While more than seventy years have passed since liberation from Japanese colonial rule, the problems rooted in Japanese wartime aggression, including the issue of “comfort women,” remain unsettled due to the misperceived historical notion on the part of the Japanese government. The existence of the “comfort women” system has been commonly acknowledged as a fact by many and while the Japanese government acknowledged the existence of comfort women and comfort stations in the “Kono Statement,” the current administration of Shinzo Abe is denying Japan’s liability and compensation. First, we must contemplate again the meaning of the comfort women issue and the significance of resolving the issue. At the same time, we must endeavor not to leave imperial Japan’s inhumane activities and crime against humanity in the past and approach the comfort women issue to protect peace and justice and serve it as a warning to Japanese militarism which is currently on the rise. If we continue to fail in solving issues caused by the war, building a correct perception of history and securing peace in the region will be an arduous task. We must urge the Japanese government for a heartfelt apology, repentance and compensation so that the victims can pass away without any resentment.
In this report, I address some of my observations of and reflections on the issues surrounding Japanese military sexual slavery and its victims, the “comfort women.” First, I seek to focus on the problem inherent in the process of remembering Pong-ki Pae. In 1991, Hak-sun Kim, an elderly woman residing in South Korea, came forward to recount her experience as a “comfort woman,” commonly understood to be the first such public acknowledgement. Even though Mrs. Pae, a resident of Okinawa, had already offered her testimony regarding her own experience as a Japanese military sex slave in 1975, her story was not known in South Korea. Mrs. Pae, a victim of colonialism and war, was effectively silenced, and her experience obfuscated, by the ideological polarity born of the division of the Korean peninsula. Second, I discuss the deeply moving encounter between Pok-tong Kim, another victim of Japanese military sexual slavery, and the students of the Korea University of Japan in Tokyo in 2014. Third, I seek to bring to the fore key discussions of the concept of war-dependent democracy. In the midst of the complete, conspicuous unveiling of the propensity of the Japanese right toward historical revisionism, the decline of the left has been intensely pronounced, rendering post-war democracy in Japan utterly impotent. The present conditions of such historical understanding in Japanese society necessitate an intricate re-examination of the understanding of modern Japanese history that has continued to exist until today; the concept of war-dependent democracy serves as an effort toward achieving such an end.
This research aims to look at and resolve the issue of Japanese military “comfort women,” an issue that sits at the core of the conflict over history in East Asia, from the perspective of politics of denial that inevitably intervenes in the phase of stagnant purging of the past. To this end, first of all, it is necessary to presuppose the recognition that the military “comfort women” issue is not a narrow Korea-Japan relations issue but one related to responsibility for colonial rule and to shared transitional justice in East Asia. Second, based on such presupposition, I introduce some of the debates and arguments within civil society in regard to the historiography of The Comfort Women of the Empire, as an example that shows the dilemma of historical self-reflection in East Asia. Third, I critically review the problems of the historiography of The Comfort Women of the Empire, positioned largely within historical revisionism in East Asia, from the standpoint of Stanley Cohen’s theory on denial. Fourth, I extrapolate theoretical and practical tasks implied by the foregoing discussion, from the perspective of possibility of historical dialogue in East Asia. As a conclusion, this paper seeks to reflect on the fact that the issue of denial, which emerged as a social fact during the process of debating on history in East Asia, raised the need for intellectuals of our time to sincerely self-reflect upon responsibilities of the academia. In other words, there is a need to fundamentally reflect upon the social sphere in which historiography and representations take place―in short, upon the transitive dimension of intellectual activity where historical knowledge competes and communicates.
Imperial Japan’s “comfort women” system was one of the major atrocities against humanity during the Asia-Pacific war (1931-1945), yet denial of this war crime remains steadfast in Japan today. This paper introduces and discusses the personal accounts of Korean and Chinese “comfort women” which hitherto were unavailable to English readers. It demonstrates, through the testimonies of the survivors and eyewitnesses, the close correlation between the proliferation of the military comfort stations and the progression of Japan’s aggressive war. The lived experiences of the “comfort women” reveal undeniably that the “comfort women” system was created for the war and made possible by the war. The survivors’ narratives highlight that in today’s world when sexual violence continues to be used as an instrument of armed conflicts that prevents societies from achieving sustainable peace, the comfort women’s memories constitute a legacy of global significance.
This study explores the possibility of Korean War cinema serving as a medium in creation and spreading of new Korean War cultural memory and proposes three theoretical and philosophical approaches. Major findings and suggestions of this research are as follows. First, this study discusses three approaches on how cinema can be involved in the process of cultural memory formation and proposes, as discussed by Alleida Assmann, Astrid Erll, Alison Landsberg and others that cinema can be used in creation of unification discourse within the popular media. Second, this study categorizes recent Korean War movies produced in South Korea as belonging to a new wave of Korean War cinema, which portrays war as a national tragedy, focusing on the damage caused by ideology and outside forces, rather than portraying it only as a North Korean aggression and blaming communists for the tragic destiny of the Korean nation. The study suggests that these movies can be used in creating a new paradigm in remembrance of the Korean War. In conclusion, this study proposes to use recent South Korean war movies as educational material in order to create a South Korean identity based on compassion and solidarity, rather than rigid antagonism and hatred.