mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
bad neighbors
Australia Gets Dragged into Comfort Women Furor

What do the city of Glendale, California, and the Sydney, Australia suburb of Strathfield have in common? No, it’s not gorgeous weather. Both cities have found themselves unwillingly caught up in an international historical battle between Japan on one side and China and South Korea on the other. The battle is over sex slavery.

An Australia-based group called the United Chinese Korean Alliance Against Japanese Warcrimes is campaigning to have a statue dedicated to comfort women erected in Strathfield. Once the location was made public, Japanese activists went to work. A deputy mayor of Strathfield reports receiving dozens of emails a day, most from Japan, condemning the statue plan and arguing that the comfort women idea is a myth. “I’ve read a lot of letters that have come through to Strathfield Council,” Carol Ruff, daughter of 90-year old comfort woman, told an Australian news outlet. “They are quite hateful. They are really upsetting. I actually couldn’t read them all. They were really nasty and vindictive and when I think that my mother and the other 200,000 other comfort women suffered at the hands of the Japanese military in the enforced slavery, for them to be written off as voluntary prostitutes, paid women, it’s an insult.”

Glendale is going through the same experience. The city already has a statue dedicated to comfort women. It’s a copy of the one that stands outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul, which is a major irritant to some Japanese. 300 Japanese legislators sent a letter to Glendale demanding that the statue be destroyed earlier this year. They said it “spreads false propaganda.”

The comfort women issue is one controversy in a string of prominent reasons Japan is struggling to get along with its neighbors. Conservative lawmakers, led by the hawkish prime minister Shinzo Abe, have said and done some pretty confrontational things in recent months. One ally of Abe’s said the Nanjing massacre “never happened.” Abe himself has visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where he paid his respects to the souls of several Class A war criminals. Meanwhile, the Abe administration’s decision to allow Japanese defense manufactures to export military equipment for the first time in decades won’t make the neighbors any happier with Tokyo.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Honk

    Thank goodness for the treaty of tokyo bay.

  • Maynerd

    Japan’s outright denial of WWII atrocities is very disturbing. On the other hand when will statues honoring the millions of victims of Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot be erected?

    China has invaded, suppressed, and run ruin over Tibet. Maybe Sydney and Glendale can construct monuments to the Tibetan people as well.

    On the brighter side, this would be a nice jobs program for struggling artists.

    • Tim Godfrey

      Both Korea and China are rewriting history in order to smear Japan and have their self serving narrative of WW2 be accepted as the “truth” by the rest of the world. Japan is responding with its version of events which is just as biased. The truth is likely somewhere between the two extremes.

      Korea’s attempt to get these statues put up in foreign countries has outraged many Japanese to the point where they don’t really care what the subtle complexities are. They feel they need to counter Korea’s propaganda and are trying to do it.

      I think westerners should refuse to get involved in such debates with statues or any other statement. Getting involved simply raises the stakes and makes things worse.

      • samurai in au

        I myself is a Japanese and I agree with many points. However, I would like to point out that you probably did not know that Japan had apologized and proposed compensating the victims of Japan’s war crimes. Please refer below. The problem is the westerners do not research well enough before they conclude Japan as 100% evil. Behind this movement there is always China and Korea’s anti-Japan policy and we, Japanese, have learnt no matter how much we apologise or pay compensation, it will never be enough. Especially, China as national policy, they encourage people to hate Japan in order to distract its own people from their corrupted govt.

        Korea’s action of installing the “comfort girl” statue right in front of Japanese Embassy is crossing the line of minimum courtesy as a mature nation.

        Anyways, appreciate if you take a minute to read the following;

        Japan-Korea Peace Treaty of 1965

        The Korean government demanded a total of 364 million dollars in compensation for the 1.03 million Koreans conscripted into the workforce and the military during the colonial period,[7] at a rate of 200 dollars per survivor, 1,650 dollars per death and 2,000 dollars per injured person.[8] South Korea agreed to demand no further compensation, either at the government or individual level, after receiving $800 million in grants and soft loans from Japan as compensation for its 1910–45 colonial rule in the treaty.[9]

        However, the South Korean government used most of the grants for economic development,[10] failing to provide adequate compensation to victims by paying only 300,000 won per death in compensating victims of forced labor between 1975 and 1977.[8] Instead, the government spent most of the money establishing social infrastructures, foundingPOSCO, building Gyeongbu Expressway and the Soyang Dam with the technology transfer from Japanese companies.[11] This investment was named Miracle on the Han River in South Korea.

  • Breif2

    “the Abe administration’s decision to allow Japanese defense manufactures to export military equipment for the first time in decades won’t make the neighbors any happier with Tokyo.”

    ??? While the usual bien-pensant suspects in Korea will sputter and the Chinese will be apoplectic, I daresay that most of Japan’s neighbors will be very happy to acquire its military equipment.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service