Abstract

Abstract:

Opposite the Japanese embassy in downtown Seoul stands a bronze statue of a young girl. Since its erection in 2011, it has become a site of fierce symbolic battles among various parties. The objectives of this article are threefold. First, it offers an art historical account of the monument. Although it has been widely covered by numerous media, few serious studies on the monument as a work of art have been undertaken, and this article seeks to fill the gap. Second, it aims to advance an interpretation of the statue as a paradigmatic embodiment of intersubjective gaze that unsettles conventional portrayals of comfort women as erotic prostitutes. The image of comfort women as highly sexualized bodies has taken deep root in postwar Japanese popular culture, but the statue challenges this stereotyping and presents instead the pristine image of comfort women as innocent teenage victims of ruthless Japanese militarism. Third, it revisits the obvious: the statue in essence is a representation, but the representation itself is in turmoil. As people summon their own collection of desires when gazing at the statue, their encounters with it constantly question its representational stability.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8271
Print ISSN
1067-9847
Pages
pp. 363-387
Launched on MUSE
2020-05-28
Open Access
No
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