Synopses & Reviews
In the wake of the wartime experience of sexual slavery for the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War (1930-45), Korean survivors of this "comfort women" system lived under great pressure not to speak about what had happened to them. This book brings us into the lives of three survivors: Pak Duri, Mun Pilgi, and Bae Chunhui. Over the course of seven years, author Joshua Pilzer worked with these women, living alongside of them, smoking with them, eating with them, singing and playing with them, documenting and trying to understand their worlds of song.
Hearts of Pine focuses on the selves and social lives that these three women cultivated through song. During four decades of post-war public secrecy about the comfort women system, song served for these women as both a private and a public means of coping with their trauma-each used song in a different way to reckon with their experiences and to forge a new sense of self. In the 1990s a nationalist movement arose in South Korea to seek redress from the Japanese government and to tend to the previously-shunned comfort women survivors in their old age. Suddenly these women, and many others like them, found themselves pulled from the margins of society and thrust into the very center of the public cultural spotlight. Appearing on television and radio as well as at political events and protest rallies, the "comfort women grandmothers" collectively functioned as an emblem of the horrors Japan inflicted on long "enslaved" Korea--a Korea that had now overcome Japanese domination. But while the women were to stand forward as symbols of Korea's triumph over metaphorical enslavement, they were largely swallowed up by an archetypal, faceless "comfort woman victim" in the public cultural imaginary. Yet in the face of the selective interests and forces of the public cultural imagination, and directly into the media spotlights of South Korean public culture itself, all three of these women continued to use song as a means of expressing the particularity of their experiences publicly.
Hearts of Pine paints intimate and tenderly crafted portraits of three off-beat old women in a South Korean old age home, who made routine appearances on national television and radio. In so doing, this book addresses basic questions about the power of music vis-
"A young white man, an American, finds a way to enter the hearts of old Korean women through song. Unlikely friends, they are united through the women's music, soulful with sorrow and yearning for lives and loves taken away, yet hopeful for a better world. This is deeply sensitive writing with an understanding of Koreans' songs and the women who sing them." --Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, director, Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women
"Josh Pilzer is a hugely talented young scholar, and his fascinating and highly original book sheds an entirely new light on the execrable violation of women's human rights under Japanese colonialism in Korea, and the extraordinary perseverance, humanity and ultimate triumph of the abused survivors." --Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago
"Pilzer models what it means to listen deeply. His close focus on three women's sung constructions of subjectivity allows the reader to hear not only anger and suffering but also joy, hope, and undeniable presence. Their voices rang in my ears for days. This book pulled me in-in all the ways that matter." --Deborah Wong, University of California, Riverside
"[R]etracing the evolving history of many of these songs, Pilzer emerges as a scholar who is both authoritative and inviting. Hearts of Pine provides accessible and engaging coverage of several musical traditions that have persisted in a rapidly changing Korean society." --Women and Music
"A richly satisfying and evocatively written narrative for non-specialists as well as an original contribution to ethnomusicological research." --Ethnomusicology
In the wake of the Asia-Pacific War, Korean survivors of the "comfort women" system-those bound into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during the war-lived under great pressure not to speak about what had happened to them. Hearts of Pine brings us into the lives of three such survivors: Pak Duri, Mun Pilgi, and Bae Chunhui. Over the course of eight years, author Joshua Pilzer worked with these now-elderly women, smoking with them, eating with them, singing and playing with them, trying to understand and document their worlds of song. During four decades of secrecy and the subsequent decades of the "comfort women" protest movement, singing served these women as a means of coping with and expressing their experiences, forging and sustaining identities and social relationships, and recording and conveying their struggles and philosophies of life. Through these intimate portraits, Hearts of Pine illustrates the personal and social power of music vis-
About the Author
Joshua D. Pilzer
grew up in Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee playing folk music and punk rock. He discovered Korean music in 1993, and soon after began graduate work in ethnomusicology, studying at the University of Hawaii and the University of Chicago, where he completed his PhD in 2006. He has since worked at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Columbia University, and the University of Toronto, where since 2009 he has been Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Music.
Table of Contents
A Note on Transliteration
Appendix: Pak Duri's Testimony