The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan

Paperback | February 15, 2009

byC. Sarah Soh

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In an era marked by atrocities perpetrated on a grand scale, the tragedy of the so-called comfort women—mostly Korean women forced into prostitution by the Japanese army—endures as one of the darkest events of World War II. These women have usually been labeled victims of a war crime, a simplistic view that makes it easy to pin blame on the policies of imperial Japan and therefore easier to consign the episode to a war-torn past. In this revelatory study, C. Sarah Soh provocatively disputes this master narrative.
            Soh reveals that the forces of Japanese colonialism and Korean patriarchy together shaped the fate of Korean comfort women—a double bind made strikingly apparent in the cases of women cast into sexual slavery after fleeing abuse at home. Other victims were press-ganged into prostitution, sometimes with the help of Korean procurers. Drawing on historical research and interviews with survivors, Soh tells the stories of these women from girlhood through their subjugation and beyond to their efforts to overcome the traumas of their past. Finally, Soh examines the array of factors— from South Korean nationalist politics to the aims of the international women’s human rights movement—that have contributed to the incomplete view of the tragedy that still dominates today.

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In an era marked by atrocities perpetrated on a grand scale, the tragedy of the so-called comfort women—mostly Korean women forced into prostitution by the Japanese army—endures as one of the darkest events of World War II. These women have usually been labeled victims of a war crime, a simplistic view that makes it easy to pin blame o...

C. Sarah Soh is professor of anthropology at San Francisco State University and the author of Women in Korean Politics.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.4 inPublished:February 15, 2009Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226767779

ISBN - 13:9780226767772

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Plates
List of Figures and Tables
List of Maps
Prologue: An Anthropological Analysis
Acknowledgments
Note to the Reader
Introduction   Gender, Class, Sexuality, and Labor under Japanese Colonialism and Imperialist War

PART 1   Gender and Structural Violence
            Chapter 1. From Multiple Symbolic Representations to the Paradigmatic Story
            Chapter 2. Korean Survivors’ Testimonial Narratives
            Chapter 3. Japan’s Military Comfort System as History

PART 2   Public Sex and Women’s Labor
            Chapter 4. Postwar/Postcolonial Memories of the Comfort Women
            Chapter 5. Private Memories of Public Sex
            Chapter 6. Public Sex and the State

Epilogue   Truth, Justice, Reconciliation
Appendix: Doing “Expatriate Anthropology”
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"A brave and impressive book that usefully complicates and adds layers to our understanding of a sordid system."