ASIAN PERSPECTIVE, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2008, pp. 59-86.
SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN’S FRICTIONS OVER HISTORY:A LINGUISTIC CONSTRUCTIVIST READING*
This article looks at the characteristics of “frictions over history” in ROK-Japan relations since the 1990s, with a focus on Korea’s responses. It addresses some hypotheses on the characteristics and trends shown in the political process of “blundering” through comparative analysis of sixty-one cases, and additionally presents an in-depth case study on Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s remarks of 2007 concerning the comfort women issue. This research shows that the responses to blunders and the political process were the products of interactions between the agent’s speech acts and are a type of
* This article is a revised version of a paper delivered at the conference on “The Politics of History in East Asia: Domestic and International Dynamics,” organized by the Association of Korean Political Studies in North America at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association on August 29, 2008. This research was sponsored by Hallym University Research Fund 2008 (HRF-2008-013) and the Academy of Korean Studies Grant (AKS-2008-R36). I am grateful to all the research assistants of Hal-lym University, specially C. K. Kim, H. M. Lee, B. I. Song, Y. T. Kim, Y. H. Han, R. H. Kim, Y. H. Lee, J. H. Lee, B. Y. Kang, Y. S. Lee, and Bona Kim as English editor. The author would also like to thank the University Research Council and Center for Korean Studies at University of Hawaii at Manoa for their support, as well as Mikyoung Kim and Terrence Roehrig for their invaluable comments. All errors and shortcomings are the author’s alone.
language game that is linguistically inter-constituted. More-over, the 2007 comfort women case study shows that conflicts and the process of negotiations regarding blunders are a type of constructive language game in which the agents construct rules of engagement, modify mutual perceptions, and trans-form actors themselves through a series of speech acts.
Key words: South Korea-Japan relations, East Asian politics
This research looks at the characteristics of “frictions over history” as they appear in South Korea-Japan relations since the 1990s, with a focus on Korea’s responses. This article analyzes the characteristics and trends shown in the political process of blundering through comparative analysis and additionally pre-sents an in-depth case study on Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s 2007 remarks on the comfort women issue to prove that the political process of blundering is the product of interactions between blunders and responses and is a type of language game that is linguistically inter-constituted.
Since 1990, approximately sixty cases of friction between the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) and Japan over history were reported in the South Korean media. In South Korea, dis-torted historical remarks given by Japanese cabinet members and at times by politicians are called blunders. Most of the fric-tions over history are developed in part by Japanese politicians through remarks that trigger a response from South Korea.
Frictions or disputes over issues of history.the comfort women, distortions of Japanese history textbooks, the territorial dispute over Dokdo (Takeshima in Japanese), Yasukuni Shrine visits, and the war of aggression and colonial occupation of Korea by Japan.have been significant not only for ROK-Japan relations but also for Northeast Asia as well. The intermittent but often repeated “distorted remarks and actions regarding his-tory” (so-called “blunders”) by Japan’s prime ministers, cabinet members, and leading politicians have hindered progress in ROK-Japan relations as well as Sino-Japanese relations. They have become a significant source of conflict within the ROK-Japan relationship and Northeast Asian politics.
Japan’s blunders since the postwar period are numerous. In 1951, then-Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru remarked that “Because minority immigrants are like parasites in the stomach, Japan’s goal in ROK-Japanese Conference is to avoid these.” In October of 1953, one of Japan’s representatives during the ROK-Japanese Conference blundered that “Japan’s colonial occupation con-tributed to Korea’s welfare and Japan does not feel guilty because we did them a favor.” Since then, Japan’s prime ministers, cabi-net members, and politicians have repeatedly remarked or blun-dered about distorted history and after each occurrence, ROK-Japan relations have gone through a process of rapid deteriora-tion before gradual restoration. Northeast Asia’s frictions over history are not just simple academic polemics. They are “heated international politics” in and of themselves. In this region, fric-tions over history make pursuit of regional benefits in security and economic cooperation difficult.
Perspectives on Historical Friction Remarks
The issue of conflicts over historical memory or so-called “blunders” in Northeast Asia has been debated and researched exclusively by historians or journalists. Nevertheless, due to the constructivist turn of political analysis in international relations, a group of researchers began to focus on the problems of history frictions in recent years. For example, Lee focuses on the back-ground issues such as problems arising from the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the ROK and structural changes that appeared in South Korea-Japan relations during the 1990s.1 Yi provides an empirical analysis of cooperation and conflicts between Japan and South Korea.2 According to the result of the analysis, the correlation between Japan’s parliamen-
Won Deog Lee, “The Structure of the History Disputes and a Search for a Solution,” in What Is Japan to Korea? (Seoul: Hanul Academy, 2006).
Seong Woo Yi, “An Empirical Analysis on the Cooperative and Con-flictual Relationships between Korea and Japan,” Journal of Japanology, vol. 69 (2006).
tary committee elections and blundering is limited; however, Yi could not conclude that Japan actively uses blundering for polit-ical purposes, instead reaching the conclusion that Japan’s blun-ders continuously affected South Korea-Japan relations nega-tively. Kim and Kim mentioned that Japan’s history revisionism is amplifying conflicts within Northeast Asia and suggested including nation-to-nation official discussions as part of recon-ciliation efforts over history.3 S. J. Kim argues that post-war Japan remembers salient collective memories and examines the social structural context in forming memories.4 He recognizes the important roles of the Yasukuni Shrine and Hiroshima War Memorial Museum in forming Japan’s collective memories. And unlike most of the earlier studies that depict the pessimistic or negative portrayals of the frictions over history, Suh argues that Northeast Asia’s frictions trigger doubts and conflicts among Northeast Asian nations; however, these frictions can also be utilized as a conduit to promote common understanding of each relevant nation’s present and future circumstances.5 His analy-sis, though still in a preliminary stage, opens the door to a new paradigm that acknowledges the hidden economy of language embedded in the politics of historical memories.
