Media Release : Unveiling Ceremony of Comfort Woman Statue

Media Release

7 August 2016

Unveiling Ceremony of Comfort Woman Statue

It is regrettable that the Korean group disobeyed the conditions set by the council for the last minute approval of the unveiling ceremony. They used the car park and put offensive banners as many as they wanted while banners were banned. This is the typical nature of such a ceremony.

Having watched the ceremony and interviewed by media we realized we were facing the stereotype labelling.

1. Opposing statue means denying the history and women’s suffering.
2. Erecting statue means supporting women’s human right.

80% of the members of AJCN are mothers with children. They were deeply concerned with the aggression posed by the Korean group knowing Japanese children were subject to discrimination and bullying in the U.S. where such statues had been erected.

We heard of many stories such as Korean students are insulting Japanese students by calling them “rapists” and spitting over Japanese students’ lunch box. When Japanese mothers complain to the school their children are further bullied for revenge. A Japanese lady who opposed such a statue in her town received a letter from a Korean man saying “If you were not an old woman I would beat you up.” She had to report to police. This case will be heard in court. We also have received a couple of similar emails full of anger and hatred all ending with “I am disgusted with you.”
These are the common dark characteristic of statue supporters. (We also received supportive emails from Korean people)

Needless to say, it is always important to pay tribute to women who suffered in war. But it is also important to protect human right of women and children living now. That is why we founded AJCN and many Australian husbands joined to protect their Japanese wives and half Japanese children. This is what we are. Our slogan is “Harmony must come first”. Strathfield Council fully supported our idea and unanimously declined the proposal to erect a statue by the same Korean people.

It is hard to comprehend that those Korean people are aggressively demanding apology while they are opposing the governmental agreement. If you are genuinely concerned with women’s welfare you would support the agreement to move on. The Australian government is officially supporting the agreement. However there is no surprise because the group called Chon Dae Hyup based in Seoul erecting such statues all over the world and driving this move in Sydney is the one who opposed the past reconciliation efforts as well.

About twenty years ago the Japanese government established Asian Women’s Fund. They paid individual former comfort women and personally handed a Prime Minister’s apology letter. Yet Chon Dae Hyup pressured women not to receive money and insulted those women who received money as betrayer. Their persistent destructive behavior finally stalled the reconciliation efforts. This new agreement is making sure to succeed with the full commitment of the South Korean government. But they are trying to destroy again by erecting statues and holding such ceremonies full of accusation. Who do you think is benefiting from conflicts between Japan and South Korea? Why do they need to erect that many statues to commemorate women’s suffering? Do they really care about women’s human right after all?

We propose to honor women of all nationalities. We should not forget the Korean women treated as military supply by the South Korean government and Vietnamese women raped and slaughtered by South Korean troops. We should not forget the fact that the majority of comfort women were Japanese who never asked compensation. The Japanese government should compensate them as well. The Japanese government was forced to establish comfort stations for occupying soldiers as thousands of rape incidents were reported in the first month or two of the occupation after the WWII. We must not forget women living now, either. We should rescue those numerous number of young Korean prostitutes trafficked by Korean brokers deeply soaked in debt. We did point these out to the Korean Society but we received no reply.

Rev Bill Crew’s comment “"We are singling out those Japanese people that offended, we are not singling out Japanese people as a whole." is utterly nonsensical. Then why does he need to erect a statue in Ashfield? Isn’t it more relevant to erect a statue of all the young children sexually abused by Uniting Church Australia if they had paid 2 million dollars for compensation? Only the one who has never sinned should throw a stone.

We explained our concerns in full detail to Rev Crews but he never addressed them. He replied only once when we asked him how he was addressing the South Korean government’s own comfort woman system. He just said “I think all governments are bad.”

We do have a very serious reason to oppose the statue but it appears that neither the Korean group nor Rev Crews is prepared for a rational discussion. If they were genuinely working for women’s human right they would also reflect on their own acts and would not intimidate other ethnic groups in a third country. Having seen the ceremony and listened to their speeches we are convinced that the statue is a symbol of hatred and a tool of the people who need a conflict for their own political purpose and existence.

