Saturday, September 27, 2014

'Comfort Women' and a Statue

A young girl about 13 or 14 years old,  with short hair, dressed in a  Korean skirt and  blouse sitting in a chair looking straight ahead with a  determined sadness in her face and closed mouth. A statue depicting one of  the comfort women as a young girl, sexual slave of  the Japanese military during the Second World War. The bronze statue is a sign of the scars inflicted on these young girls who were for the most part Koreans. This statue was put in place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul four years ago, and have now appeared in other cities of Korea and in other parts of the world.

Each year the sculptor and his wife make two or three  statues in a small attempt to heal the wounds that have been inflicted. They just finished the ninth statue that was commissioned in Detroit where they had the  unveiling recently, and the journalist interviewed the sculptor recently after his return from the States, for the article in the Bible & Life magazine.

These young girls were recruited by the Japanese with deception and  force, using family relationships to trick them. The Japanese military worked mostly with the  poor families. 'Comfort stations'  exposed the girls to all kinds of inhuman treatment. When liberation came many of them did not find it easy to return to their home country. Even after Japan's defeat some returned to Japan to do forced labor.  Those that returned to their home country had another tragedy befall them. One of the grandmothers, in one of the reports, said after what they experienced it was difficult to return home to the family; they lived in the shady places of society.

Reporting about the comfort women began in earnest 23 years ago with a Wednesday protest march  outside  the Japanese Embassy. On the 1,000th weekly demonstration by the elderly women and their supporters they erected the Peace Monument which is the young girl sitting in a chair.

The Sculptor mentions the many times they tried to get the face of the girl correct.The couple have always been interested in the fight for rights of the citizens in their art work. They find great satisfaction in what they do. In this fight to have Japan recognize and apologize formally brings an increase of interest on the issue, but also the opposition of Japan continues to increase. In California where a statue was erected, the Japanese residents and the extreme right  groups have continued to fight legally for  the removal of the statue.  Another statue that was to be erected in front of a library in Detroit was cancelled and they had to change the location of the statue.

The issue will continue for the time being but the number of the women who  experienced this shameful period in their lives continues to decrease with death: most of them are now in their 80s and 90s. How much protest will continue if the Japanese government does not accept blame for the treatment of these girls only the future knows.