Australian city nixes ‘comfort women’ statue; Osaka urges San Francisco to not build one

JIJI, Kyodo

The city council of Strathfield has turned down a proposal to build a statue in the city in a suburb of Sydney honoring “comfort women,” who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers at military brothels before and during World War II.

The plan to put up the first statue in Australia to symbolize comfort women, mostly brought from the Korean Peninsula but also from China and other areas under Japanese occupation, was jointly proposed by Korean and Chinese civic groups.

The council’s rejection of the proposal, by a unanimous vote at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, has made it difficult for the groups to erect similar statues in other parts of the country, people familiar with the matter said.

Residents of Korean and Chinese ancestry are influential in Strathfield, as they account for 20 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of the city’s population of nearly 40,000.

At the council meeting, all six members agreed not to allow the installation of the memorial, pointing out that the move could divide the city’s communities and that it is not consistent with the city’s memorial policy. The meeting was swamped by about 300 people amid heightened interest in the matter.

Besides South Korea, comfort women statues have been built in the United States.

But in Australia, public sentiment against construction of such monuments has grown due to a campaign by civic group called Japanese Women for Justice and Peace, which claims there is no consensus on the issue of comfort women and that erecting such statues will fuel racial discrimination.

In a related move on Tuesday, Osaka Municipal Government officials said they will ask San Francisco’s city council to examine a resolution that supports the establishment of a statue to honor comfort women.

Osaka City Hall will send a letter to the assembly of its U.S. sister city expressing concerns that erecting such a statue could negatively affect the city-to-city relationship as well as diplomatic ties between Japan and the United States.

The letter will be sent by Sept. 8, when the San Francisco council, known as the board of supervisors, is scheduled to start debate on the resolution, Osaka officials said Tuesday.

“It’s true that women’s human rights were abused during World War II, but it’s not fair to say only Japan did something special,” Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said at a news conference in July, when he indicated his plan to send such a letter to San Francisco.

According to the Osaka Municipal Government, the San Francisco city council will discuss a resolution that states an estimated 200,000 Asian and other women were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese military during the war.

In 2013, the outspoken Hashimoto said Japan’s wartime system of sexual servitude was “necessary to maintain discipline” in the Japanese military before and during World War II, sparking criticism at home and abroad. He later said he did not personally hold the view that those women were necessary but was only describing the situation during wartime.

The San Francisco council subsequently adopted a resolution condemning Hashimoto’s remarks. Hashimoto also canceled a planned visit to San Francisco after he received a letter from a senior San Francisco official that urged him to do so due to the furor caused by his comments.

  • Douglas

    Good old Aussie common sense.

  • brwstacsj

    Yeah San Francisco for standing up against whitewashing history and allowing the quashing of a possible memorial for the comfort women. Japan as a nation needs to accept what its soldiers did during WWII, the same can be said of any other nation, including mine, the USA. Glad to know Mayor Hashimoto canceled his visit to San Francisco. It’s too liberal of a city and he and it would not really mesh. Honestly, that that man could say that the sexual enslavement of women was ok become it maintained Japanese military discipline! Too bad time travel isn’t possible because I would love to send this guy back as a woman that was kidnapped and forced into being raped repeatedly by Japanese soldiers. I think he develop a different opinion very quickly.

    • johnniewhite

      Look at who is doing this promotion of hate and the increasing sex crimes there. You will then see that CWI has several faces — one is to hide the criminal activities there today. More important, of course, is to split Japan – US relationship, so that the CCP can do whatever they like in South China Sea and East China Sea, preparing to come out to the Pacific. The Global Alliance (funded by CCP) is behind this. Can you not see that?

    • Fred Orangefield

      Are you really an American? Your grammar is strange — influence from Korean syntactic features…

  • Ahojanen

    The issue has been settled with the 1965 treaty and 1993 agreement. Period.

    By continuing to politicize this issue (for own political benefits), Korean activists have acutally been hurting the dignity of former “comfort women.”

    • johnniewhite

      You have said it fully and completely.

    • Toolonggone

      In technicality of diplomatic standpoint, yes.

      Unfortunately, it does not reflect the public understanding of the issue up until today. Speaking of humiliation, Japanese right-wingers and like-minded civic group such as Japanese Women for Justice and Peace are no different from some unidentified Korean activists in offending the victims.

      • Ahojanen

        Further awareness and deeper understanding may be necessary, which I think however has little to do with Australia or elsewhere. The latest decision was sensible.

      • Toolonggone

        I have no issue with Australian city’s decision. Public understanding doesn’t need political resolution, but frustrating that attempt is not the ultimate goal of JWJP and right-wing organizations. They want a total eradication of the issue from national history, which is, in my view, unrealistic and naive.

  • johnniewhite

    The case of Hashimoto tells clearly how the media manipulates what one says out of the original context to silence the voice that they do not want to hear. His main message was that the use of prostitutes during the war was necessary for good reasons, and all the other countries did the similar, and much worse things. Journalists should investigate his claims whether it holds truth or not, rather than twisting what he said was politically correct or not.

  • johnniewhite

    It is good to know that the people of Stratford, Australia, has common sense, and was not deceived by the propaganda by those groups to discriminate Japanese people living there. It is nothing other than causing hatrid and division among the community.