Last month, a right-wing Japanese official visiting Taiwan kicked a memorial statue of a ‘comfort woman’ in Taiwan, outraging the Taiwanese public who further demanded a hostage of the Japanese until he made a public apology.
Why fuss about a kick at a bronze statue? After all, Mitsuhiko Fujii, the ultimate kicker and the representative of 16 right-wing groups from Japan, defended himself in a statement by arguing that he was simply stretching his legs after a long flight.
‘Comfort women’ is a euphemism term for girls and women who were forced into military sex slavery to Japanese soldiers during Japanese imperialism. Although the majority of the victims are estimated to be from Korea and China, Taiwanese girls and women were also forced into the slavery system. The inadequate response from the Japanese government to address reconciliation of their continuing atrocities committed against the Japanese military sexual violence victims has raised social and political unrests since the end of the wartime.
So, taking the historical context into consideration, one kick by a Japanese man at Taiwan’s first memorial statue of comfort women hints at a continuation of Japan’s deliberate ignorance of the collective pursuit of justice for the women who have suffered systematic war crimes. To those who know this historical background, the small act of kicking has far more implications than a show of disrespect to public property.
A statue carries a collection of symbols. While it is a public art, it can be so personal for many audiences, raising shared emotions made up of individualized emotions and personal experiences. For this matter, statues are a powerful form of art education used by activists to convey a message to educate and engage those with various levels of previous exposure to the history of the statue.
Yet, while statues bring light to issues that are often undervalued or forgotten, they don’t always shift perceptions of groups that insist on holding onto a single-sided history or that ignore the existence of the history. Moving forward, educators must consider ways to use statues as more effective mechanisms to teach multifaceted histories to a wide audience.
Longjie, X. (2018, September 9). Film Announcement – Japanese violence against our bronze statue of comfort women [影片公佈-日本人暴力對待我們的慰安婦銅像]. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=523372064775362&id=219165858131533&_rdr.
Peifang, C. (2018, September 10). Fujii’s five-point statement stated that he did not kick the comfort women’s image and was framed by the Kuomintang [藤井五點聲明稱未踢慰安婦像 指遭國民黨陷害]. Retrieved October 2, 2018, from https://udn.com/news/story/6656/3359694.
Yang, W. (2018, September 10). A Japanese Man Appeared To Kick A Statue Dedicated To “Comfort Women” In Taiwan And People Are Pissed. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/williamyang/taiwan-comfort-women-statue.