The Korea Herald


[Time to Play] Lost in translation: Sex slavery awareness game defeats own purpose

By Kim Byung-wook

Published : Dec. 7, 2020 - 16:20

    • Link copied

The Wednesday (GamBridzy) The Wednesday (GamBridzy)

If Anne Frank was not a real person and her diary was merely a work of fiction, would her story resonate as much with readers?

As witnessed by Schindler’s List and The Pianist, films based on true stories connect people to the past in a visceral way.

But would it be appropriate, or even necessary, to make a game out of such atrocities, even with a “noble” purpose in mind?

In this sense, PC game The Wednesday, released on Dec. 1, is an utter disaster, as it reduces the brutal, even traumatizing history of Japan’s sexual slavery of Korean women during World War II into a fictional game.

Developed by a local game developer GamBridzy and funded by the South Korean government, The Wednesday revolves around a virtual female character Suni, an imaginary sex slave assaulted by Japanese soldiers at a fictional island called Satkin. Users’ mission is to help Suni to rescue other imaginary sex slaves. 

Main female character Suni tells a story on how she was forced to become a sex slave by Japanese soldiers during World War II. (The Wednesday Screenshot) Main female character Suni tells a story on how she was forced to become a sex slave by Japanese soldiers during World War II. (The Wednesday Screenshot)

After playing the game for two hours, even for a Korean, it felt uncomfortable to stomach a made-up story coming from the imaginary victim.

Above all, The Wednesday states in the beginning that “Characters, incidents and places (in the game) are creator’s imagination or the result of reprocessing real events by imagination.”

This statement not only makes it impossible for users to identify with Suni but also misleads them significantly, especially for those who do not have sufficient background knowledge of the sexual slavery issue.

During the game, users are guided to click Suni’s diary where she wrote down the atrocities Japanese soldiers had committed against Korean sex slaves.

Firstly, even for Korean users, it was difficult to differentiate whether the atrocities described are based on actual historical facts or simply part of Suni’s imaginary narrative.

Also, users are led to click various objects -- documents and photos -- that prove Japan’s wartime sexual slavery. But it was difficult to tell whether such objects are bona fide historical evidence or fake items to make the Suni’s imaginary narrative more convincing.

In short, actual events and real historical evidence lost their credibility inside the narrative.

Though the GamBridzy CEO Do Min-seok said The Wednesday “would be the best medium to spread the (sex slavery) issue to the younger generation outside of Korea,” it’s questionable whether foreign players would be able to distinguish fact from fiction while playing, as the game is confusing even for Koreans.

The Wednesday received a government funding worth 119 million won ($108,000) from the Korea Creative Content Agency affiliated with the Ministry of Culture. It would be hard for the government to avoid criticism from its Japanese counterpart that it is producing “fictional propaganda” with this game.

For developing The Wednesday, GamBridzy raised 84 million won through crowdfunding and promised sponsors that it would translate the game into English, Chinese, Japanese, French, German and Dutch. As of Dec. 2, the game only supported Korean.

Immediately after the release, GamBridzy has been surrounded by controversy due to its press release on Aug. 14 last year that stated that the company would donate 50 percent of profits generated from the game to the “wartime sexual assault prevention campaign” of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance. The council is a Seoul-based civic group that has recently been accused of accounting fraud and misusing donations meant for Korean sexual slavery victims.

Following debate over the game’s appropriateness, the company posted an online notice on Dec. 2 that it would not make the donation to the civic group and seek a different channel.

By Kim Byung-wook (