bleeding from a bullet wound. Will they survive and reach their hometown?
<Snowy Road> documents the bitter reality of Sexual Slavery in Korea. Few films have presented their plight so accurately. The movie provides audiences the opportunity to think about Korea’s painful past so that it is not forgotten. The film captures both historical events as well as the daily life of women at the time. For instance, Jongboon’s brother goes to school while Jongboon is kept at home to do housework such as laundry, even in the coldest of winter, and deliver meals to her brothers as well as other errands. Although Jongboon dreams of learning to read and write, she is not given the chance. Watching this movie, moviegoers see firsthand the reality of the past. In the movie, Jongboon says, “Our life is worth even less than the life of an insect,” and Youngae replies with, “Yes, no one cares about person like you and me…” This movie is painful to watch but it leaves the greater lesson that is to always remember the past. Some may want that past erased, but others need it clearly written. <Snowy Road> gives viewers the chance to think deeply about herstory and sympathize with women that lived through that history.
Jung Kim Hyeseung / Reporter
Kwak Lee Shinyoung / Reporter