[KS] H-ASIA: REVIEW Hill of Joshua D. Pilzer, Hearts of Pine: Songs in the Lives of Three Korean Survivors of the Japanese "Comfort Women"

Frank Joseph Shulman fshulman at umd.edu
Tue Apr 16 14:40:05 EDT 2013


April 16, 2013

Book Review (orig. publ. H-WAR) by Andrew Hill on Joshua D. Pilzer.
Hearts of Pine: Songs in the Lives of Three Korean Survivors of the
Japanese "Comfort Women"

From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>

Joshua D. Pilzer.  Hearts of Pine: Songs in the Lives of Three Korean
Survivors of the Japanese "Comfort Women".  New York
Oxford University Press, 2012.  xv + 191 pp.  $99.00 (cloth), ISBN
978-0-19-975956-9; $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-19-975957-6.

Reviewed by Andrew Hill (MSUM)
Published on H-War (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

Music and Memories of a Hard Life

Having spent four years living and working in Korea, I was looking
forward to reading this work about "comfort women," a topic that I
became aware of during my first year living there. Prior to and
during WWII, the Japanese military used many Korean and other women
as prostitutes serving military camps all over their sphere of
influence. In Korea, several of these former comfort women have been
demanding an apology from the Japanese government since the war.
Joshua D. Pilzer takes an unusual approach in his examination of this
topic; he looks at the effect that the experience has had on three
former comfort women, Pak Duri, Bae Chunhui, and Mun Pilgi, as
conveyed through their music. A multimedia text, this study includes
recordings of the women stored on the World Wide Web. Readers should
have a computer available when reading this book as notations
throughout the work point to audio files on the web. These files are
easily accessible through common browsers and plug-ins do not appear
to be necessary.

Some readers might be confused by some references that seem at times
strange.This confusion stems from cultural differences. A good deal
is "lost in translation." Music is very important in Korean culture;
during various gatherings, on tour buses, and at business parties,
someone typically starts to sing Karaoke style. And most Koreans have
a "favorite song" that they sing on demand.

Pilzer's fluency in Hangeul enables him to enter into the lives and
personalities of the three women described in the text. Not
surprisingly, he does not rely extensively on the wartime experiences
of the women. Former comfort women who suffered at the hands of the
Japanese do not often talk about their wartime experiences, which
included unwillingly servicing up to fifty Japanese servicemen per
day. Pilzer details the rest of their lives and their musical
expressions, from Pak Duri who sometimes takes over a group with her
song to less outgoing Bae Chunhui who is fluent in multiple languages
and ran song houses.

The book is divided into three general sections: an introduction to
the three women and comfort women in general, biographies and the
musical stories of the three individuals, and an appendix with Pak
Duri's personal testimony. I suggest that readers, after
familiarizing themselves with the history of comfort women, view the
personal testimony as the second chapter, in which one of the women
speaks directly to readers for herself, and then follow into the
stories of the three women as related by the author. The text flows
more easily when read in this order and gives a more thorough
understanding of why the women are who they are today.

The inclusion of the web-based sound files is incredible. I truly
enjoyed listening to the music, which was translated in the book; it
gave a greater depth and meaning to the songs and greatly enhanced
the text. At times I could easily imagine myself in the bus or room
with the women as they sang. In addition to music, Pilzer also
includes artwork, showing another outlet for these women to portray
their feelings and experiences.

Overall, this is an incredibly good text, expanding the work on the
history of comfort women, using an unusual and interesting
methodology. While reading the book I was at times reminded of my own
visit to the House of Sharing where the women stay, and of my own
experience listening to a translation of the story of one of the
women. This is a definite must read for anyone who is researching
Korea, comfort women, or the Japanese army in WWII.

Citation: Andrew Hill. Review of Pilzer, Joshua D., Hearts of Pine:
Songs in the Lives of Three Korean Survivors of the Japanese
"Comfort Women&quot. H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2013.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=38317

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

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