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Creating a Collective Memory of the Comfort Women in the USA

  • Linda HasunumaEmail author
  • Mary M. McCarthy
Article

Abstract

We offer a new perspective on the recent controversies surrounding the memorialization of comfort women in several American cities by shifting the focus from bilateral historical grievances and tensions between the national governments of Japan and South Korea, to the grassroots and transnational politics involved in the siting of these monuments. We find that the construction of a transnational Korean identity among the Korean diaspora in the USA, and their creation of a collective public memory of the comfort women are evidence of their growing political consciousness and engagement in American civic life, and it is notable that most of the leadership and membership of the main organizations involved are women. These women are part of the global feminist and human rights movements which advocate for the inclusion and recognition of the experiences of women during wartime and colonization. Therefore, the memorials are not only symbols of historic reconciliation and remembrance, but of the skillful and strategic organizing, activism, and leadership of Asian Americans. This article also shows how the movement is evolving through the development of educational and curricular initiatives in honor of the comfort women in the USA.

Keywords

Comfort women Memorialization Transnationalism Asian Americans Women’s activism 

Notes

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Interviews

  1. Hasunuma e-mail follow-up interview with Phyllis Kim on February 8, 2018.Google Scholar
  2. Hasununa e-mail follow-up interview with Julie Jungsil Lee February 8–11, 2018.Google Scholar
  3. Hasunuma interview with Phyllis Kim on August 31, 2017 in Burbank, California.Google Scholar
  4. Hasunuma skype interview with Julie Jungil Lee on September 28, 2017.Google Scholar
  5. McCarthy phone interview with Dan Leshem on May 7, 2015.Google Scholar
  6. McCarthy phone interview with Jimin Kim on May 26, 2015.Google Scholar
  7. McCarthy phone interview with Phyllis Kim on August 8, 2017.Google Scholar
  8. McCarthy phone interview with Lillian Sing and Julie Tang on August 18, 2017.Google Scholar
  9. McCarthy skype interview with Judy Cho on August 22, 2017.Google Scholar
  10. Both authors attended the “Tenth Anniversary of the Passage of the House Resolution 121” gathering on July 27, 2017 (video of the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwIwdK9e0qI) and the “International Conference on the Redress Movement for the Victims of the Japanese Military Sex Slaves” at Queens College, New York, October 13–14, 2017.
  11. Hasunuma visited the 6th Annual Commemoration of Comfort Woman Day exhibition at the Glendale Public Library on August 31, 2017; the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum in Seoul on June 25, 2017; a walking tour and teach-in on the comfort women memorial in San Francisco hosted by the Association for Asian Am Stud and a Zainichi Korean activist group, Eclipse Rising, on March 29, 2018; and the comfort women memorial in Fort Lee, New Jersey on July 10, 2018.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public and International AffairsUniversity of BridgeportBridgeportUSA
  2. 2.Drake UniversityIowaUSA

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