Mary McCarthy is a professor teaching World Politics and Asian Politics for the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Drake University. Recently she published an academic journal piece titled, Coalition Building and Mobilization: Case Studies of the Comfort Women Memorials in the United States on August 2, 2018.
The Comfort Women were women forced into sex work (prostitution) for the Japanese Imperial Army in the 1930s and 1940s. The women were mainly South Korean and Japanese, but wherever the Japanese Empire stretched there were women in sex slavery.
“My area of expertise is Japanese foreign policy and 10 years ago I started becoming interested in why Japan had so many difficulties reconciling with some of its neighbors in East Asia… This brought me to the issue of the Comfort Women,” McCarthy said. “Around the time I became interested in it the first Comfort Woman Memorial was erected in 2010.”
Working with Linda Hasunuma, Professor at University of Bridgeport, over the course of two and a half years, McCarthy was able to conduct interviews and research on the comfort women. Both women visited Comfort Women museums. Hasunuma visited South Korea in 2017 and McCarthy visited South Korea in 2018.
The research needed for this academic article was conducted in the United States. The research took a year and a half to collect, with the entire article taking two and a half years. They discussed the topic of the Comfort Women with activists, Japanese and Korean scholars, surviving Comfort Women and Museums regarding the topic.
“I’ve talked with Mary about the topic quite a lot over the last couple of years. One reason it’s an important topic is because historical history places a significant role in relations amongst countries and amongst peoples in East Asia. The Comfort Women issue has been a continuous irritation between Korea and Japan,” Gary Skidmore, a colleague and friend of McCarthy at Drake University, said.
“I think it’s an interesting and significant topic and she (McCarthy) has spent a long time on the research that went into this. This is a piece that is based upon a lot of fact gathering… I doubt there are many political scientists that have more expertise on this than Professor McCarthy,” Skidmore said.
The Comfort Women is a topic that goes, heavily, unbeknownst in history. This topic isn’t covered in many textbooks, yet it causes social issues between many East Asian countries. The memorial in honor of these women has acknowledged the history of this event.
“I think it’s a great idea that a memorial should be done. Sometimes we’re so focused on the ‘bigger’ aspects of wars that we never take the time to remember people that went through the hardships,” first year Anthony Carrillo said.
“This is something that is generally not taught in American schools and it’s a period of history that we should be more aware of. It is giving voice to the previously voiceless, making the invisible, visible. But I think it is an important message about American politics and American society… and what it means to be an American and become a part of the fabric of American Society,” McCarthy said.