South Korea-Japan history frictions are over the “history of facts.” It is at the same time about “politicized history” and the “history of memories.” Therefore, much more research is neces-sary on the politicization of history issues and the formation of collective memories. In addition, South Korea-Japan history fric-tions are not problems solely for South Korea and Japan but also for the East Asian region.6 These frictions are structural stum-
In Hwa Kim and Myong Sob Kim, “International Politics of Memory: Japanese Historical Textbook Issue and Northeast Asia,” Social Science Journal, vol. 38, No. 1 (Spring, 2007).
Sang Joon Kim, “Politics of Memories: Yasukuni vs. Hiroshima,” Korean Political Science Journal, vol. 39, No. 5 (2005).
J. J. Suh, “War-like History or Diplomatic History? Contentions over the Past and Regional Orders in Northeast Asia,” Australian Journal of Interna-tional Affairs, vol. 61, No. 3 (September, 2007).
On the politics of memory in China, see Jungmin Seo, Nationalism in the Market: The Chinese Publishing Industry and Commodification of Nationalistic Discourses in the 1990s (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 2005), and “Domestic Origins of Chinese Nationalistic Claims over Ancient
bling blocks when it comes to South Korea and Japanese cooper-ation and work on pragmatic tasks. Moreover, South Korea-Japan history frictions are the stuff of domestic politics as well as diplomacy; both require double-edged or two-level game approaches. South Korea, China and Japan’s history conflicts are formed to be collectively remembered through media and state power. During this process, social constitution such as selection, exclusion, abolition, oblivion, distortion, and substitution of memories come into play.
For structural realists, the way the international system is structured is the main analytical clue. They rarely use language as a variable and completely ignore actors’ choices of words, their turns of phrase, and the rhetoric they deploy to justify actions. By contrast, linguistic constructivism contends that “language is at the heart” of an attempt to provide analytical alternatives to struc-tural realism.7 Language, according to Wittgenstein, is a tool, an instrument of action. Language fluctuates with the agents’ deeds but, at the same time, the agents’ deeds are meaningless without their representations in language.8
Interestingly, some of these deed-narratives or speech acts were in apparent contradiction with one another. As the product of actors’ actions, language is responsive to the deed of the actor only, not to an external system of ideological coherence. From Wittgenstein’s viewpoint, speech acts may clash or be contradic-tory. They vary from actor to actor, from words to words. This indicates that arriving at a greater level of agreement between
History,” presented at “International Politics and History and Memory in East Asia,” international conference convened by Hallym University and the University of Hawaii, SPAS/Political Science, January 10, 2008 in Seoul, Korea.
Karin Fierke, “Multiple Identities, Interfacing Games: The Social Con-struction of Western Action in Bosnia,” European Journal of International Relations, vol. 2 (1996), pp. 467-97.
Karin Fierke, “Critical Methodology and Constructivism,” in Karin Fierke and Knud Erik Jorgensen, eds., Constructing International Relations: The Next Generation (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharp, 2001), p. 126.
speech acts (achieving communication) requires an understanding of the rules of language and of their workings.
Through concepts such as language games, rules, deeds, and speech acts, constructivism rejects structural realist models that often come up with predetermined explanations of political situations even before these situations have a chance to unfold. What an emphasis on language rules does is show how contra-dictory speech acts can be made less contradictory once the rules, norms, and patterns governing their production are clari-fied. Once actors are made to realize what their words are about, and that other actors’ words and deeds operate according to similar patterns, a bridging of the gap between speech acts can be envisioned. At this point, normative possibilities.the ability to identify patterns of social actions based on common language rules.take over the constructivist analysis.9
Recent Cases of Historical Friction Remarks: Overall Trends
According to my survey of major Korean daily newspapers from the 1990s to 2008, there have been sixty-one instances of Japan’s historical friction remarks, also known as blunders (see Appendix 1). Content analyses were done with the following newspapers: Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Daily, Dong-A Ilbo, Hankyoreh, Kyunghyang Daily, Hankook Ilbo, Munhwa Ilbo, Kukmin Ilbo, Segye Times, and Seoul Shinmun. The total number of articles analyzed here is approximately 3,700 and when the number of articles per newspaper is looked at, JoongAng Daily reported the most fre-quency, 548 articles, followed by Segye Times (422 articles), Dong-A Ilbo (396), Hankyoreh (378), Seoul Shinmun (368), Kyunghyang Daily (356), Chosun Ilbo (352), Hankook Ilbo (342), Kukmin Ilbo (320), and Munhwa Ilbo (237). Considering the total amount of pages reported, Hankyoreh’s reports recorded the most. The fre-quency of editorials was as followed: Seoul (54), Segye (48), Han-kyoreh (42), Kyunghyang (33), Munhwa (33), Dong-A (31), Kukmin (27), JoongAng (18), and Chosun (15).
9. Francois Debrix, “Language as Criticism: Assessing the Merits of Speech Acts and Discursive Formations in International Relations,” New Political Science, vol. 24, No. 2 (2002), p. 208.
The conventional wisdom that Korean liberal-progressive media allocate more space for nationalistic causes than do con-servative media is relatively easily observed from the trends introduced above. Though Hankyoreh, the typical liberal media, reported no more often than other competing conservative or moderate newspapers, the number of reported articles indicates that it devotes more space to history-related issues than other newspapers because it usually publishes fewer pages than its competitors (usually less than half the pages of Joongang Daily or Chosun Daily, for example). By contrast, Chosun Daily, the repre-sentative conservative newspaper and the thickest newspaper in Korea, reported least frequently among all newspapers. That implies that an in-depth analysis on the domestic ideological factor in forming Korean attitudes toward the history issues should be done for a complete understanding of how history issues operates in Korean political fields. Regrettably, that task is beyond the scope of this article.
