Politicising the Manhwa Representations of the Comfort Women: with an Emphasis on the Angoulême International Festival Controversy

Jeongwon Bourdais PARK

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

Abstract

This article discusses the nexus between comics, collective historical memory and politics in the context of the contemporary relationship between Japan and South Korea by examining the graphic manhwa narratives dealing with the memories of comfort women that were exhibited during the Angoulême Comics Festival in France in early 2014. With a theme of ‘memories of war and gendered violence’, commemorating the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War, the event that accommodated a special exhibition for Korean manhwa attracted controversy because of its political nature, drawing heavy media attention and sparking public debate and diplomatic quarrels. Adding academic depth to this cultural and diplomatic clash by linking the concepts of soft power foreign policy and cultural citizenship, this paper investigates what made the cultural event politically tainted and how the politicisation debate between the two countries escalated throughout the event. Existing studies on soft power foreign policy often leave the core contents of the ‘soft’ part unexplained. This article, in contrast, explores the current limits of accommodating cultural expressions of historical memories through an in-depth analysis of the exhibited artworks and the two countries’ nationalised soft power diplomacy. It argues that both governments’ direct and indirect intervention in the cultural realm nurtured irreconcilable cultural representations in this particular theme and genre of cultural representation under the current research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-65
Number of pages29
JournalEast Asia
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

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Bibliographical note

This research was partially financed by the Hong Kong General Research Fund 2016/2017–2019, via Lingnan University Hong Kong, in support of the collective project entitled "Historical justice and reconciliation: dealing with Japan’s occupation in Korea’.

Keywords

  • Comfort women
  • Cultural citizenship
  • Japan–Korea relations
  • Politics of comics
  • Soft power diplomacy

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