UCI News

UCI Libraries host exhibit on Korean ‘comfort women’

First filmed evidence of their existence is included in archival materials

June 18, 2019
UCI Libraries host exhibit on Korean ‘comfort women’

Irvine, Calif., June 19, 2019 — The UCI Libraries are sponsoring an exhibit at the University of California, Irvine that highlights newly discovered U.S. archival materials on Korean “comfort women” – females forced into sexual slavery before and during World War II in Asian-occupied territories – along with supporting film clips, book displays and related items from library collections.

“Korean Comfort Women and the U.S. Discoveries” features the first filmed evidence of comfort women; most of the previous documentation was textual or photographic. The content of this exhibit is of particular interest because the California Department of Education has issued guidelines to include Korean comfort women in the high school curriculum. This helps educate students about a long-overlooked chapter in world history and is highly relevant today in shining a light on the broader issues of women’s rights and the sexual slavery that still occurs globally.

The archival materials – from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration – include film footage in addition to photographs taken by U.S. military members who were fighting during WWII in Southeast Asia against the Japanese forces. Also among the recent discoveries are U.S. Army interrogation reports of Korean comfort women captured along with Japanese soldiers, which provide proof and a rare glimpse into the systematic management of comfort stations and the procurement of Korean women by the Japanese colonial government in Korea and the imperial Japanese military.

Since the subject of Korean comfort women was first raised in 1991 – breaking a 50-year silence – it has attracted scholarly as well as public attention internationally. The film clips, books and videos in this exhibit further document violations of women’s human rights – violations that are common in wartime and continue in other parts of the world even today.

The newly discovered materials were shared by professor Sung-hyun Kang of South Korea’s Sungkonghoe University and professor Chin-sung Chung of Seoul National University at the request of UCI’s Chungmoo Choi, an associate professor of East Asian studies who’s affiliated with the campus’s Center for Critical Korean Studies. The items from the UCI Libraries’ collections were curated by Ying Zhang, a research librarian in Asian studies, and Korea Foundation library intern Sukim Bae.

“Korean Comfort Women and the U.S. Discoveries” will be on display through Dec. 1 in Room 261 of the UCI Science Library – near the entrance to the Grand Reading Room – during regular library hours.

This exhibit includes content that may be sensitive to some viewers; discretion is advised.

The UCI Libraries are the university’s primary center for research and provide vital resources and cutting-edge technology and instruction to support the education, scholarship and research goals of UCI. They also serve the lifelong learning needs of larger communities through collections and public programs that extend the libraries’ services and resources beyond the campus.