Scores turn out to protest over comfort women statue plan as the international press look on

It was one of the biggest protests seen in Strathfield in years.  And it was all conducted under the watchful eye of the international press.

When councillors were asked to consider a petition against the idea of a statue commemorating Korean, Chinese and Australian "comfort women" used by the Japanese army during the second world war, some 140 Koreans, Chinese, Australian and Japanese protestors turned up to try and influence their decision.

Five Japanese news organisations were reportedly on hand to watch the deliberations, including Kideki Yoshiumura, bureau chief of the Sankei Shimbun, who had flown in from Singapore specially to cover the proceedings.

"It's a big story in Japan," he told the Scene outside the Town Hall, opened to provide more space to house the protestors.

Another Japanese man from Chatswood, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had handed council 8,900 names garnered from his Facebook page in just 24 hours, protesting the plans. Council admitted they had received 500 protest letters in just a few days themselves.

Councillors voted to refer the matter to State and Federal Governments for the official position on such memorials, noting that its Community Strategic Plan upholds strong community consultation  and inclusiveness over such matters.

The story started when a Korean and Chinese alliance group suggested a bronze $100,000 statue by Chinese artist Jian Hua Qian be placed on the town square.

The "Three Sisters" was to commemorate the 200,000 women used as sex slaves by the Japanese army during World War II.  The Chinese and Korean communities have agreed to pay for it to be cast in bronze, and for its upkeep.

The "comfort women" issue is highly sensitive and controversial among the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese.

Strathfield's deputy mayor and prominent Korean Sang Ok apparently backed the plan, and was quoted in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Last night, he told the Scene he would absent himself from any vote because he had an interest in the issue, maintaining it was up to the council to decide where any statue might be placed. "Anywhere in Strathfield" was Cr Ok's preferred position. 

Others were more forthright, using the open forum at the start of the council meeting to put forward both supporting and opposing views, greeted by load applause from their supporters. It was an emotional, yet dignified debate on matters dating back 70 years.

One particularly poignant speaker for the statue was the daughter of an Australian "comfort woman", Carol Ruff.  

Her 91-year-old mother wrote the book 50 Years of Silence, and her story was instrumental in making rape a war crime.

The Japanese government has already described the statue plan as "misguided".

The Japanese Embassy in Sydney told The Sydney Morning Herald:  ''Japan hopes that ethnic and racial minority groups in countries all over the world can coexist in peace, and believes that it is not appropriate for people of various ethnic or racial backgrounds to bring in their differences of opinion on this issue.

''The government of Japan understands that the issues of history should not be politicised or be turned into a diplomatic issue. However, on the other hand, while the details of the statue or inscription are not yet clear, Japan believes that the movement is due to a lack of understanding of our position and efforts towards comfort women, and is not compatible with Japan's position.''

The pro-forma letters appearing in Sydney at council and media outlets said: ''Recently, I have heard the news that Chinese and Korean communities in Australia have set up an Anti-Japanese War Crimes Alliance and that they are planning to erect a statue of 'comfort women' (prostitutes at the war) [sic] in Sydney and Strathfield.''


Such statue with political reasons and based on still contorvertial historical fact, not in a public place, please.

I agreed with the opinion of Andrew Smith.
I would like to add to his statue's list the followings:

9.Statue for the 40,000,000 Chinese victims who died of the Mao
Tse-tung's Great Leap Forward policy in 1960's
10.Statue for the 890,000 Chinese citizens killed by Yellow River outburst
strategy lead by Chinese National Party in June 1938
11.Statue for 200,000 Korean civilians including children slaughtered by
the Korean government lead by Syngman Rhee at Bodo Yeonmaeng Sageon
12.Statue for several thousands Korean prostitutes forced to serve
American soldiers in 1970's by Park Chung-hee who is the father of Park
Geun Hye,current Korean president

thanks Sam..but does Statfield have enough concrete for the job???

Hmmm, good to see Strathfield continuing to tackle the big issues for its community. How about you build the town centre rather than worrying about this nonsense.

I wish to object to this fanciful idea of erecting such a statue to these so called "comfort woman". It is widely known that many of them were in fact already prostitutes who were recruited by Korean agents. In my opinion, these agents are the real criminals in this matter. Also I totally agree with the comments made by Andrew Smith above. I could have written his comments word for word. Where do you draw the line? Do we really want to drag all wars throughout history by erecting such statues for every perceived injustice? My comment to you is to GET OVER IT. We cannot change history nor should we try. Why do China and Korea continue to belittle Japan and cause such trouble all over the world. I would remind them: the war ended in1945. Many countries were affected during the war and are not making such ridiculous claims.

