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ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)
S/N Korean Humanities Vol.3 No.1 pp.43-68

Dilemma of Historical Reflection in East Asia and the Issue of Japanese Military “Comfort Women”: Continuing Colonialism and Politics of Denial

Kim Myung-Hee
Konkuk University


This research aims to look at and resolve the issue of Japanese military “comfort women,” an issue that sits at the core of the conflict over history in East Asia, from the perspective of politics of denial that inevitably intervenes in the phase of stagnant purging of the past. To this end, first of all, it is necessary to presuppose the recognition that the military “comfort women” issue is not a narrow Korea-Japan relations issue but one related to responsibility for colonial rule and to shared transitional justice in East Asia. Second, based on such presupposition, I introduce some of the debates and arguments within civil society in regard to the historiography of The Comfort Women of the Empire, as an example that shows the dilemma of historical self-reflection in East Asia. Third, I critically review the problems of the historiography of The Comfort Women of the Empire, positioned largely within historical revisionism in East Asia, from the standpoint of Stanley Cohen’s theory on denial. Fourth, I extrapolate theoretical and practical tasks implied by the foregoing discussion, from the perspective of possibility of historical dialogue in East Asia.
As a conclusion, this paper seeks to reflect on the fact that the issue of denial, which emerged as a social fact during the process of debating on history in East Asia, raised the need for intellectuals of our time to sincerely self-reflect upon responsibilities of the academia. In other words, there is a need to fundamentally reflect upon the social sphere in which historiography and representations take place―in short, upon the transitive dimension of intellectual activity where historical knowledge competes and communicates.