09 Apr Friction between Australians and Japanese over World War II ‘sex slaves’ statue

As proud as we are, here at Big Statues, when our custom bronze statues make a big impression on those that view them, we thankfully can’t recall a time when they’ve been the cause of genuine tension between residents of different countries. That’s not something that can be said of a planned statue in Australia honoring hundreds of thousands of women made sex slaves by the Japanese army during the Second World War, however.

The ladies, known as ‘comfort women’, were largely abducted from China and Korea prior to being made to work in brothels. If Australian-based campaigners are successful, those women will soon be commemorated by a statue in the city of Sydney, in the western suburb of Strathfield.

However, it has been reported that the group – the United Chinese Korean Alliance Against Japanese Warcrimes – has since been overwhelmed by Japanese correspondence against the statue’s erection. Sang Ok, Strathfield’s deputy Mayor, said that “dozens of opposition emails” were being received by councilors each day.

He continued: “We are bombarded every day. It is really disturbing. It is actually disturbing our official works as councilors. At least 40 or 50 emails we are receiving every day.” Thankfully,  this isn’t a situation that faces anyone that commissions one of our custom bronze statues, and in fact it’s amazing to think that a statue could cause such outrage in the 21st century.

Sang Ok added that he was among the prospective statue’s supporters, with another being the Dutch-Australian octogenarian Jan Ruff O’Herne, who herself was forced into a military brothel after being abducted from an Indonesian prisoner of war camp at 21 years old. Her daughter Carol Ruff said that she had read many of the letters that Strathfield Council had received in relation to the statue plans.

“They were really nasty and vindictive,” she commented, adding that “when I think that my mother and the other 200,000 other comfort women suffered at the hands of the Japanese military in the enforced slavery, for them to be written off as voluntary prostitutes, paid women, it’s an insult.”

Nonetheless, more than 10,000 signatures have been attracted for a petition against the statue started by Japanese Women for Justice and Peace. Such controversy follows a similar situation in the city of Glendale in Los Angeles, where another statue paying tribute to ‘comfort women’ sparked fresh debate over this longstanding issue.

Whatever your position on this story, it certainly demonstrates what an impact on other people something as seemingly straightforward and unassuming as a statue can have. We’re happy to say that at Big Statues our custom bronze statues are memorable, rather than controversial!

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