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The Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military: Gendered Nationalism and Politics of Representation

Kim Hyeonjoo 1

1추계예술대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military opened in 1998 in the city of Kwangju in Gyeonggi province as the first alternative historical museum in Korea. With the purpose of history education on the subject of sex slaves for the next generation and vindication of ‘comfort women’, it was built next to the House of Sharing, a home for the living comfort women who were drafted for sexual slavery by Japan during World War II. In this article, I investigate how the museum has become a contested site which raises questions around the official history of Korea and Japan, gendered bias of Korean nationalism, and politics of representation. Its exhibits range from the remains, historial photographs, diagrams, maps to a replica of comfort house and testimonials by comfort women. Its peculiar contents of all, however, are the artworks produced by comfort women as well as contemporary artists of Korea on the subject. Those works of art lead us to consider discrepancies between self-representation and representation of others, ethical issues, or political positions of the artists in dealing with experiences of others. This article also discusses to situate the paintings produced by Korean comfort women at the boundary of art by considering issues such as the binarism of the amateur and the professional, the relationship between the process and the outcome in art making, especially in the context of new genre public art, and the relationship to Minjung Art. The study on the Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military entails complicated issues of the gendering Korean nationalism and politics of representation.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.