The Irony of the Victim after Evil: A Standpoint between Forgiveness and Vengeance

Robert Meister, in his book After Evil, sheds light on a politics of human rights, especially the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator/beneficiary in the twentieth century at the beginning of the book.

Meister states that the concept of forgiveness and vengeance remains as moral imperative to the victim after evil has stopped and before justice comes. According to Meister, forgiveness is only way that releases the people from the fetters of consequences, in other words, it can only bring a new beginning. Vengeance, however, has a possibility to lead a cycle of future vengeance, therefore, justice cannot be achieved. He even argues that forgiveness might sometimes be the best revenge.

He, however, points out that “the apparent need to choose between forgiveness and vengeance arises from the standpoint of former victims who are still unsure about whether they have won” (p.9). This argument in particular reminds me of the issue of comfort women, girls and women who were forced into sex slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. The existence of the victim of comfort women has been denied by Japanese government for a long time. Recently, South Korean government and Japanese government agreed on a negotiation for indemnification for the victim, but the victim strongly complained that it was unfair and injustice agreement between two governments without the participation of the victim.

The victim of forced sex slavery by the Japanese Army may be seen as they have won because the Japanese government admitted their past crimes by agreeing on the negotiation. It, however, cannot be understood as a complete victory because the Japanese government still hesitates to announce it publicly and internationally, rather they admitted the victim only in South Korea. Meister argues that the past victims never really win. We now know that historical injustice exists behind this issue, but the victim cannot do anything – forgiveness or vengeance – at all. The tragedy from the twentieth century still continues in nowadays; there is no a new beginning and no justice. How can the victim of comfort women issues be free from its chain? The discourse of human rights is still in question.


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