To everyone in the Korean community; Can we live peacefully together in Australia?

We are opposing the erection of Comfort Women statue in Sydney.
We have put together a message along with our Australian members to Korean people living in Australia on the Comfort Women statue issue.
We are hoping to share our view with many thoughtful Korean people and all other ethnic groups valuing the Australian multiculturalism.

To everyone in the Korean community;

Can we live peacefully together in Australia?

T Yamaoka
President, Australia-Japan Community Network (AJCN)

As you may be aware, the Japanese government has made another apology and promised to give 1 billion yen to South Korea to "finally and irreversibly” resolve the controversial "Comfort Women" issue at the end of last year. Unfortunately, however, a group of people with Korean background is still trying to erect the Comfort Women statue in Sydney. This group of people have strong connections with Chon Dae Hyup, a prominent organisation that declared to erect more "Comfort Women" statues around the world and jeopardise the governmental agreement. Chon Dae Hyup is believed to have ties with North Korea and it has been on the watch list of the South Korean government. 
No matter how they object to the agreement, however, it is extremely inappropriate to take this antagonistic action and disturb harmony in a country such as Australia that has nothing to do with this issue. Last year, in Strathfield where many people with Korean background reside, the proposal to erect the Comfort Woman statue was rejected by the Council, reasoning that it may cause significant disturbance to the peace and communal harmony.  Despite the peaceful opinion of the majority, some people are even more actively disparaging Japan by abusing their freedom of speech. Because of this, it is truly regrettable that even the majority of thoughtful, considerate Korean people are misunderstood to be a part of this anti-Japan group. Through our efforts to stop the erection of the statue in Strathfield last year, we met many Korean people who said that they didn't want the statue in Australia, but they were afraid to speak up because they were worried about their family's safety in South Korea if they appeared to be pro-Japanese (up until the governmental agreement was made between two countries the South Korean government was using this issue as a political tool to gain power over Japan).  
Koreans belonging to this anti-Japan group say, the reason of why Japanese people object is “that they do not want their barbaric act of past to be exposed.”  However, this is always the case that they are not seem to be interested in investigating historical facts. Are they really interested in representing history correctly?  It came to be known that up until recently the educational TV program for high school students in South Korea had been broadcasting the account of a Japanese communist, Seiji Yoshida, who claimed in his novel he conducted “abduction of women” on the Korean Peninsula as part of a Japanese military operation. Although his testimony was reported by the Asahi Newspaper as a fact at the time, he later confessed that it was a fictional story. Since then The Asahi Newspaper has withdrawn the articles and apologised to its readers. According to the official report in the US Archives Library, South Korean soldiers in the Japanese army who were arrested as prisoners of war by the US army during the World War II testified that:
“All Korean prostitutes that PoW have seen in the Pacific were volunteers or had been sold by their parents into prostitution. This is a proper Korean way of thinking. Conscription of women by the Japanese army would have outraged the old and young alike and they would not have tolerated such a scheme. Men would've risen up in rage, killing Japanese no matter what the consequences might have been."

Please note that most of the police officers in Korea were Koreans and several hundred thousands of Korean men also volunteered their services to the Japanese Army. What were they doing while their women were being abducted by the Japanese Army if the story were true?  Furthermore, when Yoshida published his fictional novel it was actually a Korean journalist who investigated the incidents on Jeju Island that he wrote about and was told that no such abductions ever took place by the Japanese army. 

We are not really interested in arguing over historical controversies here in Australia. However, we cannot remain silent, knowing that the anti-Japan demonstrations are still continuing and the potential erection of the Comfort Woman statue may cause racial abuse of Japanese children in schools here in Australia. The Japanese government has already made apologies numerous times and made many efforts to resolve this issue. 
This year, in spite of our efforts to keep the harmony, the minister of Ashfield Uniting Church is supporting the erection of the statue on his church land. What really upset us who live in the local community was that his interview regarding the statue was posted on Facebook by the anti-Japan activists group, and he called the Japanese people as “perpetrators.” How sad did Christian Japanese and local Australians feel by watching this video? 
How do the Korean people feel, if political demonstrations are conducted in front of the Korean Consulate General of Sydney repeatedly accusing them of war crimes that happened so many years ago? How would you feel if your church minister called you a perpetrator for something that you didn't do? How would you feel if the ex-comfort women from the Korean war and Vietnamese war erect the statues all over the world against your government? 

Are you aware that the Korean government still has not made any apologies to the comfort women of the Korean War nor to the victims of the Vietnam War? The fact that when Park Chung-hee who was the President at the time, the father of the current President Park Geun-hye, was directly involved in setting up comfort women stations under his governmental management for both UN troops and Korean troops during the Korean war. In the Vietnam war, Korean soldiers engaged in rape and murder of thousands of Vietnamese women, and forced Vietnamese women to work as prostitutes. The worst consequences of those rapes are the thousands of children born out of these barbaric acts- called the Lai Dai Han, a term for mixed blooded children who are viewed as disreputable and shunned by society to this very day. These are verified facts, with memorials which describe the Korean troops’ atrocities towards Vietnamese women in Vietnam during that war.

Many years have passed since then but the violation of Woman’s human rights in South Korea still continues as a very serious issue today. As members of the South Korean Parliament stated that “100,000 Korean women are working as prostitutes overseas,” half of them are working in Japan, and many of them are arrested in the US. The number of women involved in this sex industry is considerably large in relation to the population of South Korea. In Sydney, it is estimated that a thousand Korean women are working as prostitutes and many of them are forced to work in order to pay off debts with super-high interest rates that they owe to the Korean brokers who exploit them. 

Are anti-Japan activists really making efforts to rescue these Korean prostitutes who are being exploited in today's world?  Shouldn't we be compassionate towards all women who suffered during the war? Isn't it more important to deal with the current issues rather than something that happened more than 70 years ago? Shouldn't we be living here in Australia with the mind that values Australian multi-culturalism, diversity and harmony? 

The Japanese community in Australia have lived in peace and harmony for decades, and never had any conflict with any other racial groups. However, because of the anti-Japan propaganda carried out by the people who have a political agenda to divide the community, it is sad that many Japanese people began to feel afraid of going to Korean shops and restaurants. Some Japanese people who have Korean partners and/or Korean friends are finding it more and more difficult to deal with this issue without damaging their relationships. 

It is regrettable that our community harmony has been affected by this politically motivated anti-Japan propaganda, involving many innocent people and wasting our precious time and energy on an issue that is irrelevant to our community. We sincerely hope and pray for all our sakes that we can put our community harmony first. The majority of Japanese and Korean people in Australia understand the significance of sharing harmony, cooperation, and respect towards others. We wish to keep life and the future of this country in peace, with thoughtful South Korean people.

A monument depicting Korean troop’s war crime during Vietnam War