When the US Army footage documenting the Korean victims of wartime sex slavery in the Imperial Japanese Army in China was discovered and released to the public in the summer of 2017, some South Korean academics questioned whether it should be understood as new evidence since it was believed that some of the subjects of the moving image had already been seen and located in photographs discovered previously in the 1990s. This reaction seemed diametrically opposed to that of the mainstream media (and social media), which excitedly praised the discovery of the “brand‐new” evidential document depicting those moving women.

This article examines the politics of using film footage excavated from archives long after the original production of the film. Both types of reactions shown toward the “comfort women” footage shared the same attitude, which viewed the footage as a repository containing certain photographic‐mechanical evidence to prove someone's existence in a scientific manner. Such a belief in the scientific nature of camera images bears a striking similarity with positivist historical approaches. Contrastingly, what Kracauer saw in film as a medium was rather the presence of things that are difficult to freeze and solidify. His concept of the “flow of life” describes an affinity with life (in the form of everyday life) that he theorized films possess but photographs do not. This article seeks a visual sociological method to explore film as a medium that embodies the reality of the subalterns and, if circumstances allow, speaks on their behalf.

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