The Korea Herald


New book sheds light on ongoing debate and legacy of comfort women issues

By Hwang Dong-hee

Published : Oct. 16, 2023 - 08:41

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"New Ways of Solidarity with Korean Comfort Women: Comfort Women and What Remains” (Palgrave Macmillan)

The issue of women forced into Japanese military sex slavery during World War II, known euphemistically as comfort women, has become a much politicized issue in Korea.

The passing of a comfort woman, 91, in May, whose identity is being kept confidential at the request of her bereaved family, leaves only nine registered survivors of Japanese military sex slavery registered with the government.

A new book titled "New Ways of Solidarity with Korean Comfort Women: Comfort Women and What Remains” seeks to offer a deeper understanding of the issue -- how and why Korean comfort women are subject to political, social and cultural debate, despite the existing evidence.

Edited by Nusta Carranza Ko, an assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore, the book published by Palgrave Macmillan in July. consists of 10 papers written by academics and graduate students in the US and Korea.

The interdisciplinary approach of the book seeks to provide a comprehensive perspective on the history of comfort women, their quest for justice, and the preservation of their memory.

The book is divided into three thematic sections: victims, stories and transformations; approaches to memory, remembrance and healing; and global actors, legal frames and contested memories.

The first section delves into some of the more salient cases, examines how the Korean diaspora in the US has approached the issue, and highlights the agency of survivor-activists.

The second section explores different ways of remembering the experiences of comfort women in social movements, literature, and cultural practices.

The final section discusses the place of comfort women's experiences in politics, diplomacy and global affairs. It also delves into issues related to North Korea, and explores the connections between the UN and international human rights norms, particularly those concerning children's rights.

This edited volume seeks to create new spaces for the voices of victims and reflect on the past, present, and future of memory at a time when Korean politicians try to politicize the comfort women and some high-profile scholars continue to challenge their testimony.