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Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Philadelphia, December 8, 1998 - Chunghee Sarah Soh, Associate Professor of Anthropology, San Francisco State University, and ICAS Fellow, delivered last week (December 4) The ICAS Lecture: Human Rights and Humanity: The Case of the "Comfort Women" at the University of Pennsylvania. The following is an abstract of her paper (ICAS Lecture No. 98-1204-CSS).

Based on the ethnographic data collected during field research in Japan, Korea, and the Netherlands, this paper focuses from the perspective of critical anthropology on the meaning of the concept of human rights, as it is used in the politics of the comfort women movement for redress. "Comfort women" categorically refers to tens of thousands of young women of various nationalities and social circumstances who became sexual laborers for the Japanese troops before and during World War II. The question of the wartime forced recruitment of comfort women was first raised in the Japanese Diet in 1990, and Korean survivors filed a class action suit against the Japanese government in 1991. Japan finally set up the nominally non-governmental Asian Women's Fund in 1995 in order to deal with the compensation demands for former comfort women. Feminist and human rights activists, however, criticized Japan for shirking its legal responsibility and rejected to accept any money from the Fund. In the Philippines, the Fund controversy resulted in the split of the women's movement leadership into two, allowing the survivors the right to choose. In South Korea, the movement leaders left no room for the elderly survivors to deviate from the official policy of rejecting the Fund. The supporters of the Fund in Japan charge the Korean leadership for usurping the rights of the individual survivors to choose the methods of redress. Is the leadership justified or are some survivors being victimized anew?

Editor's note: The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the original authors / speakers, and nothing written here, therefore, is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of ICAS, its officers and directors, and associated members. sjk

This page last updated 10/30/2010 jdb


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