Friday, December 16, 2011

The Comfort Woman Statue

So now I know what was really ticking off the crowd of folks I ran into on Wednesday.
Statue Deepens Dispute Over Wartime Sex Slavery
The New York Times

The unsmiling teenage girl in traditional Korean dress sits in a chair, her feet bare, her hands on her lap, her eyes fixed on the Japanese Embassy across a narrow street in central Seoul. Within a day, the life-size bronze statue had become the focal point of a simmering diplomatic dispute as President Lee Myung-bak prepared to visit Tokyo this weekend.

The statue, named the Peace Monument, was financed with citizens' donations and installed Wednesday, when five women in their 80s and 90s who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II held their thousandth weekly protest in front of the embassy, joined by their supporters.

For them and many other Koreans, the statue — placed so that Japanese diplomats see it as they leave their embassy — carries a clear message: Japan should acknowledge what it did to as many as 200,000 Asian women, mostly Koreans, who historians say were forced or lured into working as prostitutes at frontline brothels for Japanese soldiers.

The Japanese government's main spokesman, the chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura, called the installation of the statue "extremely regrettable" and said that his government would ask that it be removed. South Korean officials said Japan cited international treaties that required host governments to help protect the dignity of diplomatic missions. On Thursday, South Korea made it clear that it had no intention of forcing the protesters to remove the statue...

Well, OK, the statue is there to stay. Lest it become a permanent sore in Japan-South Korea relations and a focal point of anti-Korean sentiment in Japan (as it was on Wednesday) the Japanese Embassy should follow some good advice:
"Dont't get mad; get even."

- Robert F. Kennedy

"You say potato and I say potahto.
You say tomato and I say tomahto.
Potato. Potahto. Tomato. Tomahto.
Let's call the whole thing off."

- George and Ira Gershwin
If anyone had half a gram of sense in the Japanese Embassy in Seoul or at the Foreign Ministry in Kasumigaseki, there should have been a press release:
In Seoul today, opposite the Japanese Embassy, a peace statue was unveiled, commemorating the positve contributions of the Japanese occupation and annexation of Korea. The statue is of a young Korean woman, sitting in a chair. She is happy because she is attending her first day in class, an opportunity extended to her by the education policies of the Japanese authorities. Especially meaningful is that she can receive an education despite her poverty, symbolized by her bare feet. At the same time, the young woman is sad, as the chair beside her is empty. The empty chair represents the wasted lives of millions of young women held back by the repressive paternalism of Korean society."
And let it go at that.

Art is plastic, open to interpretation. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

The statue helps out in that it is ambiguous. The expression on the young woman's face is not unsmiling, as The New York Times states with conviction. It is at best blank, with a bias toward cheerful.

Lest anyone think I am being puckish and denigrating the comfort women's rights to an offical apology and compensation, I am not. They have deserved and have been denied the right to hold their heads up high in their communities, able to say, "I was never a prostitute. I was a prisoner of the Japanese Imperial military."

However, when there are situations and provocations too fraught with domestic political baggage to be resolved by diplomats, the only possible solution is an embrace of ambiguity non erit finis*.

Ambiguity and a resignation to the status quo are the salves and supports of East Asian peace. They keep Taiwan free of Beijing's control; keep the Senkakus Japanese territory; and keep the Russians and the Japanese from ever coming together to surround and thus render paranoid China (ambiguity also keeps the Republic of Korea and Japan from becoming close, despite their democratic governments. No thing is ever always a positive).

Making demands that the statue be removed are going to lead nowhere. The government of Japan should just insist, as it does in the Senkakus, the East China Sea and in the Northern Territories that it believes what it does about the situation, no matter what the other side says -- and let those on the other side cut off their own fingers in frustration at the GOJ's intransigence.

And then do its damndest to give the surviving comfort women what they deserve.

* Not the World of Warcraft guild of the same name.

Image Courtesy: Yomiuri Online


Anonymous said...

I hope no one rapes your family members and tells them that their solution is "embrace of ambiguity non erit finis..." and other such BS.

melonbarmonster said...

I hope no one rapes your family members and tells them that their solution is "embrace of ambiguity non erit finis." That is what Americans call BS.

MTC said...

Anonymous/melonbarmonster -

Point taken. Twice.

My advice is meant for Japanese diplomats, who are stuck between a rock and a hard place, the ROK government, which allowed the construction of this monument to proceed in violation of international law and for the sculptor, who has preposterously put a smile on the young woman's face.

Anonymous said...

The statue is a brilliant idea. It is not confrontational and it utters not a word of protest. In any other context it could pass as a piece of street art. Only a guilty conscience would be irritated by its presence.

Anonymous said...

Why not helping and saving today's comfort women?

They've still been suffering for over half a century even after WW-II. Just the customers were changed from the Japanese army to the USA army, but their business has kept on going..

We need to stop their violence and save poor women.

Modern-Day Comfort Women

Anonymous said...

Again, I'd like to raise the current comfort women issue. Actually I don't care about the comfort women issue Japanese army caused. That's the history and over. Also it was just a problem lasting for five years or so though it was during the war time. However, the current comfort women problem has been going on for over half a century. Yes, the comfort women issue is still going on -- they changed the customers from the Japanese army to the USA army, but their business has kept on going. Please read the Stanford or Rhode Island university reports. They're a free report, then you can see who is behind the scene. This looks the nation related problem because the government seems involved, and perhaps that's why it's so hard for people to know this problem.

Modern day comfort women - University of Rhode Island.

Also you can visit the page (modern comfort women) to know more, which is

Anonymous said...

Africans who were brought to Europe and United States as slaves can do exactly the same thing. They could keep complaining about what white people did to them, maybe they can build statues in front of embassies, but they don't even though they have much longer history of being treated as slaves.
United States dropped two atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japanese could do the same thing too....complain about it and make statues. lol but instead of doing that, Japan tries to have a good relationship with them.
This comfort girl statue is a shame. This seriously lets us know that the only thing that Korea cares about is the PAST. They can't move on. They still teach what happened during ww2 like as its happening right now, therefore Korea will never be able to stop complain about the past.
It's a shame. South Korea.

Unknown said...

Please sign the petition below asking White House to remove this 'comfort women' statue.

This statue is only causing trouble.

When a Japanese girl uploaded a song about comfort woman issue on Youtube, Koreans personally attacked and are threatening her that they will find and kill her.

When an American citizen took pictures with the statue putting a paper bag on its head, again, Koreans keep sending him literary thousands of DEAS THREATS to him. It is fortunate he has guns and got agreement with the police that he has right to protect himself and his property.

People in Japan are pushing Glendale's sister city, Higashi-Osaka city to break the relations with Glendale. In fact, the Mayor of Glendale expressed that he regrets to have such statue in Glendale, because it does not make sense that the small city has to get involved in such international issue. Then the Mayor is getting DEATH THREATS from Koreans, and he now has to have guards.

It is ridiculous the Koreans get so angry enough to send tons of death threats over the statue to whom disagree with Koreans.

We must stop this INSANITY.

I can't tell you for sure what happened during the War, but I can say that all countries that are involved in wars are equally guilty. And Come on! It's 2013! MOVE ON.
I don't think it is wise for any of those countries, the US, Japan, and South Korea to have conflicts over crap that happened a hundred years ago. Tragedy IS happening RIGHT NOW. South Korea must solve their own problems, human trafficking and prostitutes in the US and other countries. Save the girls who are suffering NOW.