There is a Korean folk belief that at the site of an unjust mass burial, the phosphorus smoke that streams out of the ground stands for the grief and rage of the tortured souls who never received their last rites. The story of the ‘ghost flames’ becomes one of the metaphoric nods that Jin Kaisen weaves together in order to talk about the traumatic events in South Korean history, namely the various groups of women and children victimized and silenced during several South Korean military engagements of the 20th century.
Through documentary footage, interviews, and poetic narratives, Kaisen presents the stories of three generations of women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during the Second World War, who have been providing sexual services to the US military bases from the 1950s till present, and who were adopted as small children and taken to countries in the West. The stories of their lives often remain on the margins of the greater historical narratives. However, their trauma tends to manifest itself in the country's social mentality as the ‘ghost flames’ that haunt the nation. Thus Kaisen turns the medium of video into a ritual of purification, providing a voice to the unheard and restoring the social health of South Korean society. (Olena Chervonic)