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.
bad neighborsAustralia Gets Dragged into Comfort Women Furor