Korean "comfort women" and military sexual slavery in World War II
The aim of this thesis is to explore the way in which sexualities and identities are involved in the creation of patriarchal relations, ethnic hierarchies and colonial power in the context of "Comfort Women". The women were considered sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II. I attempt to show the It) ways in which masculinity, femininity, and national identity were re/constructed through the enforcement of the subject-positionings of gender, colonialism and nationalism. The questions I raise and attempt to answer are: What kinds of masculinity and femininity of the Japanese soldiers and Korean "Comfort Women" respectively, and the national identities of both, were re/constructed through the comfort station system? How were the positionings of the "Comfort Women" enacted through daily practices and ideology, and what were the consequences of the re/construction of their identity? Finally, how did the "Comfort Women" position themselves in the face of the imposition of gender and national identities, by Japanese colonial and Korean nationalist power? I use personal narratives, including testimonies and life histories of the former Korean "Comfort Women" and Japanese veterans obtained from my interviews with them as well as from testimonies already released. I interviewed thirteen former Korean "Comfort Women" and seventeen Japanese veterans. Thirteen out of the veterans were 'rehabilitated' in China after World War El, the remaining four were not. I also occasionally use official documents on the comfort station system, which were issued by the Japanese military and the Western Allies. I argue that the development of gender and national identities contributed to the construction of Japanese colonialism, and that the "Comfort Women" system helped to produce and reproduce Japan as an imperial state with power over the lives and human resources of the colonies. In particular, the maintenance of the military system depended on the circulation of these concepts of masculinity and femininity. The regulation of masculine and feminine sexuality and national identities through the military comfort station system was a crucial means through which Japan expanded its colonies by military means.