[Readers Talk] Asking the Readers
Asking the Readers: How was the Webzine <Kyeol> in 2019?
On October 18, 2019, the Research Institute on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery (RIMSS) held a Readers Symposium to welcome evaluations and opinions of the readers on the Webzine <Kyeol> project conducted in 2019. It was a valuable time to see if the messages the Webzine <Kyeol> targeted had been successfully delivered to the various readers, including those in the media, researchers, activists and housewives, not only those experts in the Japanese military ‘comfort women’ issues.
To hear more in-depth opinions, the editors of the Webzine <Kyeol> conducted a separate Readers Talk with three people who expressed important opinions at the Readers Symposium held in October last year. What articles did the readers like the most and think the most meaningful? Also, what inconveniences did they experience while using the webzine?
Readers Talk Date : Date: October 31, 2019
Host: Hyun Seung-in, Choi Jieun (Slowalk)
Panel: Panel: Kim Yeon-jeong(Completed a Ph.D. coursework (ABD) in Women’s Studies at York University)/ Lee Sang-mi (Editor of the Webzine ‘Idology’)/ Kim Bo-kyung (Slowalk Contents Team)
* Please note that the opinions of the panels participating in this Talk may differ from the official opinions of each affiliated institute and the Research Institute of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery
How would you evaluate your first encounter with the Webzine <Kyeol>?
Nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to participate in this Readers Talk. First, please introduce yourselves briefly and give us your first impression of the Webzine <Kyeol>. Allow me to introduce myself first, I am Hyun Seung-in, a Contents Director of Slowalk helping RIMSS’ work on the Webzine <Kyeol> project.
I am Choi Jieun, a Contents Planner of Slowalk and I help the Webzine <Kyeol> project as well.
Hello. I am Kim Yeon-jeong and I am currently majoring in women’s studies. I completed my Ph.D. coursework (ABD) at York University. The Japanese military ‘comfort women’ issue has always been of great interest to me. My first impression of the Webzine <Kyeol> was “Oh..?” I must admit that I didn’t expect much because it was a government project, but I was pleasantly surprised that it dealt with the Japanese ‘comfort women’ issue with a balanced perspective. In Korea, this issue is either discussed from the Korea-Japan relations perspective or from the victim-focused perspective. However, I noticed that the Webzine <Kyeol> made every effort to achieve the right balance. I was very excited because it was so enjoyable to read. I thought finally the time has come where this is possible... I just suppose how much work it would have taken to come this far.
My name is Lee Sang-mi and I am an editor of Webzine ‘Idology.’ I first accessed the Webzine <Kyeol> on my phone, and a few pieces immediately caught my attention. The most interesting was the ones that dealt with the mass media, such as
I am Kim Bo-kyung, and I am responsible for planning work at the Contents Team of Slowalk. At first, I got the impression that it would be difficult to make my way through it. I was slightly discouraged by the thumbnail images of the Webzine <Kyeol> that felt rigid during my first visit, and even before I started to read the articles, I was concerned by the complexity of the topics. How should I put it… the overall impression of the website is very formal and well-dressed. So, for me, it was a little difficult to approach. However, I think it has positive elements that can attract attention of the readers as it is well categorized with short and meaningful titles.
If you were to recommend any piece from the Webzine <Kyeol> to acquaintances, what would it be?
● <Chung Young-hwan X Park No-ja, an Online Discussion – ‘Comfort Women’ Issue from the Post-division Perspective>
● <Now/Here Inside and Outside of ‘Comfort Women’ Movies>
- It was the first piece I read from the Webzine <Kyeol>. There are controversies about the perspective that treats the grandmas through the lens of “victims.” However, this was a well written article in simple language, from the perspective of an activist.
- I want to recommend this as well. It gave fresh impetus to the topic so that the ‘comfort women’ issue, which typically is discussed from the Korean perspective, can also be viewed from the post-division perspective. However, it lacked depth because there was so much to cover. I feel that for a piece such as this, it would be best to issue follow-up special reports on each controversy that was debated in this article.
- I liked the article that introduced and reviewed the movies on the ‘comfort women.’ The one aspect that makes me hesitate a little when recommending it to someone else is that it may be difficult to understand unless you are already familiar with the field, mainly due to the difficult academic terms and theories.
● Japan’s Me Too Movement and the ‘Comfort Women’ Issue
● Remembering Kim Haksun
- <Now/Here Inside and Outside of ‘Comfort Women’ Movies>
It was the first one I looked at because the thumbnail was the poster of <Herstory>. I liked this movie so much that I went to a group screening of <Herstory>. I found this article to be really interesting due to its different perspectives from other articles that dealt with <Herstory>. It delved deep into the meanings and limitations of the movie from the perspective that deals with the ‘comfort women’ issues. This maybe a little heavy for some readers because of the long phrasings, but, as it is already a well-known movie, I think it is a good piece to recommend to anyone who hasn’t read the Webzine <Kyeol>.
