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In the 1970s and 1980s, several publications appeared that took somewhat more critical views of the comfort women issue.
Feminist approaches began to appear after the Japanese journalist and feminist Matsui Yayori (1934-2003) took up the issue.
In 1984, Matsui published a short article in Asahi Shinbun, which marked the first time for any major newspaper to address the issue.
The government also acknowledged that coercion had been used in the recruitment and retention of the women, and called for historical research and education aimed at remembering the fact.
The Kono statement became the basis for addressing the issue of comfort women in education, and by 1997 almost all school history textbooks and those in related subjects included a brief reference to comfort women. One history textbook for junior high school read, “[M]any women, such as Korean women, were sent to the front as comfort women serving in the war.” Such statements, however bland, served as a legitimate window through which teachers and students could address the issue in classrooms.
Matsui’s interviewee, a former comfort woman whose name was not disclosed, was a Korean living in Thailand.
She spoke of her experience this way: The life of comfort women was this--during the day doing laundry of soldiers’ clothes, cleaning the barracks, and some heavy labor such as carrying ammunition, and at night being the plaything for the soldiers.It was a subhuman life. Matsui’s article triggered no significant public reaction.It was only after the successes of South Korean democratic and feminist movements in the late 1980s, freeing former comfort women to speak of their experiences for the first time, that the issue became international, forcing the Japanese government to recognize the comfort women as a significant part of Japan’s unresolved war issues.The “Comfort Women” Controversy: History and Testimony* By Yoshiko Nozaki [A] conference of historians, psychoanalysts, and artists, gathered to reflect on the relation of education to the Holocaust, watched the videotaped testimony of the woman in an attempt to better understand the era. The testimony was not accurate, historians claimed. Historically, only one chimney was blown up, not all four. Testimony as such has been “an act of memory situated in time,” “vital” to historical knowledge, as it “dislocate[d] established frameworks and shift[ed] paradigms” of the discipline. The power of words has also been evident in current educational practices.Since the memory of the testifying woman turned out to be, in this way, fallible, one could not accept--nor give credence to--her account of the events. Teachers working at different levels of education--from a classroom where twelfth grade students read I, Rigoberta Menchu to a classroom at Yale where college students watched films of Holocaust survivors-- have reported that the testimonial narratives of previously marginalized voices have powerful transformative effects upon the consciousness and actions of students.Her testimony, translated, recorded, and later published, began with her half century of silence and the decision eventually to break that silence: For these fifty years, I have lived, by bearing and again bearing [the unbearable]. As I try to speak now, my heart pounds against my chest, because what happened in the past was something extremely unconscionable . Actually, I was made into a comfort woman, and I’m here alive. Kim’s testimony was the most significant event in establishing a new interpretation of the comfort women system.For fifty years, I have had a heavy, painful feeling, but kept thinking in my heart about telling my experience some day. Hearing her story on Japanese television, historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki went straight to the archives of the Self-Defense Agency (Boeicho), where he found evidence that conclusively demonstrated the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Army in organizing the comfort women system for its soldiers (though the nature of the comfort women system and the state/military involvement, including the use of force and coercion, still required further study).Yun Chung-ok, a professor at Korea's Ewha Womans University, was an important catalyst in this development.In the late 1980's she met with Matsui to exchange information about the comfort women, and in 1990 she wrote a series of reports on the issue for a Korean newspaper. Yun’s reports ignited and enraged the South Korean public, prompting calls for redress from the Japanese government.As one critic observes, I, Rigoberta Menchu “played a conspicuous role in the ideological conflicts that burst out in the field of education in the United States” in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Clearly, history involves social and cultural struggles over interpretations of the past. but are rather dynamic, always in flux.” It is important that historians to attend to the “conflictual processes that establish meanings . In the 1990s, feminist movements inside and outside Japan, and above all the victims who broke silence and gave testimonies, showed the direct role of the Japanese state and military in creating and maintaining a system of forced prostitution and systematic rape of women from colonized and occupied territories.Feminist historian Joan Scott has called this the “politics of history,” as historical interpretations are “not fixed . When the voices of victims were reinforced by the research findings of Japanese scholars who unearthed documents proving the role of the Japanese military in maintaining the system, official denials melted away.