After surveying sixty-one cases of so-called blunders reported in Korean newspapers, I suggest that historical friction remarks, or blundering speeches, by Japanese political figures fall into six categories as shown in Figure 1. The most frequent remark is a broadly defined historical category, also known as colonization and the war of aggression (21 cases), followed by thirteen cases of the Japanese army’s comfort women, twelve cases of the Dokdo territorial dispute, seven cases of the Japanese history textbook
Figure 1. Historical Friction Remarks and the Frequency by Categories
issue and other blunders, and three cases of the Yasukuni Shrine visit issue. Other cases of blundering, for example, are a remark made by the governor of Tokyo, Ishihara Shintaro, on North Korea’s missiles and Fukuda Yasuo’s remark on Japan’s nuclear ambitions. From Figure 1, the following can be seen as discovery of facts or suggestion of a hypothesis.
Figure 2 examines the annual frequency of historical fric-tions. The years that showed comparably higher frequency are 1994 (5 times), 1996 (9 times), 1997 (4 times), 2001 (7 times), 2003 (6 times), 2004 (6 times), 2005 (10 times), and 2007 (4 times). The fluctuation of frequencies of historical frictions implies that political circumstances play an important role, in addition to history per se, in the emergence and disappearance of controver-sies over history. During Kim Young-sam’s presidency, in 1994, 1996, and 1997, ROK-Japan relations deteriorated and during the years of President Roh Moo-hyun, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007, the ROK-Japan relationship was also at low points. A hypothesis that can be drawn from this fact is that if ROK-Japan relations worsen, the frequency of blunders increases. Looking at the period of time, the fact that the frequency of blunders was low except in 2001 during the years of President Kim Dae-jung (1998-2002), when ROK-Japan relations were maintained at ami-cable and cooperative levels, backs up this hypothesis (1998 -1 case, 1999 - 0 case, 2000 - 2 cases, 2002 - 0 case).
Figure 2. The Frequency of Historical Frictions Per Year
However, the year 2001 showed a fairly high frequency of blunders (seven cases) despite the fact that it was during Kim Dae-jung’s administration. The reason for the high frequency of blunders in 2001 could be related to Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro’s inauguration. The blunders of 2001 mainly came in April and May and there were two main issues.the South Korean government’s request to revise history textbooks published by Fusosha and Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine. A hypothesis that can be suggested from the cases of 2001 is that despite Korea’s amicable and cooperative policy toward Japan, the frequency of blunders will not drop if Japan’s leadership does not respond. It suggests that, in order to prevent the surge of historical frictions between Korea and Japan, leaderships in both countries must first come to a mutual understanding on the future of ROK-Japan relations. Indeed, a unilateral amicability or cooperative attitude by Korea toward Japan is not sufficient to prevent the problem of blundering. Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni and remarks on Dokdo triggered the increase of blunders during Roh Moo-Hyun’s early years (2003-2004) when he largely maintained Kim Dae-jung’s future-oriented policies toward Japan.
Appendix 1 also shows an interesting trend regarding the posi-tions of Japanese blunderers. In the early years of conflicts, Japan-ese blunderers were largely former cabinet members who had substantial political power but did not hold official government positions. Nevertheless, since 2001, blunders were heavily related to then-Prime Minister Koizumi’s speech and behavior. The main blunderers of this time were Aso Taro (who held cabinet positions as minister of internal affairs, posts and communications, and for-eign affairs), Nakayama Nariaki (minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology), Machimura Nobutaka (minister of foreign affairs), and Abe Shinzo (prime minister). Though further analysis of an ideological shift is necessary, especially the surge of right-wing nationalism in Japanese politics, the trend of incumbent officials’ direct involvement in blundering implies that Japanese politicians now perceive less resistance and lower political risks when using right-wing vocabulary.
There were tendencies in the past that blunderers resigned when Korea’s or China’s objections were strong; but after 2001, the number of cabinet members who resigned due to historical fric-tions noticeably decreased. In 1993, Japan Defense Agency head Nakanishi’s resignation was accepted by Prime Minister Hosokawa. Moreover, in 1994 the justice minister, Nagano, resigned (accepted by Prime Minister Hata), and the secretary of environmental affairs, Sakurai, resigned (accepted by Prime Minister Murayama). How-ever, those who did not resign after certain blunders are as follows: Minister of Agriculture Nakagawa in 1998 (under Prime Minister Obuchi), Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda in 2002 (under Koizumi), Minister of Internal Affairs, Posts and Communication Aso in 2004 (not resigned during Prime Minister Koizumi), Minister of Educa-tion, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Nakayama (also under Koizumi), Minister for Foreign Affairs Machimura in 2004 (not resigned during Prime Minister Koizumi), Parliament Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Shimomura in 2005 (not resigned dur-ing Prime Minister Koizumi), Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Morioka in 2005 (not resigned during Koizumi), Minister of Educa-tion, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Nakayama in 2005 (not resigned during Prime Minister Koizumi), Minister of Foreign Affairs Aso in 2006 (under Abe), and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secre-tary Shimomura in 2007 (also under Abe).
