On July 28th, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga criticized a South Korean statue that shows a man bowing to a “comfort woman.”
The male statue resembles current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe too much to be an accident.
A photo released by the Korea Botanic Garden shows a pair of statues on a green lawn. One is of a girl in what appears to be traditional Korean attire sitting on a stool.
The other is of a man in what seems to be a Western-style suit on his knees, his palms placed on the ground and head facing down in front of the statue of the young woman.
A “Comfort Woman” is a woman or girl, forced into being sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied countries and territories before and during World War II. The term comes from the Japanese word “ianfu” which is a euphemism for “prostitute.”
Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that if media reports about the statue are true (that it depicts Shinzo Abe) it would be “unacceptable in terms of international courtesy” and would have a “decisive effect” on the relationship between Japan and South Korea.
Suga said that the Japanese government has not confirmed the authenticity of the reports.
The private Korea Botanic Garden in Pyeongchang has put up the statue and it is titled “Eternal Atonement.” A spokesman for the park said there would be an opening ceremony on August 10th, and it would open to the public from August 25th.
A spokesman for the park was rather vague about who the statue depicts:
“It is not true to say that it is a statue of Abe. It’s meant to be symbolic. It could be Abe, it could be another person.”
“The work expresses the atonement that the comfort women deserve and enhances the spirit of our people while wishing for a new Japan that truthfully apologizes and faces up to history,” artist Wang Kwang-hyun said.
Regarding the comfort women issue, Yoshihide Suga stressed, that Japan “continues to urge the steady implementation of the Japan-Korea agreement that confirmed it was finally and irreversibly resolved.”
In 2018, South Korea dissolved a foundation created to assist comfort women, in a move that essentially gutted the 2015 deal with Japan to settle the issue.
Japan regards the matter as “finally and irreversibly resolved” by a 2015 agreement reached by Abe and then South Korean President Park Geun-hye under which Abe apologized and pledged a fund to support the survivors.
Clearly, South Korea doesn’t deem it resolved.
South Korean activists say there may have been as many as 200,000 Korean victims, only a few of whom have ever told of the abuse they endured at the hands of Japanese forces.
Japan – South Korea ties have been strained since 2019, when Tokyo imposed restrictions on exports of key high-tech materials to Seoul, following a ruling by South Korea’s top court ordering Japanese firms to pay compensation to Koreans forced to work for them during the war.
The two countries are both allies to the US, and are valuable allies against Washington’s adversaries in the face of North Korea, and primarily China.
However, they are very conditional allies to each other, since the historical tensions are far from being solved.
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