A Long Road to Justice: Stories from the Frontlines in Asia is a book written by Sylvia Yu Friedman and published in 2021 on her life’s work raising awareness on the plight of victims from Imperial Japanese sex slavery during World War II, called “comfort women”, and human trafficking and exploitation. Sylvia Yu Friedman is a noted journalist, author, filmmaker, abolitionist, and humanist. Sylvia’s work uniquely includes an element deeply rooted in the recesses of its conceptualism, her ethnic identity. In addition to being a woman of Korean ethnicity, Sylvia triangulated the personal narratives of survivors, traffickers, and observers, with statistical data to develop a comprehensive understanding of the human trafficking phenomenon in Asia.
A Long Road to Justice encompasses over 14 years of concentrated field work and analysis within a lifetime pursuit of the author identifying with her own path. The author’s only regret is the passing of Kim Hak-soon, a Korean comfort woman enslaved in World War II, prior to the release of this book. Kim Hak-soon, and other comfort women, endured years of racially charged degradation and sexual trauma in comfort stations, created and supported by the Japanese government to sedate the appetites of Japanese soldiers during the second war. Japanese soldiers were provided comfort women based on a racial hierarchy, scaffolding their palate of distribution. To date, a sincere apology to the victims of these atrocities offering a means of closure has not been publicly sanctioned by the Japanese government. Not in their eyes.
A Long Road to Justice acutely describes the cycle of modern slavery existing in Asia, running consecutive to the conditions of its past. Racial discrimination and superiority still resonate and is interwoven in every layer of the sociological structure within the Asia ecosphere. In the case of traffickers, socioeconomic status and dysfunctional homes serve as a seemingly endless recruiter of victims. Extreme hunger and desperation have led many North Korean people to undertake cannibalism and a type of indentured slavery as a method to survive. Trafficker’s prey and thrive on these conditions, using deceit and coercion as the framework of their trade to create an unescapable environment for trafficked persons. Similar to the comfort stations of the Japanese government in World War II, brothels and nightclubs currently provide a physical containment area. Traffickers are also assisted in the control of victims by citizen spies, who reports escapees and abolitionists aiding in the pursuit of freedom. The abolitionists, many who hold positions in religious organizations, are imprisoned for many years. Family members are also captured and imprisoned to control trafficked victims. Finally, legal documentation is often withheld or forged by traffickers to further restrict movement.
Although trafficking is considered cyclical in nature, a recent development has become a fixture in social acceptance in traffickers’ linear approach to evolution; Compensated Dating (CD). Online platforms have created a haven for part-time girlfriends and boyfriends (PTGF’s and PTBF’s) to engage in transactional exchanges. Clinicians have warned of the psychological and physical dangers to youths participating in Compensated Dating. Sources have suggested Compensated Dating provides an illusion of security and control for Asian youth; specifically, females. One source advised the author unlike in the case of a pimp situation, women in Compensated Dating have no protection. They are alone. Social acceptance of Compensated Dating is revealed by the author, as if extortion or sexual abuse was not transpiring in the event. It was a simple matter of both parties receiving goods or services desired. As the numbers of online activity increases, it was suggested Compensated Dating will continue to become more prevalent.
The information contained in A Long Road to Justice is genuine, obtained from years of personal interviews from the field. Asia offered the author the necessary reliable and valid informative sources to provide a ground level view of patterns of trafficking, bureaucratic standings, historic substance, and how identity weighs on trafficking occurring in Asia. Identity is often overlooked or seriously considered in the literature and research I have read on human trafficking. This variable underpins the spine of what drives the value of people in Asia. Unintentionally applying concepts similar in Dr. Jean Kim’s Asian Identity Model, Sylvia describes how identity is a valid component of trafficking within Asia, as it determines the value of the people selected for its purposes. Understanding identity as it resides within this framework creates a transformative effect for the reader. To know.
A Long Road to Justice: Stories from the Frontlines in Asia is the first major publicationconcentrated in trafficking activity in Asia from a historical, ethnic, transnational, and self-identification perspective. Filtered by field interviews and ground level information, A Long Road to Justice provides a holistic awakening of the trafficking reality in the far east. The author brilliantly blended her study’s variables to provide the reader an informed vantage point, in the hopes of invigorating a response to act and prevent trafficking. Although the author may feel a semblance of disappointment of not publishing this book prior to the passing of specific individuals, I am confident those individuals are at peace with themselves and the release of this work. What is important is the knowledge is now being passed to others to know and act. A Long Road to Justice is a must read for all of these who want to know about human trafficking and act.
Consume knowledge to devour darkness, -Christian A. Nanry, PhD