This paper explores the cultural and social phenomenon surrounding Sonyŏsang, a bronze statue symbolizing the so-called "comfort women"—young women who were drafted for military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Fifteen Years War (1931–1945). After the 2015 agreement between South Korea and Japan over the issue of the "comfort women," Sonyŏsang has developed into the Sonyŏsang phenomenon: voluntary citizen activism involving protecting the statue from being removed and installing replicas and variations of the statue in South Korea and abroad. Using the methods of art history and visual culture studies, the paper analyzes Sonyŏsang and the Sonyŏsang phenomenon in relation to the anti-colonial, patriarchal nationalism, and feminism that had reemerged in South Korea by 2015, examining how these discourses generate active interaction and participation with the statue from the viewers. It also discusses how these discourses either perpetuate the image of the "comfort women" as frail victims or, instead, transform it into one of empowered activists, generating solidarity among emancipated spectators and the subalterns of power.


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pp. 6-39
Launched on MUSE
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