Figure 3 examines the frequency of responses by Korean govern-ment and civil and political organizations to Japan’s blunders. The cases of noticeable responses by the Korean government were toward Watanabe in 1995 regarding history, Hashimoto in 1996 regarding Dokdo, Japanese textbooks in 1996 regarding Dokdo, Koizumi in 2001 regarding the history textbook and Yasukuni, Nakayama in 2005 regarding the history textbook, the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform in 2005 regarding the history textbook, and Abe in 2007 regarding the comfort women issue. On examining the Korean government’s responses to Japanese blun-ders, we find some consistency. The Korean government tends to actively confront Japanese politicians’ problematic remarks only when their position is higher than that of a minister. When the Korean government responded, the blunderers in Japan were all prime ministers except Watanabe in 1995 (he was a former minis-ter for foreign affairs) and Aso in 2003 (he was secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party).
The Korean government’s unprecedented response to the Watanabe case of 1995 can be explained by then-Prime Minister Lee Hong Koo’s active confrontation. The ministry of foreign affairs initially stated that it is not appropriate for it to officially respond since Watanabe was a former government official and was now a politician. But soon the ministry modified what was
Figure 3. The Cases of Historical Frictions and the Responses of the Korean Government and Civil and Political Organizations
said and officially criticized Watanabe. Such a response was closely related politically to the president or prime minister’s decision making. The response in the case of Hashimoto (on Dokdo) in 1996 also had a high frequency due to then President Kim Young-sam’s active response strategy. The Korean govern-ment’s response to Aso in 2003 (regarding history) was also actively supported by then-President Roh Moo-hyun. Hence, in spite of a general guideline established in the Korean ministry of foreign affairs regarding how to respond to Japanese blunders, the personal involvement of Korean presidents or prime minis-ters produced a few noticeable exceptions.
Moreover, the frequency of the Korean government’s responses is heavily influenced by the frequency of Korean media reporting. The following cases show that the media reported more often than others and the frequency of the government’s responses was also high: in the 1995 Watanabe case (frequency of government’s responses = 15, frequency of articles = 51); in the 1996 Hashimoto case (7 and 140, respectively); in the 1996 Japanese textbook case (6 and 38, respectively); in the 2001 Koizumi’s textbook case (5 and 117, respectively); in the 2001 Koizumi visit to Yasukuni (20 and 864, respectively); in the 2003 Aso history case (6 and 81, respectively); and in the 2004 Koizumi Yasukuni visit (5 and 117, respectively).
Though a comprehensive survey of Japanese newspapers is needed, a database produced by Korean newspapers also shows a couple of characteristics regarding how the Japanese govern-ment and civil societies are dealing with the issue of blundering. Figure 4 indicates that Japan’s domestic responses to its politi-cians’ blunders were concentrated in a few cases: Okuno’s blun-ders in 1996 regarding comfort women (Japanese political orga-nizations = 13, Japanese government = 14); Koizumi’s remarks in 2001 on Yasukuni (28 and 4, respectively); Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform in 2005 (10 and 3, respectively); and Abe on comfort women (11 and 6, respectively).
Figure 4. The Responses of Civil and Political Organizations of Japan and the Japanese Government on Historical Friction Cases
On June 4, 1996 the Liberal Democratic Party’s main politi-cian, Okuno Seisuke, blundered by saying that “comfort women participated in the commercial transactions for money.” Citizens’ social organizations, media, the opposition party of Japan, and even the ruling party LDP criticized the blunder, recognizing the Japanese government’s coercion of comfort women. Prime Minis-ter Hashimoto, who initially refused to comment on the blunder, eventually gave in and discussed the comfort women issue. Ulti-mately, the Japanese government criticized the blunders. The case of Koizumi’s blunder on May 9, 2001, which recorded the highest frequency of responses, concerned his personal intention of visiting Yasukuni Shrine. Koizumi also stated on May 21 that he remembered the kamikaze special suicide squad whenever he felt despair. He abruptly began visiting Yasukuni Shrine on August 13 despite domestic opposition not only from citizens’ groups but also from political parties and the ministry of foreign affairs.
On June 4, 1996, Okuno (a cabinet minister of the LDP) denied the government’s direct recruitment and blundered that those comfort women were participating in commercial transactions. He even used the word “prostitution” and said “women who partic-ipated in military comfort women group may have been provided with transportation on their way to war sites for their commercial transaction but the government or the military was never in fact involved.” His statement denied what was already admitted by former Prime Minister Miyazawa and the cabinet. Citizens’ orga-nizations and the pro-North Korean group in Japan insisted the next day that Okuno’s remarks be withdrawn and apologies be made to the victims. But Hashimoto refused to discuss Okuno’s remarks. On the 6th, Japanese publishing circles criticized Okuno’s blunders and Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaziyama clearly stated that the Japanese government stance was different from Okuno’s. On the same day, the Social Democratic Party criticized Okuno by stating that he pulverized all the efforts and trust that had been building in order to solve the comfort women issue. The Mainichi Daily News also criticized the remarks made by Okuno and the headquarters of Korean groups in Japan complained about Okuno’s blunders.
On June 7, Foreign Minister Ikeda Yukihiko expressed some concern that Okuno’s remarks could negatively affect relations with other Asian countries. On the 12th, forty-seven citizens’ orga-nizations and seventy-six Japanese scholars requested Okuno’s resignation, leading eventually to Prime Minister Hashimoto’s willingness to discuss the comfort women issue on the 14th, a change from his initial position. On the 18th, 122 members of the New Frontier Party of Japan requested that the government and the ruling party express their stand on Okuno’s remark that “comfort women were a commercial transaction.” Japanese LDP politicians Nonaka Hiromu and Shizuka Kamei later expressed the inappropriateness of Okuno’s remarks, and on July 5 ruling party members insisted that the government officially recognize the government’s role. The next day, the Japanese government officially criticized the blunders involved in the comfort women issue.
