Regional tensions have escalated and the threat of North Korea seems to be amplified by political conflicts. Now South Korea and Japan need to reconcile their differences immediately in order to unite against the lingering threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and tyrannical leader Kim Jong-un.
This is easier said than done. South Korean citizens are largely still angry about lude and inhumane acts conducted by Japan from 1910 to 1945. When World War II ended Japan’s occupying army aimed to colonize Korea. During this time Japan forced thousands of Korean women into brothels for Japans occupying army’s sexual pleasure.
In response to this travesty, The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan put up a statue as a solemn reminder of the horrible comfort women stories. The Statue of Peace is often referred to as The Korean Comfort Women Statue or Sonyeosang which the literal translation is “statue of a girl”.
Designed by the couple Kim Seo-Kyung and Kim En-sung, the heart-rendering statue is of women seated on a bench across the road from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. She is looking straight ahead with her hands in her lap. Often passers-by and sympathizers will place woven scarves or cloaks around her.
This statue was put in place to invoke remembrance and the need for apologies. This Statue of Peace invokes embarrassment for Japanese officials and citizens who have repeatedly urged Seoul to have it removed Despite demands, the statue still stands due to the diligence of the Seoul and the victims. The Japanese government never publically admitted direct involvement with the military and the victims now referred to as the comfort women.
In Busan outside the Japanese consulate, a sister statue has been erected. Busan is the second largest city in Japan. The Committee of Youth for Erecting a Peace monument is the responsible party. This non-government organization’s placement of the statue has struck a nerve with Japanese officials. Although the statue was removed, it was later resurrected. Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada called the shrine deplorable during a visit to the Shrine for Japan’s war heroes.
The erection of this stature has sparked frustration when Prime Minister Shinzo ordered the return of several diplomats. Japan has threated to stop discussions on currency swap agreements. Japan’s frustration is growing with the situation. They believed their shameful actions had been properly reconciled. The extended apologies and paid a settlement to the surviving victims.
Although Japan may see this situation as properly reconciled, many Koreans do not feel the same. Not all of the “comfort women” accepted the settlement. The public portrayal of their testimonies can be seen in the movie that aired just 2 months after the agreement, “Spirits Homecoming”. Due to the controversial situation, this movie took over a decade to make and was mostly privately funded.
With upcoming elections and popular public opinion on the matter, The Korean Comfort Women statues may not be going anywhere for a while. Personal accounts have that volunteers encourage others to stay close to the sides of the comfort women statues.
Seoul had initially agreed to remove the statue but has yet to hold up their end of the bargain.
This issue is not going away anytime soon but in the meantime, there is the escalating threat from North Korea and the rogue statements from Donald Trump that put the region in serious danger. These matters need to be set aside for the time being so the leaders of both South Korea and Japan can align forces to protect the region against the threat of nuclear attack or invasion from Kim Jon Yung’s regime.