Art work by comfort woman
Art work by comfort woman
“Punish the Responsible” by former ‘comfort woman’ Kang Duk-gyeong
The Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives located at Queensborough Community College in New York has decided to team up with the local Korean American association to install a permanent exhibition hall to introduce to Americans pain and suffering of comfort women who were forced to be sex slavers for the Japanese military by investing 80,000 U.S. dollars.
According to the Holocaust Resource Center & Archives and the Korean American Association of Greater New York on Monday (local time), Dr. Arthur Flug, executive director of the Holocaust center, visited the association’s office and agreed to implement the measure. Flug said, “We plan to create an exhibition hall at 100 sq. meter space within the center, and the center will pay 30,000 dollars of the 80,000-dollar expense.” The Korean American association will hold a board meeting next week and discuss measures to mobilize the remaining 50,000 dollars. The exhibition hall will display voice records of sex slavery victims, interview videos, photos and historical materials.
Chairman Min Seung-ki of the Korean association quoted Director Flug as saying at their meeting that “thinking what I would feel if my own granddaughter fell victim to sex slavery, I decided to do this without fail before I die. It is our obligation to teach next generations to ensure such a thing will never happen again.”
“The Korean American community should have taken the initiative, and we feel sorry that the Holocaust Center took the lead,” Min said. “If a permanent exhibition hall is installed, we expect it will spread to hundreds of other holocaust museums within the U.S.” The Holocaust Museum in Long Island, New York, is also reportedly considering setting a special exhibition hall jointly with a Korean American organization.
Japanese conservatives are taking the offensive in the battle over World War II sex slaves – and it seems likely to do them more harm than good.
Some 300 legislators from around Japan have sent a petition to the city of Glendale, Calif., demanding the removal of a statue honoring women who were forced or coerced into working in brothels serving the Japanese military during World War II.
Supporters of the memorials say as many as 200,000 women from Korea and other Asian countries were forced to work as so-called “comfort women.” The Glendale memorial was built largely at the request of the area’s large Korean-American community. It is a duplicate of a statue installed outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul – one of many irritants to Japan-South Korea relations.
At a Tokyo press conference Tuesday, opponents said the memorial spread “false propaganda” and has resulted in bullying, harassment and discrimination against Japanese residents in the Glendale area. “Japanese schoolchildren are suffering from bullying by Koreans. Some of them told us they feel anxiety because they must hide being Japanese. Korean people are presenting this as a human rights issue, but this can only lead to a new conflict of racial discrimination,” said Yoshiko Matsuura, a Tokyo-area assemblywoman and representative of a conservative group called the Japan Coalition of Legislators Against Fabricated History.
The press conference appeared to be part of a concerted campaign to push back against comfort women charges. Japanese activists in California filed suit in federal court last week demanding the U.S. government order the city of Glendale to remove the statue, situated in a public park. Earlier this week, a spokesman for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Japanese government would review a landmark 1993 government statement that apologized and admitted responsibility for operating the so-called comfort women system during the war. Any change to that statement is certain to further damage relations with South Korea and China, already at a low point over territorial claims and historical disputes.
Taking the fight over comfort women to the United States is a “huge mistake,” says Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based think tank.
“Clearly the American government is displeased by the notion that the Japanese are taking this argument to our shores and making it an American domestic political battle. It’s something they should settle themselves,” said Glosserman.
The issue already is causing controversy. Glendale’s sister city in Japan canceled a student exchange program in December in protest over the memorial. An online petition at the White House website in support of removing the Glendale statue has received 127,000 signatures; a petition in support of keeping it has attracted 106,000 signatures.
The memorial was installed in a public park in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles, in July 2013. It features a bronze statue of a young Korean woman sitting next to an empty chair. A stone plaque is etched, jarringly, with the title “I Was A Sex Slave of the Japanese Military.” A similar memorial has been built in New Jersey.
According to the lawsuit filed last week, installing the statue “exceeds the power of Glendale, infringes upon the federal government’s power to exclusively conduct the foreign affairs of the United States and violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Matsuura, who traveled to Glendale to deliver a copy of the petition to local officials last month, says the 1993 apology is based on unreliable and unverified testimony. She accused Korea of exporting the issue to the United States.
“We were shocked by a statue of a comfort girl in America, a third country, not in Korea. We have a responsibility to protest,” Matsuura said through an interpreter. A member of her husband’s family served in the Japanese Imperial Army during the war and was taken prisoner in Siberia, Matsuura said.
The Obama administration has become increasingly frustrated with the rightward tilt of Japan’s leadership. The State Department said it was “disappointed” with Abe’s visit in December to the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Japan’s role in World War II.
Weeks later, it labeled as “preposterous” public statements by an Abe-appointee to the board of the national broadcaster, NHK, that the United States had fabricated war crimes charges against Japan’s wartime leaders to cancel out America’s own war crimes, which he said include the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fire-bombings of Tokyo.
Glosserman says Japanese efforts to re-write wartime history are damaging the interests of both countries. “The United States wants Japan to be a more respected and more effective contributor to regional security, and to play a larger role in the region. And all that this historical revisionism does is undermine that,” he says.
By Time Magazine
“It’s just hideous not to acknowledge it (coercion of young women into sex slaves by Japanese army during World War II), there are so many witnesses who have spoken out about this,” Mrs Jan Ruff-O’Herne, a former wartime sex slave, was quoted by Australian newspaper the Age on Tuesday as saying.
Ruff-O’Herne expressed her anger from her home in South Australian city of Adelaide,saying that Japanese leaders must acknowledge the country’s history of war crimes.
Ruff-O’Herne, now 91, was captured as a teenager with her Dutch parents in Java, Indonesia. She was raped and beaten by Japanese soldiers and later coerced into a sex slave during the war. She migrated to Australia in the 1960s. Her photo is on display at the Australian War Memorial’s World War II section.
The report said that she kept secret her abuse at the hands of Japanese soldiers, even from her family for 50 years until speaking out in the early 1990s in support of South Korean comfort women seeking an apology from Japan.
“First it was only the Korean women, and nobody took any notice because ‘they were only Asian women’. But then when a European woman spoke out the world suddenly took notice,” Ruff-O’Herne said.
The pressure led to the Japanese government issuing a remarkable statement of “apologies and remorse” for abused women, with a promise to teach people about what had taken place.
The report also quoted Tessa Morris-Suzuki, an expert on modern Japanese history at the Australian National University, as saying that the “comfort women” issue had become symbolic in the revisionist drive trying to argue Japan was as much a victim as the aggressor.
“From the point of view of people like Mr. (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe and others in his government, it is something that makes Japan look very bad .. they want to say this didn’t happen, or it didn’t happen the way people think it did – or if it did happen, everybody else did it as well,” Morris-Suzuki said.
The report said that supporters of the abused women fear an attempt to airbrush history after Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga last week indicated the government wanted to verify the authenticity of testimony from 16 South Korean comfort women recorded in the lead-up to the 1993 apology.
“No inquiry has been launched but ultra-conservatives in Japan’ s parliament dismiss the stories and say there are no documents to prove Japanese soldiers forced women into sexual servitude,” the report said.
Ruff-O’Herne said the apology must stand.
“When such a terrible thing happens, you expect an apology. It was important for my healing process. It takes a lifetime to get over a thing like that,” she was quoted as saying.
From Canberra, Xinhua news agency