As shown above, the responses of the Japanese government on blunders over history are the result not only of external pres-sures from Korea and China but also pressures from domestic civil and political organizations. Blunders over history cause great distress domestically. The cases of Okuno in 1996 and Koizumi in 2001, for instance, caused major disputes over values and policies in Japan, and clearly influenced the Japanese gov-ernment’s response. Hence, domestic pressures may function as opposition, restraint, or filter surrounding blunders. Overall, civil and political organizations in Japan effectively function as a consistent restraining tool regarding blunders. Though a further survey regarding their place in Japanese media is needed, these groups have a tendency to continuously respond to issues relat-ed to post-war Japanese identity such as Yasukuni Shrine and history textbooks. They also reflect common global values such as human rights, as in the case of the comfort women.
Responses from Outside South Korea
Korean news reports have shown keen interest in Chinese reactions to Japanese blunders, since the Korean public can easi-ly sympathize with Chinese suffering during the Japanese aggression before the Second World War. According to Korean newspapers’ reports, the case of Koizumi’s remark on Yasukuni in 2001 drew the largest attention from China (China’s reported responses = 20), followed by Koizumi’s 2004 remark on Yasuku-ni (responses = 10), and Abe’s remark on comfort women in 2007 (responses = 4). China’s responses on Koizumi’s Yasukuni remarks, according to the Korean newspaper database, show that the Chinese government has been more sensitive to the issue of Yasukuni than the issue of comfort women. China’s responses on the issue of Yasukuni can be explained by concerns about the recurrence of Japan’s tendency for ultra-conservatism
Figure 5. The Responses of North Korea, China, and the U.S. in Cases of Frictions over History
The cases that North Korea responded most sensitively to are Koizumi’s Yasukuni remark in 2001 (responses = 20), followed by Koizumi’s Dokdo remark in 2004 (4), Dakano’s Dokdo remark in 2005 (4), Nakayama’s comfort women remark in 2005 (4), and Abe’s comfort women remark in 2007 (4). Like China, North Korea responded sensitively to Koizumi’s Yasukuni remark in 2001, but did not respond as sensitively to the Yasukuni remark in 2004, while comparatively showing consistent responses to the issues of Dokdo and comfort women. I conjecture that the reason for a con-sistent North Korea response to the issues of Dokdo and comfort women is North Korea’s interest in obtaining advantageous status in Japan-North Korea normalization talks and policy cooperation between South and North Korea on Japanese blunders.
The American response to Japanese blunders or East Asia’s frictions over history has been quite limited. Abe’s remark on com-fort women in 2007 was the only case to which Washington offi-cially responded (see Appendix 2). Of course, there is Koizumi’s Yasukuni case that American media showed interest in; but the
U.S. government maintained strict neutrality. Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine in 2001 attracted some interest from U.S. media, but the U.S. government and the Congress did not make any offi-cial move. The United States seems to be involved with friction over history cases that are related to human rights (i.e., comfort women). Or, more precisely, the United States tends to avoid any direct involvement in inter-regional disputes over historical issues. The American governmental and public involvement on the com-fort women issue is because it was largely perceived as a human rights violation.
A Constructivist Reading: Comfort Women Remarks in 2007
One of the purposes of this article is a preliminary application of linguistic constructivist method, which I introduced earlier, on the issue of historical conflicts in Northeast Asia. To illustrate this, I offer a case study drawn from the March-April 2007 U.S.-Japan diplomatic conflict over wartime comfort women.10
On March 1, 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Abe claimed that there was no evidence to support the initially accepted notion that coercion was used by the Japanese military or government in recruiting wartime comfort women. The next day, John Negro-ponte, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, announced that the comfort women problem had been the most deplorable incident that took place during World War II and said the United States would not cooperate with Japan to make any attempt to lessen the signifi-cance of these issues. On March 5, Abe argued that the Japanese government would not issue an apology to comfort women in
10. On this case, see Larry Niksch, “Japanese Military’s ‘Comfort Women’ System,” Congressional Research Service Memorandum (April 3, 2007); Alexis Dudden, “US Congressional Resolution Calls on Japan to Accept Responsibility for Wartime Comfort Women,” http://hnn.us/articles/ 24291.html; Norma Field, “The Courts, Japan’s ‘Military Comfort Women,’ and the Conscience of Humanity: The Ruling in VAWW-Net Japan v. NHK,” http://japanfocus.org/products/topdf/2352; www. house.gov/list/press/ca15_honda /comfortwomentestimony.html; Jo, Yang-Hyeon, “Controversy over East Asian History and U.S. House Discussion Regarding the ‘Comfort Women’ Resolution: Recent Changes and Implications for U.S.-Japan Relations,” East Asian Review (Seoul), vol. 19, No. 3 (Fall, 2007) pp. 3-31.
response to passage of H. Res. 121 by the U.S. House of Represen-tatives and that the resolution had not been based on objective facts. On March 9, John Thomas Schieffer, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, warned that the fault lay with some Japanese leaders who underestimated the comfort women problem and that Japan’s failure to maintain the Kono Statement would have a fatal effect. And on March 16, Ambassador Shieffer added that the victims of comfort women had been forced to work as prostitutes, which means that they had been raped by the Japanese military during the war.
In a telephone conversation with President Bush on April 3, 2007, Prime Minister Abe affirmed that he stood by the consistent position of the government of Japan, represented by the statement of the former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono, and expressed heart-felt sympathy and sincere apologies to the women who suffered immeasurable pain and hardships. In return, Tom Casey, U.S. Deputy Spokesman of the Department of State, welcomed Abe’s apology. But he still urged that Japan keep dealing with this prob-lem, based on an honest and responsible attitude, to recognize the importance of the crime the Imperial Army had committed. On April 26, Abe expressed his “sense of apology” and “feeling to be deeply sorry” when he met with Congressional leaders on a visit to the United States. The next day, Abe expressed the same apolo-gy when he met with President Bush, who finally announced that he would accept Abe’s apology, judging that the Kono statement and Abe’s speeches in the United States were very honest and from the bottom of his heart.
