Legacies of wars, human rights violations and other injustices complicate relations among various groups and nations around the world. Apologies are frequently demanded, and sometimes given, to smooth the process of dealing with these injustices. However, many of these injustices are historical in their nature; their main protagonists may no longer be alive. One source of controversies surrounding apologies thus concern their actors: Does it matter who apologizes? Does it matter who is the addressee of the apology? Answers to these questions depends on whether (or the extent to which) historical injustices acquire collective nature. If they do, dealing with historical injustices requires (not only) dealing with injustices per se but (also) dealing with the collective memory of these injustices. This paper focuses on one aspect of the problem: It examines whether apologies for historical injustices by direct perpetrators to direct victims matter. Korea has been selected as an optimal research site to examine the problem.
The country has unresolved disputes with Japan resulting from the colonization of the Korean peninsula. Sadly, not many Comfort Women – the victims of sexual slavery by the Japan’s Imperial Army – remain alive. To examine the role of apologies by direct perpetrators to direct victims, I conducted a survey experiment based on 2x2x2 design. The results show a major effect of apology; and a marginal effect of the actors of apology. This suggests that the collective memory of injustices needs to be taken into account in resolution of these injustices.
21 Nov 2017
The University of Hong Kong Department of Sociology - Sociology Forum 2017