“Comfort Women:” New musical tells tragic story of Korean sex slaves during WWII

NEW YORK — This is the story of Korean women who were promised jobs in Japan – only to end up in Indonesia as sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

“Comfort Women” is an off-Broadway musical that explores how this tragic and painful journey changed the lives of these young women during the war.

Its Singaporean-American lead actor, Matheus Ting, says it’s a story that needs to be told.

“In Asia, it’s a common thing that people know about it — but over here it’s like a different thing, people are not aware that this even happened… it’s kind of similar to the Holocaust; the gravity of its situation.”

Women abducted from Japanese-occupied countries and locked up in military “comfort stations” for the sexual enjoyment of the Japanese imperial army is a story that hits close to home for the Filipino cast members – including Leana Concepcion.

“We are educating people throughout the performances that we do, and I feel really lucky to be part of that.”

Concepcion says this musical, set in the 1940’s, is relevant today when it comes to the #MeToo movement.

“For so many years the women, the comfort women did not have a voice, very similar to the women and men who were a part of this #MeToo movement — their voices were taken away from them and they were too afraid to speak up for the sexual violence that happened.”

The cast includes 5 other Filipino-Americans — including Mathew Bautista, who provides upbeat musical numbers to lighten up show that is otherwise dark and tragic.

“It means the world to have 6 Filipinos in a cast,” said Concepcion. “To be sharing the stage with almost all Asian-American or Asian actors is a dream come true, I never thought something like this could ever happen in my career — it just shows that the industry is changing and that Pinoys are here.”

Directed by Dimo Kim, Comfort Women plays at the Peter Jay Sharp theater on 42nd street until September 2.


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