Gift to Center for Korean Studies will fund creative arts projects on ‘comfort women'
“We are deeply grateful for this gift and the creative possibilities it offers students to make their understanding of the history and experience of comfort women something deeply personal.”
Namhee Lee, director, Center for Korean Studies
UCLA International Institute, September 12, 2022 — The UCLA Center for Korean Studies, or CKS, has received a $200,000 gift commitment from an anonymous donor to fund creative arts projects and research related to “comfort women.” To date, CKS has received the first of several annual installments toward the total commitment.
Comfort women refers to women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and worked in so-called comfort stations (i.e., brothels) throughout the Pacific theater of the war — a group that included Korean, Chinese and Filipina women.
CKS will use the gift to create a permanent endowment fund dedicated to the topic of comfort women, interpreted broadly to include all women who experienced sexual violence during World War II and beyond. The fund will support four key endeavors:
- an ongoing archive (to be shared online in the future) of materials on the Japanese military and comfort women during World War II, organized and maintained by CKS in conjunction with the Glendale-based Comfort Women Action for Redress and Education, or CARE (formerly KAFC), and the American Law Center at the Korea University School of Law in Seoul;
- literary, visual and performance pieces created by UCLA students, student associations and faculty that illuminate issues related to comfort women, together with student and faculty research on the topic;
- a one-credit Fiat Lux seminar on comfort women for undergraduate Bruins; and
- collaborative international programming on comfort women at CKS and the International Institute.
“We thank the donor for their generous gift,” said Cindy Fan, vice provost for international studies and global engagement at UCLA. “As we see again in the current war in Ukraine, sexual violence against women is, unfortunately, not uncommon during armed conflict — and takes a terrible toll on women and their families. A permanent endowment dedicated to this issue is of true value.”
“We are deeply grateful for this gift and the creative possibilities it offers students to make their understanding of the history and experience of comfort women something deeply personal,” said CKS Director Namhee Lee, professor of modern Korean history in the UCLA Department of Asian Languages and Cultures.
“As a professor, I believe the arts are a powerful tool of education. I have found that asking students to produce a creative piece — whether a poem, play, musical composition, dance, digital arts creation or a painting — leads to enthusiasm for the learning and research process. The result is a meaningful creation for them personally, as well as for their peers and teachers.”
The annual funding generated by the endowment will initially be small, although it will grow over time. For the next several years, CKS will make available annual funding of $4,000 for comfort women–related public programming, creative projects and research, comprised of income from both the anonymous gift and the center’s own endowment. Over time, the endowment created by the donor gift will support the program.
“Given that the center will not be ready to make awards to individual students and showcase their work before 2023, CKS has committed to providing initial funding for two projects,” said Lee. “ The first will be a campus performance of ‘Unforgotten Song’ — a musical and multimedia piece about the comfort women created by Korean musician gamin [Gamin Kang, Ph.D.].”
A renowned musical soloist who plays the traditional Korean instruments piri (double-reed oboe), taepyeonso (double-reed horn) and saenghwang (mouth organ), gamin will be a visiting lecturer at the department of ethnomusicology of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music in winter and spring 2023, during which time she will perform the piece on campus.
“CKS will also provide some funding for a musical composition by a UCLA faculty member that was in development long before the gift transpired,” adds Lee.
The faculty piece — a work for female voice, flutes and electronics — will be composed by Kay Rhie, assistant professor of composition and theory at the music school. The work will be based on selected texts written by Korean poets and novelists about women who experienced sexual violence during World War II and will eventually be performed at UCLA and other venues.
The Center for Korean Studies plans to publish an official call for proposals and make decisions on a first round of student/faculty creative awards in fall quarter 2022. Student works will eventually be curated on the center’s website as they are completed and/or performed.