The Korea Herald


[New in Korean] Son traces stories of conscripted soldier father and comfort woman mother

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Aug. 20, 2023 - 08:01

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"Mom Was There" (a literal translation of the Korean title) by Yun Jeong-mo (Dasan Books)

"Mom Was There" (a literal translation of the Korean title)

By Yun Jeong-mo

Dasan Books

“Mom Was There,” by the million-selling author Yun Jeong-mo, encapsulates the turbulent moments of modern and contemporary Korean history, delving into the sufferings endured by individuals.

While Yun's previous works have dealt with major moments in Korean history such as the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising, the "East Berlin Affair,” the Korean War and the Vietnam War, she has also been steadily addressing the issue of "comfort women," or women forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II -- a cause she refers to as her "lifelong work."

The story follows a son who confronts the truth about his parents.

Set in 1981, the narrator, a writer named Bae Moon-ha, is absorbed in writing, deliberately ignoring the mood of resistance against the authoritarian regime.

News of the death of his estranged father reaches him. At the funeral, his father’s old diary is given to him as a keepsake, and he reads the records of his young father's experiences as a conscripted student soldier in the Pacific War.

Uncovering his father's past, the son also delves into the truth of his mother, vividly summoning the voices of comfort women.

A comfort woman, who has not been identified at the request of the bereaved family, passed away in May, leaving only nine registered survivors of Japanese military sex slavery recognized by the government.

“While writing the novel, another comfort woman passed away. The cruelty and suffering should never be forgotten, and I realized that this novel was written to impress upon people that there can be no negotiations with a country that inflicted such pain,” writes Yun in the author’s note.