Yoko’s Story and the battle of memory: fragmentation and suture of national memory and gender in the age of globalization
ABSTRACT Since its publication in 1986, Yoko Watkins’ So Far from the Bamboo Grove has been used as a textbook by some primary and middle schools in the US. The book is an autobiographical novel about the experiences of a Japanese girl named Yoko who returns to her home country with her mother and sister with an anti-war and peace message. However, it became the center of attention and was referred to as the Yoko incident when, in January 2007, it became known to the Koreans that the book was being used as a textbook by American students and contained a story about Japanese women raped by Korean men at the end of Japanese colonial rule. It immediately incited outcries from the Korean media and online communities, complaining that any suggestion of the rape of Japanese women by Korean men at the end of Japanese colonial rule is a grave distortion of history and a reversal of the perpetrator and the victim. This paper analyzes how the memory structure of the Koreans regarding colonialism is based on a victim nationalism and how Korean feminism has intervened in the fragmentation and suture of national memory since the 1990s. Furthermore, the paper reveals how American multiculturalism turns a blind eye to, or even promotes, the clashing of collective identities in the age of globalization. The so called Yoko incident illustrates how the competition of East Asian countries for a historical position of ‘victim’ in a battle of memory in the US not only strengthens exclusive nationalism in the area but also connives in ‘Americanization of world justice’.
Wookyung Im is a Research Professor of the Institute for East Asian Studies at SungKong-HoeUniversity and is a member of the Center for Women’s Culture and Feminist Theory, Seoul. She has been interested in gender and nation, national narrative, and East Asia Theory. She is now working on the ‘Opposing America and Helping North Korea ( )’ Movement of China in the 1950s.