Reparations for "Comfort Women": Feminist Geopolitics and Changing Gender Ideologies in South Korea


Kim, Min Ji. 2019. "Reparations for "Comfort Women": Feminist Geopolitics and Changing Gender Ideologies in South Korea." Cornell International Affairs Review 12 (2): 5-43.

Author: Min Ji Kim


This paper studies feminist geopolitical practices in South Korea in the context of “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese military around the Second World War. Although there has been a considerable amount of literature penned on the comfort women issue, existing discussions focus largely on the conflict between nationalist and feminist paradigms, while largely minimizing feminist activism and changing gender narratives within Korean society. Therefore, this research aims to expand the field by considering the struggles that comfort women have endured through the lens of feminist geopolitical scholarship. I argue that comfort women activism constitutes a form of feminist geopolitical practice in a way that challenges masculine gender narratives. It has opened up new spaces where comfort women survivors can produce a sense of “survivorhood” and move beyond passivity throughout their lives. The rise of their active voices signals the overturning of traditional patriarchal structures; consequently, along with other forms of activism, these narratives have eventually led to a shift in public attitudes. Unlike how nationalist accounts were dominant in the early 1990s, the increased public attention towards the feminist accounts in the mid-2010s has subsequently increased media coverage of survivors and feminist practices.

Topics: Feminisms, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Nationalism, Sexual Violence, Sexual Slavery Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: South Korea

Year: 2019

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