The dubious status some South Koreans have sought overseas for what Sally McGrane fashionably calls "brutal state-run rape camps" has now won academic approbation in the United States, according to her report, "An Important Statue for 'Comfort Women' in San Francisco" (The New Yorker, Oct. 12). McGrane quotes Harvard professor Dara Kay Cohen and University of California, Berkeley professor Elaine Kim to emphasize her point. But she doesn't even mention Sejong professor Park Yu-ha, who holds a contrasting, more considered view.
Park has cast doubt on her South Korean compatriots' campaign to sell the world the idea that the "comfort women" violated "the universal women's rights" as an expression of "moral arrogance." She explains why in her book, "Comfort Women of the Empire" (Korean 2013, Japanese 2014).
"Colonization inevitably spawns a schism among the colonized people," she writes. But "Korea has lived by erasing the memory of its collaboration with and subjugation to the sovereign nation," Japan, since its "liberation" from the country in 1945 — by refusing to see "the other face of Korea." In the process, those engaged in propagating the notion that comfort women embodied the evil that was Imperialist Japan have lost the ability to talk about "why so many of the comfort women were Korean," even as they argued that "most comfort women were Korean."