We seek a genuine sympathy and compassion to all the women who suffered in war. We must work towards reconciliation rather than endless accusation. We must work together to rescue women living now. Therefore we do not approve the statue and the superficial labelling. If we allow importing foreign disputes into local communities Australian multiculturalism will easily fall apart.

Tesshu Yamaoka
Australia-Japan Community Network

About the Comfort Woman Statue

Media Release
4 August 2016

About the Comfort Woman Statue

Last year Strathfield Council unanimously declined the proposal to erect a comfort woman statue with a genuine reason.  The statue was not only breaching council policy but also unwanted by the majority of the community simply because it was only dividing the community while the matter was totally unrelated to the community.  We should respect the decision.  One of the councilors who voted against said at the end of the extraordinary meeting in which the decision was made "Go home as Australian".  That is the spirit we represent. 

We have been deeply shocked by the fact that Rev Crews of Uniting Church Ashfield suddenly appeared over the Internet is publicly calling the Japanese “perpetrators” and demanding apology in public.  He does not explain why he is then supporting the Korean group trying to jeopardize the governmental agreement between Japan & South Korea to formally settle the matter.  It appears a sheer contradiction to us.  Rev Crews declared that he is going to erect the comfort woman statue on his church grounds facing the public road to pressure “perpetrators” to apologize.  Obviously he considers the local Japanese community “perpetrators”.  He also commented “It is dividing the community anyway, so just apologize.”  This is far more than just “honoring comfort women” and this is the clear evidence that the statue always comes with hatred and aggression.  It is extremely unfair for the Japanese community having to face this kind of one-sided intimidation while the matter has got nothing to do with the local community where we have been living in harmony with all other ethnic groups. It is in addition a breach of the Racial Discrimination Laws of Australia.

The Korean group has been running anti-Japan campaigns across Sydney.  They are driven by a political activist group based in Seoul sharply confronting their own government by trying to jeopardize the governmental agreement that Australian government also supports.  This is clearly a politically motivated activity rather than a pure commemoration.  It is also a contradiction that they demand apology while they try to boycott the governmental agreement by running anti-Japan campaigns.  Most former comfort women are welcoming the agreement and only some women under the activist group’s influence are opposing as they always do.   The Korean group does not seem to care the proven fact that the South Korean government was running their own comfort woman system during the Korean War and Vietnam War and still refusing to apologize to both Korean and Vietnamese women who were brutalized by South Korean soldiers.  The Japanese government offered apology many times. It is pointless and even hypocritical to one-sidedly blame others without reflecting on their own acts.   We should not discriminate women who suffered in war.  

Accordingly we do not consider the statue a “peace monument”, particularly in view of the aggressive language accompanying the discussion.  We are a group of mums and dads determined to protect our local community and our children from any racially agitated discrimination that already happened overseas where such statues were erected.  We can always talk about history but community harmony must come first. 

We request Rev Bill Crews immediately stop his irrelevant intimidation of the local Japanese community and simply support the efforts of the two governments trying to finally settle the sensitive matter.  There are many Uniting Church members opposing his acts and we do not understand why he is ignoring them.  We wish to avoid any further conflict by way of litigation and so we also urge the Korean Society of Sydney to peacefully hold whatever ceremony on Saturday inside their premises leased from the Council without any aggression and/or intimidation towards other ethnic groups and follow a number of conditions and the guide not to display the statue in public view even inside the building given by the Canterbury-Bankstown Council.  We all respect freedom of speech but at the same time we respect the Anti-Discrimination laws of Australia and we are responsible to maintain and protect community harmony that is the essential element of Australian multiculturalism. 

Lastly we express our appreciation for the efforts of the Council and in particular their letter to our lawyer Rick Mitry dated today in which conditions require activities in relation to the Statue to be discreet and say ‘Council has, is, and will always remain committed to all sections of our community without favour’. 

Tesshu Yamaoka
President, Australia-Japan Community Network

A scene of an unveiling ceremony in California

Placards carried by Korean activists