A Corpus-Driven Project: How does Mainland China News Media Cover Comfort Women (2016-2021)
During WWII, Japan forced women from China, Korea, and other countries in Asia to become military sex slaves. They were called ianfu (慰安婦) in Japanese, or comfort women. The comfort women's history was neglected in post-war society until the early 1990s; with support from scholars, feminist groups, and human rights groups, the public began to know more about comfort women. The shared stories of comfort women's history are constructed in a representation of the past by the relevant testimonies, historical studies, and coverage, where the media narrative has contributed to the public awareness and collective memories of comfort women. This project investigates the interaction between news media coverage and the word "comfort women": how does Mainland China news media cover comfort women? The research corpus developed for this project contains 3173 newspaper articles in Mainland China from 2016 to 2021. This period starts with a Japan–South Korea Comfort Women Agreement announced at the end of 2015, which sparks coverage of this agreement and Japan-South Korea relations in Chinese news media. Building on previous work on the topic of Chinese news media representations of comfort women, this project explores the news in the following six years, points out the changes from the previous years. It also furthers research comparing central state media and local media. The method of this project incorporates content analysis and textual analysis of the corpus, diction, and relevant news events. The technological intervention includes data crawling, data visualization, and web development. The research finds that the coverage uses the word "comfort women" in both political and humanities contexts; the former means that comfort women can refer to the barrier to Japan-South Korea relations and the war crime, and the latter means comfort women are considered the victims in a documentary and the victims themselves. Although Mainland China media in this period had a particular focus on the Japan-South Korea relation, the fundamental goal was to criticize Japan's right-wing stance on the comfort women issue, demonstrating China's national discourse. Meanwhile, the national discourse has also contributed to the widespread dissemination of comfort women's stories and the success of relevant documentaries. Additionally, the lack of humanistic focus in the coverage may be due to the limited social activities about comfort women in China's society. Regarding the comparison between central state media and local media, this study reveals some similarities, but local media tend to focus more on the domestic news that has the potential to attract the public. The study predicts that the political factor may continue to dominate the comfort women topic in future coverage.
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