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A 2020-2021 Williams Prize for best essay in East Asian Studies was awarded to Jenna Shin (Morse '21) for her essay submitted to the East Asian Studies Program, "A Comfort Women Redress Movement without Comfort Women” (Yukiko Koga, Associate Professor of Anthropology, advisor).

While the comfort women issue is often framed within contested relations between the victims and the perpetrators, such as South Korean survivors and/or South Korea’s relationship with Japan, Jenna Shin’s essay, “A Comfort Women Redress Movement without Comfort Women,” shifts her reader’s attention to the relationship between the surviving comfort women and their main advocacy group, the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

Jenna untangles the dynamics behind this redress movement by examining the tension, recently made-public, between the surviving comfort women and the Korean Council, when, in 2020, one of the survivors accused the leadership of the Korean Council of exploitation of the survivors. Her analysis of historical archival materials that she acquired from the Korean Council, video recordings of advocacy activities, the press conference by the survivors and the Council, and media reporting on the 2020 controversy, illuminates the dynamics that developed over time between the survivors and their advocacy organization in their common pursuit of justice, which nevertheless resulted in bifurcated directions that turned the comfort women redress movement into a “movement without comfort women.”

Casting a critical light on South Korean society’s role is a sensitive task and any research in this area requires an analysis and presentation of the materials in such a manner that is fair, even-handed, and persuasive. Jenna managed to achieve just that through her original research on new materials in detailed and nuanced manner. By zooming into the intricate relations between the surviving comfort women and the Korean Council, Jenna’s thesis explicates ironic dynamics between victims and their advocacy organization, where the “success” of the movement as measured by public recognition often results in marginalizing the very victims for whom the movement is formed. In so doing, her study contributes to our understanding of human rights organizations and their advocacy work, with their potentials and perils.