Korean "Comfort Women": The Intersection of Colonial Power, Gender, and Class

Citation:

Min, Pyong Gap. 2003. “Korean ‘Comfort Women’: The Intersection of Colonial Power, Gender, and Class.” Gender & Society 17 (6): 938–57.

Author: Pyong Gap Min

Abstract:

During the Asian and Pacific War (1937-45), the Japanese government mobilized approximately 200,000 Asian women to military brothels to sexually serve Japanese soldiers. The majority of these victims were unmarried young women from Korea, Japan’s colony at that time. In the early 1990s, Korean feminist leaders helped more than 200 Korean survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery to come forward to tell the truth, which has further accelerated the redress movement for the women. One major issue in the redress movement and research relating to the so-called “comfort women” issue is whether Japan’s colonization of Korea or gender hierarchy was a more fundamental cause of the Korean women’s suffering. Using an intersectional perspective, this article analyzes how colonial power, gender hierarchy, and class were inseparably tied together to make the victims’ lives miserable. By doing so, it shows that a one-sided emphasis on colonization or gender hierarchy will misrepresent the feminist political issue and misinterpret the “comfort women’s” experiences.

Keywords: sexual violence against women, colonial power, gender, class

Topics: Armed Conflict, Class, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Sexual Violence, Male Perpetrators, Sexual Slavery, SV against women Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: Japan, North Korea, South Korea

Year: 2003

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