In the wake of the Asia-Pacific War, Korean survivors of the "comfort women" system-those bound into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during the war-lived under great pressure not to speak about what had happened to them. Hearts of Pine brings us into the lives of three such survivors: Pak Duri, Mun Pilgi, and Bae Chunhui. Over the course of eight years, author Joshua Pilzer worked with these now-elderly women, smoking with them, eating with them, singing and playing with them, trying to understand and document their worlds of song. During four decades of secrecy and the subsequent decades of the "comfort women" protest movement, singing served these women as a means of coping with and expressing their experiences, forging and sustaining identities and social relationships, and recording and conveying their struggles and philosophies of life. Through these intimate portraits,
Hearts of Pine illustrates the personal and social power of music vis-a-vis other expressive media, models a humanistic history of modern Korean music, and presents heretofore unrecorded histories of the "comfort women" system and postwar South Korean public culture written in women's song.
Joshua Pilzer is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology in the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto.