This panel examines how Japan, China, and South Korea use museums to incorporate their interpretations of the delicate and controversial colonial and Asia-Pacific wartime periods, focusing on how these states weave these histories into their longer national narratives.
The recent conflicts that have erupted between the Northeast Asian states over the past three decades are in part centered on how twentieth century wars are to be remembered. Collective war memories influence the views that citizens hold of their nation, as well as those of the peoples their country victimized in these wars. That Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) script their wartime participation as just, that they tend to emphasize their victimization over the victims they create, is hardly unique. That these narratives are publicly contested by neighboring states, however, is. This panel focuses first on how the three states attempt to incorporate their colonial and war histories into their national narrative, second, how these narratives are contested by others, and third, how this contestation influences their respective national narratives. Ken Ruoff's paper focuses on descriptions of ROK interpretations of Japan's colonial-era memories in history museums located in the capital, and even in museums dedicated to telling the stories of ROK government post-liberation suppression of its people. Xiaohua Ma contrasts the media-driven disagreements that have arisen between Japan and China with the more positive advancements that have occurred in recent times. Focusing on "Peace Museums" that have emphasized the darker side of this relationship she considers how they may be reconfigured to contribute to healing the wounds of the past. Mark Caprio, focusing on victimhood, examines how Japanese and ROK war museums have justified their less than honorable actions in recent wars, Japanese in the Asia-Pacific War and Koreans in the Vietnam War.