The initial speech act which turns the situation into an appar-ent diplomatic conflict is the statement of revising the Kono State-ment by Prime Minister Abe. On the American side, revision of the Kono Statement is also linked to another speech act. The U.S. government expressed the speech act of “indirect objection.” By ignoring an indirect objection from the United States, Japan sent a signal to the United States that it would resist the resolution of the
U.S. House of Representatives and would revise the Kono State-ment. The United States, through the words of its ambassador to Japan, immediately linked its objection to another speech act: a threat.
The next stage of the conflict was signaled by the revised speech act of Japan. The Japanese government went along with the revised speech act. While still refusing to accept full respon-sibility, Prime Minister Abe expressed his “sense of apology and sympathy” for comfort women. The U.S. government welcomed the apology but still demanded the Japanese government’s acceptance of full responsibility. Instead of emphasizing a threat (for the United States) and resistance (for Japan), the protago-nists worked with the new speech acts: ambiguous apology and acceptance. Saying that he felt deeply sorry, Abe offered an ambiguous apology, which made it possible to receive President Bush’s acceptance.
This last linguistic exchange put an end to the game. Speech acts found to be somewhat common to both sides were pro-duced. Compatible narratives forged a diplomatic rapproche-ment. More importantly, speech acts constructed a semantic field in which both agents could claim victory. For the United States, Japan apologized. For Japan, the United States accepted an ambiguous apology and bilateral relations were put back on track.
A constructivist analysis of the events reveals that the lan-guage game (going from resistance and threat to acceptance of apology through modified speech acts along the way) produced political advantages to both sides during the linguistic exchange and thereafter. This is why both were interested in the game. To reach their goals once the conflict took place, both players turned to language and played with it. Thanks to this language game, rejection of responsibility (resistance to H. Res. 121), which initial-ly led to an impasse, was removed but, at the same time, accep-tance of full responsibility on both sides still remained in the end (even though some expressions of apology were produced). An analytical approach that does not take the role of speech acts into account cannot explain this apparently paradoxical outcome. But, as was shown, constructivism can explain why both countries indeed came out victorious in this conflict.
The following conclusions are drawn from empirical studies of this research. First of all, Korean society shows different responses to repeated historical blunders by Japanese cabinet members and politicians depending on the periods, cases, and positions of the blunderers. It means conflicts surrounding blun-ders are heavily politicized. Second, Korean society shows more sensitivity toward issues related to nationalism such as Dokdo or comfort women rather than to a wartime memory issue such as Yasukuni. Third, the Korean government rarely wants to politicize historical frictions in order to maintain smooth ROK-Japan relations. But it shows comparatively active responses when Japan’s current cabinet members blunder, the Korean president is responding strongly, or domestic media speak out strongly.
Fourth, the frequency of blunders may decrease if ROK-Japan relations are cooperative, but leaderships in both nations must share beliefs and policies for future oriented and coopera-tive ROK-Japan relations to take place. Fifth, China only shows sensitivity on the Yasukuni issue, North Korea on Dokdo and comfort women issues, and the United States only on comfort women issues. The differences may be due to the fact that the motive for responding differs for each nation. Each nation attaches importance to different values: China on the rebirth of militarism, North Korea on nationalism and initiating a DPRK-Japan normalization treaty, and the United States on human rights.
The theoretical conclusion here is that once the conflict over comfort women between the United States and Japan had taken place, it was not clear what norms and rules of interaction would emerge. But as the conflict unfolded, uses of speech acts and subsequent adjustments between narratives facilitated the rebuilding of a normative platform in U.S.-Japan relations. Of course, both countries had an interest in retrieving a sense of normality in their relations rather than letting the conflict wors-en. The crucial point though is that those rules of accommoda-tion finally discovered at the end were not present at the onset of the conflict. Again, the initial speech acts appeared to be quiet hostile. The interfacing linguistic games deployed by the agents during the conflict constructed rules of engagement which, in turn, modified the mutual perceptions of the actors and trans-formed the actors themselves.
It became known through both empirical studies and theoreti-cal comparative analysis that blunders and the political process were the products of politicization and interactions between the agents. Secondly, it has been discovered through the 2007 comfort women case study that conflicts and the process of negotiations regarding blunders are a type of constructive language game in which the agents construct rules of engagement, modifying the mutual perceptions, and transforming the actors themselves through a series of speech acts. The empirical study of this article also supports the finding that the politics of frictions over history has been linguistically constructed.
