Comfort Women of the Empire and the Politics of Memory

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Lee, Hunmi
Issue Date
Institute for Japanese Studies, Seoul National University
Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 81-110
politics of memoryComfort Women of the EmpirePark Yu-haJapanese military comfort women issueneo-nationalist historical discoursepost-structural epistemologyinternational reconciliation
In this article, I discuss the controversy surrounding Park Yu-ha’s Comfort Women of the Empire in terms of the “politics of memory.” Park offers problematic perspectives in Comfort Women of the Empire, denying the Japanese state’s legal responsibility regarding its military’s use of “comfort women” in the Asia-Pacific War, emphasizing the particularity of Korean comfort women as women from a Japanese colony, and viewing wartime sexual slavery as prostitution and sex work. Both Japanese and Korean scholars have criticized the book from international legal, historical, and feminist perspectives. Since the 1990s, spurred on by the end of the Cold War and the rising tide of democratization, historians all over the world have pursued alternative forms of bottom-up historiography. In this context, the intellectual genealogy of Comfort Women of the Empire can be located at the intersection between poststructural, postmodern historical epistemology and neo-nationalism. As stipulated in the book’s subtitle, “Colonial Rule and Struggles over Memory,” the work also deals with the competing memories of various agents regarding the issue of comfort women. The manner in which Park arranges, describes, and interprets these memories is a distinctly problematic aspect of the book. In this article, by introducing feminist, literary, and international political approaches to the issue of comfort women, I criticize Park’s representation and narrative pertaining to comfort women.
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Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원)Institute for Japanese Studies(일본연구소)Seoul Journal of Japanese StudiesSeoul Journal of Japanese Studies vol.5 no.1(2019)
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