- <Japan’s Me Too Movement and the ‘Comfort Women’ Issue>
It explains the feminism and backlash issue in Japan to ensure it could be easily digested. I have some experiences living in Japan. Unlike in Korea, feminism is not visible in Japan, and that frustrated me all the time. Many feminists around me, including myself, will be very interested in this article.
- <Remembering Kim Haksun>
This article was really easy for me to immerse myself in due to the simple style. I never met Kim Haksun, but the testimonies about her have had a lasting impression on me. I believe many people can enjoy reading this article, even if they have little interest in pop culture or feminism.
● <Grandma’s Tomorrow – Interview of Kim Daewol, the Head of Arts and Science Department at the House of Sharing>
● < The Measures Taken by the Korean Government on the Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’ Issueand the Prospects on the Countermeasures Regarding Any Unresolved Issues>
- <Remembering Kim Haksun>
I loved the essays on the Grandmas. The images of the ‘comfort women’ I learned about as a student was always that of victims and deeply wounded people. Although everyone may be aware of the ‘comfort women’ issue, not everyone has an in-depth understanding about it. Perhaps, people are not that interested in digging deeper either. So, the essays such as <Remembering Kim Haksun> would be of great benefit to these people. It highlights the life of a person, not just a victim. I think exposing someone’s life story repeatedly may lead people to start thinking about the ‘comfort women’ issue more naturally.
- <Grandma’s Tomorrow – Interview of Kim Daewol, the Head of Arts and Science Department at the House of Sharing>
For similar reasons, I also liked this interview. In fact, I found some of the other articles to be very difficult. However, this interview to me was easy to read. I could empathize with his use of the expression “to come to work” and “to go home after work” to describe the Grandmas’ activism in the movement. When I think of the ‘comfort women’ victims that I learned of from history textbooks, I was consumed by sadness that made me cry, as they were all dark stories that I wanted to avoid. However, this article helped me to see these Grandmas as those grandmas we meet every day. It was at this point that I realized how much we had victimized the Grandmas.
- < The Measures Taken by the Korean Government on the Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’ Issueand the Prospects on the Countermeasures Regarding Any Unresolved Issues>
I used to go to the Wednesday Demonstrations often, but not so much after the Korea-Japan Agreement of December 28, 2015. As the protest against the agreement intensified, I became scared. My initial intention was to casually attend the demonstrations, but over time, it became burdensome and frightening. I guess that made me avoid sensitive issues. However, the Webzine <Kyeol> did a great job explaining the aftermath of the Korea-Japan ‘Comfort Women’ Agreement 2015 which wasn’t available anywhere else. I hope the Webzine continue to provide well-organized summaries for these aspects.
Webzine <Kyeol> is Too Difficult?!
A number of opinions propose that the contents of <Kyeol> is difficult overall. I would like to talk about this in more detail. In your opinion, what aspects have made the Webzine <Kyeol> difficult, for example, the length of the article, readability, phrasing, etc.?
Overall, the content is difficult. Especially, the articles that dealt with the ‘comfort women’ issue of other countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, etc. were difficult. I am particularly interested in modern and contemporary history, and thought that I was well informed, but even to me, it was difficult to fully comprehend the articles. Recently, a friend of mine asked, “Korea was the colony of Japan, but why did the victims have to travel to different places?” People do not know well the background information for the ‘comfort women’ issue than we expect. Under such a situation, the articles of the Webzine <Kyeol> must seem difficult to grasp. That does not mean that the entire context of the war must be explained. If you were to take that path, then it would become far too complex and drive people away. What I think would be better is to help people feel empathy by focusing on the people who were victimized by the war, rather than presenting the background of the war.
The Japanese military ‘comfort women’ issue is a difficult subject to digest in the first place, therefore, the articles tend to be lengthy. I could see the attempts to make the topic more accessible, but there is little you can do because the subject itself is difficult. It would be difficult to ascertain to what extent the readers’ varying levels of literacy should be accommodated. I think that the Webzine <Kyeol> cannot help but be shaped by the characteristics of an academic journal. However, different aspects of <Kyeol> from other academic journals lies in that, you may strive to study more if you encounter something you don’t know while reading an academic journal; however, it may not be that simple when it comes to the Webzine <Kyeol> because it is a space where various specialties come together around one topic that the discussion may radiate into every direction. This makes it slightly more difficult to access. At the end of the day, I think it is necessary to approach by dividing the target audience. Some articles may approach the readers with greater expertise, while other articles may consider popular appeal that is easier to read. Each article can have different target readers.
Thank you very much for understanding some of the difficulties we face. (Laugh) It is really difficult to set the standard for editing. Earlier, Lee Sangmi said that < Japan’s Me Too Movement and the ‘Comfort Women’ Issue> was comparatively easier to understand, but I think this article, too, is not an easy piece. However, currently in Korea, there is a great deal of interest in feminism and as such, professional-quality contents are being consumed by the public on a great scale, so the language in this article is more familiar compared to other pieces.
