Victim Silencing, Sexual Violence Culture, Social Healing: Inherited Collective Trauma of World War II South Korean Military “Comfort Women”
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The unresolved reconciliation process for WWII South Korean military “comfort women” presents a case of nationally inherited collective trauma, in which South Koreans far removed in time and space from the historical tragedy feel its implications and obligations for reparations and social healing. In examining the South Korean comfort women redress movement and systemic concealment of WWII military sexual slavery, this study investigates a pattern of victim silencing, characterized by institutional patriarchy and ineffective government involvement, from 1945 to 2019. Following the South Korean government’s formal rejection of the 2015 agreement with Japan regarding a final and irreversible conclusion to the comfort women issue, South Korean and international women’s rights organizations have openly addressed a need for new reconciliation efforts with Japan; however, the current stance of the South Korean government, under President Moon Jae-in, remains hesitant to seek a renegotiation. Based on the effective methods of democratic reparations from South Africa, Germany, and the United States, this study proposes a new victim-centered approach to the reconciliation of collective trauma through the role of the South Korean government. The new approach encompasses the following: (1) organizing an official collection of victim testimonies, (2) fostering government relationships with women’s rights organizations, and (3) instating sexual violence education in university settings in order to facilitate long-term social healing.
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