What Do Political Apologies Do?: The Case of the Korean Comfort Women, Liminality, and a New Framework for Apologetic Success
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December 28, 2015: Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se spoke as the voices oftheir nations outlining a "final" and "irreversible" resolution to a decades long battle of political obstinacy. Japan, originally refusing to apologize and instead offering an outright denial of any wrongdoing, conceded to international pressure and the demands o f South Korea and offered their first direct apology for the Comfort Women in 1993. Following the rejection ofthis apology by most of South Korea, Japan all but rescinded this apologetic sentiment in denying governmental involvement in the coercion and enslavement of Comfort Women. Hurt pride and the inability to cooperate ensued, resulting in a tumultuous, decades long process of renegotiating collective apologetic guilt culminating in December's "irreversible" deal. The persistent demands for an apology by both South Korea, the international community, and the Comfort Women themselves, as well as Japan's iterations of different versions ofapologies tells us that something is at stake for all parties involved. The odyssey ofthis apology, ifit can even be referred to as such, is messier than a simple recognition, admission, and forgiveness ofmoral wrong. And the implications ofthe apology for everyone involved are similarly unclear, leading to the question: What exactly does a political apology do? This paper seeks to form a more nuanced understanding of what exactly a political apology does by viewing an apology's operation in its relationship to systems ofpower.1 This will be accomplished by first placing apologetic acts in different cultural contexts - an essential step to shift away from universal notions of apologies. I will then focus on the nuances of Japanese-Korean relations, further applying a gendered lens to explore and explain the apologetic oddities surrounding the Korean Comfort Women. I will conclude by situating said cultural understandings in systems of power to illustrate that an apologetic act, at its core, is a suspension of power relations themselves.
Franklin and Marshall College Archives, Undergraduate Honors Thesis 2016
- F&M Theses Collection