Appendix 1. Blunders over History by Japan 1990-2008
No Date Blunderer Position Category Outline of Blunders
1 May 1990 Ozawa Ichiro Chief Secretary LDP Other The apology of the Emperor was nothing more than honorable words
2 June 1992 Mori Yoshiro Chairperson LDP Policy Research Council Other There is a possibility of organized military action by Korean laborers in Japan
3 Dec 1993 Nakanishi Keisuke Secretary of Defense Other While respecting the establishment of constitution, there is a need to change it
4 May 1994 Nakano Shigeto Minister of Justice History It is wrong to call the Pacific War a war of aggression. Comfort women were licensed prostitutes
5 Aug 1994 Sakurai Shin Secretary of Env. Affairs History Japan did not fight a war of aggression
6 Oct 1994 Hashimoto Ryutaro Minister of Int’l Trade and Industry History It was not a war of aggression in Asia
7 Dec 1994 Murayama Tomiichi Prime Minister History Turned over the claim that Japan was responsible for the division of Korea
After the war, people were
8 Mar 1995 Okuno Seisuke Fmr Minister of Justice History brainwashed through occupational strategy and speech from the left
to think negatively about Japan
9 June 1995 Watanabe Michio Fmr Minister of Foreign Affairs History Japan’s annexation of Korea was done amicably with Korean consent
10 Jan 1996 Hashimoto Ryutaro Prime Minister History/ Dokdo It is difficult to regulate the characteristics of the Pacific War. Dokdo is Japan’s territory
No Date Blunderer Position Category Outline of Blunders
11 Feb 1996 MEXT MEXT Dokdo Dokdo is included in geographic charts as Japan’s territory
12 June 1996 Okuno Seisuke LDP Congressman Comfort Women Comfort women voluntarily participated in commercial transactions
13 July 1996 Okuno Seisuke LDP Congressman Comfort Women Comfort women were managed by businesses
14 Sept 1996 Sakurauchi Yoshio Secretary-General of LDP History Despite the fact that there are liberated countries due to the war, textbooks only mention how Japan invaded other nations
15 Sept 1996 Watanuke Tamisuke Fmr Vice Secretary of Int’l Trade and Industry Comfort Women There were military nurses but no military comfort women
16 Oct 1996 Hashimoto Ryutaro Prime Minister Dokdo From Japanese perspectives, there are only four islands in the North and Dokdo that are considered to have territorial disputes
17 Oct 1996 Yamasaki Taku Secretary General of LDP Dokdo Labeling Japan’s dominion of Dokdo is justified and protesting about it can cause intervention
18 Oct 1996 Hashimoto Hiroshi Spokesman of MOFA Dokdo Dokdo is Japan’s territory and there is no change in this information. There is a need to stop the construction of pier establishment in Takeshima
19 Feb 1997 Nishimura Shingo Diet Member History Eto Takami was correct when he said Japan did some good things to Korea during the colonialism
20 Feb 1997 Shimamura Yoshinobu LDP Congressman Comfort Women Most of the comfort women were recruited by foreign prostitution rings such as Korean or Chinese, not by Japanese military
21 Aug 1997 Shimamura Yoshinobu LDP Congressman History WWII was a war for Japan’s independent self-reliance
22 Nov 1997 Japanese government Japanese government Dokdo Japan requested suspension and removal of Korea’s pier construction in Dokdo
23 July 1998 Nakagawa Shoichi Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Comfort Women (regarding military comfort women) There is no way to know whether they were forced or not
24 May 2000 Mori Yoshiro Prime Minister Other Japan is god’s nation centered around the Emperor
No Date Blunderer Position Category Outline of Blunders
25 Sept 2000 Mori Yoshiro Prime Minister Dokdo Dokdo clearly is Japan’s territory in historical actuality and international law
26 Feb 2001 Norota Hosei Member of Diet History Asia became independent due to the Pacific War
27 Feb 2001 Sumita Nobuyoshi Governor of Shimane Dokdo Korea is illegally occupying Dokdo
28 Apr 2001 Nakagawa Shoichi Member of Diet Textbook They called the people who criticized the history textbooks to be ill with Jacob’s disease (CJD), in which the brain stops functioning
29 Apr 2001 Sakamoto Dakao Professor of Gakushuin University Comfort Women The history of comfort women is a bathroom history
30 May 2001 Koizumi Junichiro Prime Minister Textbook (regarding Korea’s request to revise the history textbooks) insisted that the textbooks cannot be revised
(regarding the visitation to Yasukuni
31 May 2001 Koizumi Junichiro Prime Minister Yasukuni Shrine) Plan to personally visit the Shrine and make a remark saying that he thinks about the suicide
bomber when times are difficult
32 June 2002 Fukuda Yasuo Chief Cabinet Secretary Other The Constitution is something that can be changed and therefore denuclearization can be also changed
33 Jan 2003 Eto Takami Member of LDP History (regarding apology for the past history) Japan was once the suzerain state of North Korea. What country requires the suzerain state such request?