‘Category’ and ‘Tag Search’
Since we have talked about the difficulty in the topics of the Webzine <Kyeol>, let’s change the subject and focus on something else. The Webzine has certain concerns about two types of literacy. The first is text literacy, and the second is digital literacy. We have spent time considering the best way to set the standard for the digital literacy, as much as the text literacy. We think the Webzine <Kyeol> has lowered the level of literacy, relatively, by using symbolic expressions used often online, but many of the readers still said it was difficult. Did you guys have any difficulty in using the Webzine <Kyeol>?
It was hard for me. I am a digitally illiterate and I didn’t even know that I could view the category if I click the ‘hamburger’ symbol until someone showed me. Despite that, I didn’t find it inconvenient because there was a ‘All Articles’ button and I could easily choose the articles that I wanted to read.
I, also, don’t utilize digital information well, and thus can be considered ‘old-fashioned’. But it was actually easier for me. The “Category” was well organized and the ‘Tag’ search function was also very good. Especially, it was good to see all the writings related to Kim Haksun in the “People” section.
I knew about the “Tag” search function, but I never used it. You have to actually know something before you can start using the Tag function to search something. (Laugh) But I still think it is a good function. I think it’ll be useful when there are topics that interest me, such as finding articles related to a specific movie, etc. I think it’s more likely that I will utilize the “Tag” function more than the “Category” function in the future.
Nowadays, I get the impression that the past, present and the future are within the same era. Someone captures a screen on his/her smartphone easily and highlights it using a smart-pen and post his/her writing on SNS, but some people still have difficulty simply accessing the website. I think this gap is too wide. At the same time, I don’t even know who our readers are. It is highly likely that they are all ours. Some would have to print out to read, while others would capture it on the cell phone and read it. (Laugh) I always spend time considering where should be the focus.
Expecting for from the Webzine <Kyeol> in 2020
If there are any contents that you want to see from the Webzine <Kyeol>, what would they be? It would be nice if you could share the contents you would personally hope to see, without regards to the format of the content.
t would be nice to see more articles similar to <Grandma’s Tomorrow – Interview of Kim Daewol, the Head of Arts and Science Department at the House of Sharing>. I think it was easily accessible for the public and also provides a meaningful message. Personally, I hope to see more articles that point out the problems of polarizing the images of the ‘comfort women,’ either in the image of a girl or an elderly woman.
I think the Japanese military ‘comfort women’ issue is not simply a women’s issue but a problem for one human being. It would be nice to show an un-objectified, natural life of a person, as in to show the daily lives of a Grandma. Videos may deliver the natural aspects much better than the text – the experts may do a good job showing the Grandmas’ ordinary self, but I don’t think it can come close to the effectiveness of a video clip.
I think it is important to present a topic that would interest the readers. I personally think that any articles that deal with popular culture can attract the people’s interest. The ‘comfort women’ issue through the eyes of mass media, such as movies, is much easier for people to access. So, any article on the issues of ‘comfort women’ presented through movies or mass media would be of great benefit to the people. But this is my personal aspiration. /To be honest, the Webzine <Kyeol> should continue to do what it is doing now. All will be resolved as its size grows and it includes more content.
All will be resolved in the end… it is wonderful support.
I greatly admire the Research Institute on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery (RIMSS). I think covering the Japanese military ‘comfort women’ issue in Korea is like being in a war. The projects implemented by the government can easily become nationalistic. In this respect, it is clear that the Webzine <Kyeol> is balancing well in the fierce battlefield and is making a great progress. I hope that RIMSS has the courage to fight harder at the frontline. Never lose your courage.
I have something I want to say. When I talk with my friends, it was difficult to direct them to a certain place when they had questions about the ‘comfort women’ issues. Now, I can say with confidence, turn your attention to the Webzine <Kyeol>. Just simply having this space is good for all of us.
Thank you very much for your opinions. Your encouragement means so much to us. On behalf of the Research Institute on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery and the editors of the Webzine <Kyeol>, we will continue to do our best to be a better Webzine <Kyeol> in 2020. We will now end the Readers Talk 2019. I already look forward to what stories will be shared at the Readers Talk next year. Thank you again for your time!
- Editorial Meeting – Part 1 – Sexual slavery: Approaches and Perspectives
Ahead of the publication of the webzine <Kyeol> of Research Institue on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery (RIJMSS), 10 editors gathered together to discuss the future of the webzine. At the two editorial symposiums held on January 31and February 25, 2019, discussions were held on the ways and limitations carried out on the issue of the ‘comfort women’ so far and the direction in which the webzine should move forward next.
- Editorial Conference Part II – How to connect with the public over the issue of the 'comfort women'
Kwon Myung-ah/Kim Heonju/So Hyun-suk/Yeo Sun-ju/Yoon Myung-sook/Lee Seon-i /Lim Hyung-wha/Jo Gyeonghee/Jeong Yongsuk/Heo Yun
Editorial Team of Webzine
Editorial Team of Webzine <Kyeol>