Jan Ruff O'Herne an Australian, of Dutch parentage, was born in the Dutch East Indies. O'Herne, when the Japanese occupied the Dutch East Indies, was interned.
On 26 February, 1944 O'Herne was forcibly removed from the Camp and taken to what was essentially a brothel.
OHerne was repeatedly raped and beaten.
This is a fact.
Thousand of women were taken from across the Japanes occupied countries which include Korea, China, Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia.
It is estimated that the number of "Comfort Women" is in the vicinity of 200,000.
Most of the "Comfort Women" died. Of those that survived the women were left infertile, had sexual transmitted diseases, suffered sexual trauma.
At the end of the war the "Comfort Women were left penniless and could not return home. The "Comfort Women" were too ashamed to talk about what happened for many years.
Strathfield Council Passed a Motion in the March 2009 to:
(a) Acknowledges the suffering of the so called “Comfort Women” and the importance of restoring their human rights and dignity in marking International Women’s Day on 8 March 2009;
(b) Joins the world community and Japanese councillors from City of Takarazuka, City of Kiyose and City of Sapporo in urging the Japanese government to:
(i) Formally and Unequivocally apologise to the victims.
(ii) Take legal responsibility according to international law,
(iii)Take historical responsibility by correct teaching of history.
(c) Calls on the Commonwealth Government to promptly pass a motion in parliament to the effect of (b) (i), (ii) and (iii).
(d) Conveys recognition and support to Australian “Comfort Women” survivor Jan Ruff O’Herne in celebration of International Women’s Day 2009.
A Statue in the meantime will at least fill a void until the above in relation to the Japanese government occurs.
It is like the saying of "Sorry" to the Aboriginals.
It is about trying to help ease the pain and suffering of the surviving "Comfort Women".

I by no means wish to trivialize what happened to Ms O'Herne but wish to point out whilst her fellow countrymen colonized Indonesia over 350 years, over 40,000 Indonesians were massacred , thousands starved to death,untold numbers raped, dispossessed them of their land and forced them to work on their estates. When the Dutch were released from the internment camps following the end of WW2 many were killed by the Indonesians in revenge.

Just a simple question. Is a local council appropriate place to discuss an international issue like this ? Just leave it to their own governments back home.

Migrants should not bring in their issues back home to their new country. Didn't they come here to have a better and happier life ?

I am pretty sure that majority of residents in Strathfield do not want such a problematic issue even being discussed at their door steps.

So, distancing themselves from this issue in a way as the Council did was very sensible.

Making "Strathfield version of three sisters as a new tourism attraction" is a big joke.

Your message clearly indicates that this statue is to be built for a strong political purpose. A land of local council cannot be used for such a purpose. Even if you are strongly feeling about the incidents in the past you still have no right to adversely affect the basic human right of local residents living today in peace and harmony. It will be a sheer contradiction if such a statue results in any discrimination and bullying against Japanese women and children. You must not involve a local community in your political battle. It is totally wrong if Strathfield is selected for such an international political battle only because Chinese and Koreans are majority.

There is an unwritten rule when migrating to Australia and that is to leave any grievances with other nations at the door.

I was at the meeting last night..and one interesting comment came to me from a local Aboriginal who was highly offended that such a statue involving foreign governments should be erected in Strathfield when there are not even any statues commemorating the stolen generation. Another local said maybe they could erect the statue at Rookwood cemetery which would fit with councillor Song Ok's request that it could be put anywhere.
I'd also like to know where we could erect all the following statues also and am concerned Strathfield doesn't have enough parks for the following ;

1. Statue for the estimated 200,000 Vietnamese women and children raped by South Korean soldiers in the Vietnam war and the 30,000 Lai Dai Han ( children of mixed blood ) left behind.

2. Statue for the millions of Tibetans and Uighurs who have been slaughtered by the Chinese..which is still continuing today.

3. Statue for the estimated 40,000 Indonesians slaughtered under the Dutch occupation.

4. Statue for the Indian community remembering their great losses under the British colonization.

5. Statue for the Timorese killed and persecuted under the Indonesians quietly sanctioned by the Australian Government.

6.Statue for the West Papuans who continue to be killed and persecuted under the Indonesians to this day,quietly sanctioned by the Australian Government.

7. Statue for North American Indians slaughtered by invading white settlers.

8. Statue for African Americans..still suffering to this day

and these are only a handful of the horrid atrocities that have occurred in the past 100 years,,imagine if we look back a further 100years or more...

Trust I've made my point, and unless you are going to change Strathfield's name to " Statuedom " then no statues concerning any foreign occurrences should ever be erected..but we dearly do owe one..more like 1 million statues to the great original custodians of our land, the aboriginals who suffered at the hands of the white people.

You are very right. Chinese and Koreans are talking about the things happened in the past - something about 70 years ago, but what they are doing now??

If Strathfield erect a statue of comfort women for human right, I demand the City to erect statues for Tibetans and Uighurs.

What the City is doing is not for the human right, it is just a anti-Japanse propaganda! Totally hypocritical.

Hi Andrew

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your fair and logical opinions. I totally agree with you.

Aussies are very fair and intelligent people, and Australia is multicultural society, where diverse ethnicities are living peacefully. We don’t need to ask for a trouble something like this.



Do you think why this issue happened ?

Here is an interesting study published by Stanford University, which compares school textbooks in several Asian countries and the United States.
It sees with this study that, contrary to what many gens* believe, Japanese textbooks are more neutral, mainly tell the facts, then in other countries (China and Korea for example), a part of the story is changed or omitted for the patriotic interests.

Unfortunately, these practices will not help countries to understand better.

First, here are the links that summarize this study :

Divided Memories: History Textbooks and the Wars in Asia

gens:les *beaucoup visits to Yasukuni, the differences between China and Japan on Nanjing, comfort women and the image of a very nationalist Japanese Government presented by foreign newspapers convey this impression.

I am dismayed that the Strathfield council is even considering this. If they so strongly believe a commemorative statue should be erected for these women, then put one in Korea and in China, do not use Australia for such political means. This just encourages hate and disruption in the community. As deputy mayor Sang Ok has already stated, "the local Korean and Chinese communities wanted to send a message to Japan"!!! That is the real reason, it is an anti-Japan statue! How can this be allowed to go ahead. Who pays for it should not be a consideration, or maybe it is, for the ICAC

Please read Japanese Prisoner of War Interrogation Report No.49 in 1944 by US Army where Korean comfort women were reported as simple prostitutes, not as sex slaves (it’s quite indisputable)

I believe this is an evidence by the third party that they are not slaves. Koreans insisted that 200,000 young women were abducted and forcefully taken by Japanse armies but there are no concrete evidence.

Hatred create hatred. We need to move on. It is not for a mature society or Australian way to bring up the past over and over again, and accuse specific nation and its people. Japan hasn't involved in war or invaded other countries after the WWII, and I don't see any positive outcome from this hate campaign.

We need to make effort to accept each other and live harmoniouslly.

If Chinese are taling about human right, they need to look at what their own government is doing in Tibet and Shinjang Uyghur now in 21st century. Koreans need to solve their own problems - threat from North Korea.

The movement is simply not for women's right, but just a propaganda.

I sincerelly hope City of Stratford will make a wise desicion. I belive Council's job is to promote well-being of the locals not to involve in the international matters.

I protest the plan for the following reasons.

1. It is illegal under NSW anti-discrimination law to vilify someone. The law defines vilification as a public act that could incite or encourage hatred, serious contempt or severe ridicule towards people because of national origin. The proposed statue is contentious and divisive. It is a public act because statue will be highly visible with an explicit message, and it will ALMOST DEFINITELY encourage hatred and contempt towards the Japanese.

2. The proposed statue is based on Korea’s historical grievances against Japan dating back to WWII, and has little or no relevance to Australia ( It is similar to the one in Seoul, Korea which has become a focal point and symbol of hatred towards Japan. The second statue appeared in Glendale CA, USA and has caused much controversy because it was built in an ethnically diverse community in the US. The statue is has had a negative impact, such as Japanese schoolkids being bullied. Strathfield should not follow the same path.

3. The Comfoft Women issue is a one-sided and anachronistic claim representing only the Korean view and attempts to portray the Japanese as a brutal, inhuman race.

4. If a statue is set up it would send the wrong message to Australia- that it is acceptable for one immigrant community to accuse and marginalise another, citing historical grievances from their country of origin. It would also run contrary to the
ideals which Australian society (or any civilised society) stands for, as it is hardly “Fair Go for All.”

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