The Deafening Silence of the Korean Comfort Women: A Response Based on Lyotard and Irigaray

Constance Youngwon Lee, Jonathan Crowe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article reflects upon the continuing historical denialism concerning the Korean "comfort women" forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. We argue that the refusal of the Japanese government and others to squarely confront this wrong is made possible through the exploitation of a différend in Jean-François Lyotard's sense of the term. The différend arises from a complex set of social, cultural, and legal sources, including patriarchal, colonial, and nationalistic constructions of the wrong and its victims. We seek to tentatively expose the nature of the différend by identifying these factors. We then sketch the beginnings of a possible response, drawing on Luce Irigaray's strategy of emphasizing sexual difference and separation to pave the way for reciprocality between the sexes. The testimonies of the "comfort women" must be allowed to speak for themselves before a response can emerge based in other discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-356
Number of pages18
JournalAsian Journal of Law and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


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