Worst Time since the End of WWII? - Toward Societal Reconciliation Between Japan and Korea

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S/N Korean Humanities Vol.6 No.2 pp.35-62 ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)

Seiko Mimaki
Takasaki City University of Economics

Received June 6, 2020; Revised version received August 11, 2020; Accepted August 30, 2020


This article sheds light on how active engagement of societal actors have added new dynamism to “comfort women” activism, which has brought de-territorialization of the issue with the spread of the “comfort women” statues beyond Korea, and transformed the issue from national tragedy to a universal human rights issue. Though “victimhood nationalism” is still strong in Korean society today, which prevents Korean people to come to terms with its dark history of victimizing the others, there has been an emerging trend toward transcending simple victimhood narratives related to the “comfort women.” In mutual visits of the victims between Korea and Vietnam commemorating seventy years of Korea’s liberation and fifty years of Korea’s sending soldiers to Vietnam, we can see that memories of victimhood do not necessarily lead to a perpetual cycle of hate and anger. Since 2019, Japan-Korea bilateral relations have deteriorated to the point called “the worst in the post-war period.” Still we can find many grassroots efforts to maintain people-to-people’s ties between the two countries, especially revived feminist networks pushed by the rise of the #MeToo movement amidst heightened diplomatic tension in the summer of 2019, which could pave the way for societal reconciliation.

Key Words : Korea-Japan relations, reconciliation, civil society, “comfort women,” gender, victimhood

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