Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This study investigates journalistic representations and discursive constructions of memories of the Asia-Pacific War (1931-45) in three newspapers from three East Asian countries: Japan, China, and South Korea. These three countries have been having decades-long debates over how to interpret and recount what happened in East Asia during the war. Numerous people perished during the wars Japan waged in pursuit of its ambition to be a great Asian empire. The debates over war memories intensified during the past decade due to “memory politics” in the region. Among the many atrocities that have been the subject of international disputes, this study explores media discourses of three of the most heated controversies associated with the Asia-Pacific War: the Yasukuni Shrine controversy, the “Comfort Women” controversy, and the Japanese textbooks revisionism controversy.
There are two theoretical groundings that support this study: “memory and politics,” and “journalistic discourses of memory.” Regarding memory and politics, this study approaches the topic from a collective/cultural memory perspective. In this regard, the three controversies over war memories were theoretically identified as sites of memory by which war memories were articulated and reinvented. As for the journalistic aspect, this study focuses on the cultural meanings of journalism and news. The cultural approach in journalistic study views texts as cultural artifacts that represent key values and meanings. Journalism plays a major role in creating, transmitting, and articulating memories. A critical discourse analysis was the primary method that was employed to investigate the discursive constructions of memory through news texts. An interpretive policy analysis was also conducted to examine official stances of the three countries with respect to war memories.
The analysis has found that the three newspapers were agents of collective memory. They articulated the meanings of national memory based upon what they believed to be the most appropriate interpretations of their nations’ past. Political circumstances and ideological stances greatly influenced their coverage of war memories. Their coverage has shown that East Asia still lives under the shadow of the Asia-Pacific War that ended more than a half century ago. Memory has not been forgotten because it has been reinterpreted and reconstructed mirroring the national, social, political, and international climate. Situated at the center of such reproduction of memory, the three newspapers were also sites of memory.
The three newspapers’ active involvement in the historical controversies exceeded what scholars described as common features of commemorative journalism. The controversies surrounding war memories and the newspapers’ construction of memory have shown that journalism is a cultural practice and that a cultural approach is necessary in journalism studies to gain a more holistic understanding of the representation of social events in the news.
Collective Memory, East Asia, Journalism, Mass Media, Newspapers, The Asia-Pacific War
Copyright 2010 Choong Hee Han