34 Mar 2003 Yaki Hiroshi Member of Diet (Osaka) Other Female students in Hanbok (Korean traditional dress) look like girls who are going to a cabaret
35 May 2003 Aso Taro Secretary General of LDP History Changing their names to Japanese is what Koreans wanted
36 June 2003 Okuno Seisuke Fmr Director General of National Land Agency History Changing their names to Japanese was not coerced but was done to treat Koreans on the same level as Japanese
37 July 2003 Eto Takami Fmr Minister of Management Coordination Agency History The annexation of Korea was reasonable. The Nanjing massacre was a lie. Chinese and Korean illegal residents are thieves
38 Oct 2003 Ishihara Shintaro Governor of Tokyo History They (Koreans) voluntarily and collectively chose Japan and we did not forcefully take over
No Date Blunderer Position Category Outline of Blunders
39 Jan 2004 Koizumi Junichiro Prime Minister Yasukuni Sudden visitation to the Yasukuni Shrine on the 1st of January, neighboring countries need to understand
40 Jan 2004 Koizumi Junichiro Prime Minister Dokdo (regarding Korea printing Dokdo stamps) Dokdo is Japan’s territory. Korea needs to respond wisely
41 Feb 2004 Koizumi Junichiro Prime Minister Yasukuni Will visit the Shrine every year
42 Nov 2004 Aso Taro Minister of Internal Affairs, Posts & Comm. Dokdo Japan will consider printing stamps that are Takeshima themed
43 Nov 2004 Nakayama Nariaki Minister of MEXT Textbook It is an excellent move that themes such as comfort women or forceful recruitment lessened in the textbooks
44 Dec 2004 Machimura Nobutaka Minister for Foreign Affairs History 2005 is the 100th year from the first step of annexation of Korea in 1905
45 Jan 2005 Nakayama Nariaki Minister of MEXT Textbook Japanese textbooks contain many self-torturing issues
46 Feb 2005 Takano Toshiyuki Ambassador to ROK Dokdo Takeshima (Dokdo) is clearly Japan’s territory
47 Mar 2005 Shimomura Hakubun Senior Vice Education Minister Textbook Strict historical view by Marxism and Leninism are being educated due to neighboring empirical provisions
48 Mar 2005 Nakayama Nariaki Minister of MEXT Textbook Pedagogical methods which are standards of textbooks should label Dokdo’s dominion
49 Apr 2005 Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform History Fusosha publishers revised history textbooks received the official approval by the MEXT
50 Apr 2005 Fujiota Nobukatsu Professor of Takushoku University Comfort Women Comfort women in Korea are currently performing in front of the Japanese Embassy. However, I heard they were North Korean spies. And I agree
51 May 2005 Fujiota Nobukatsu Vice President of Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform History Civilian murder done by a Japanese military man according to Nanjing case reports is only one case
52 May 2005 Morioka Masahiro Parliamentary Secretary for Health History Former level A criminals are no longer criminals and Tokyo’s trials on former criminals are biased
No Date Blunderer Position Category Outline of Blunders
53 June/July 2005 Nakayama Nariaki Minister of MEXT Dokdo/ Comfort Women We have to teach that Dokdo is Japan’s territory. There is no such thing as comfort women
54 Aug 2005 Koizumi Junichiro Prime Minister Comfort Women There is no legal responsibility for comfort women
55 May 2006 Aso Taro Minister for Foreign Affairs History (regarding Korean and Chinese nationalism) described it as nationalism that narrow-mindedly cultivating abhorrence
56 Aug 2006 Ishihara Shintaro Governor of Tokyo Other Japan is a country that holds the right to retaliate North Korean’s missile threats. Japan also has more than enough ability to do so
57 Mar 2007 Abe Shinzo Prime Minister Comfort Women There is no evidence that comfort women were forced
58 Mar 2007 Shimomura Hakubun Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Comfort Women It is a fact that comfort women existed. I assume that some parents sold their daughters
59 June 2007 Okazaki Hisahiko Ambassador to Thailand Comfort Women The issue related comfort women is not even an issue
60 Aug 2007 Kuroda Katsuhiro Sankei Shimbun’s Seoul Bureau Chief Comfort Women Comfort women chose to do what they did due to poverty
61 Feb 2008 Ishihara Shintaro Governor of Tokyo History All the colonized nations were able to obtain independence because Japan started WWII
Appendix 2. American Responses to Abe’s Remark on Comfort Women Reported in Korean Newspapers
John Negroponte, the U.S. deputy secretary of state who was visiting Tokyo at that time, stated that “our view is that what happened during the war was most deplorable and the U.S. will not cooperate at any attempt that Japan makes to lower the level of this issue’s seriousness.” (March 2)
Abe made a statement by saying that Japan will not apologize and the resolution is not based on facts. (March 5, Congressmen budget committee)
Regarding the request to reinvestigate the Kono statement, Prime Minis-ter Abe stated that he is willing to cooperate and provide data if the rein-vestigation was done on LDP level (March 8), and the Cabinet council decided a written answer that stated that there is no evidence that direct-
ly shows so called coercion by the military or the government within the material that the government unearthed. (March 16)
Thomas Shieffer, U.S. ambassador to Japan, hoped that the government would not back away from the 1993 statement and that it is wrong for some of the Japanese leaders to underestimate the issue of comfort women. He added that the women were coerced to engage in prostitu-tion, which means they were raped by the Japanese military at that point in time.
As a result of a meeting to discuss a measure, Prime Minister Abe, Minis-ter for Foreign Affairs Aso, and General Secretary Shiozaki Yashisa decided dealing with the issue is foremost important (March 9) then Abe changed the opinion and declared continuing the 1993 statement many times. (March 11, interview with NHK; March 26, budget committee speech; April 3, on the phone with President Bush)
U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said that while Washington is appreciating the apology on the issue by Prime Minister Abe, U.S. hopes Japan will deal with the matter in a forthright and responsible manner that acknowledges the gravity of the crimes that were committed. (March 26, unofficial press conference)
Prime Minister Abe held a meeting soon after he arrived with 11 mem-bers of both the House and Senate that include Nancy Pelosi, the democ-ratic leader of the Upper House Harry Reid, the Republican leader of the Upper House Addison McConnell, and the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Tom Lantos. At the meeting, Prime Minis-ter Abe elucidated himself and expressed a sense of apology about the kind of situation the comfort women were placed into. (April 26) The leaders of the Congress restrained official confrontation.
Prime Minister Abe made the same statements as the day before at the U.S.-Japan summit meeting. (April 27) President Bush said during the meeting that he accepts Prime Minister’s apology and that he thought Kono’s statement and Abe’s statements in the U.S. were very straightfor-ward and from the heart. President Bush expressed his position to no longer pressure Japan at the political level by accepting the apology.
New York Times, articles regarding Comfort Women issues (March 6, 8, 17, 31, and May 25)
New York Times runs advertisement criticizing Abe (April 27)
LA Times, articles regarding Comfort Women issues (March 7, 18 and April 18)
Washington Post, articles regarding Comfort Women issues (March 24 and April 27)
Washington Post runs advertisement criticizing Able (April 26)
Wall Street Journal, article criticizing Abe
USA Today, article criticizing Abe
U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs passes “Imperial Armed Forces Comfort Women (Sex Slave) Resolution,” which passed 39 to 2
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