In my last blog, I wrote about Fujii, a far-right Japanese nationalist who made into headlines for kicking a Statue of Peace – a statue memorializing Japanese military “comfort women” – that was recently enacted in Taiwan. Several days after the kicking incident, Nikkei Asian Review, a moderately conservative Japanese newspaper released a report that reads like a piece written in defense of Fujii, the leader of a comfort women denialist organization. In this blog, I continue to unpack the discourse on international attention on the comfort women memorialization, particularly via the forms of statues and protests.
Earlier this month, a Statue of Peace joined the parade at the 38th New York City Korean Parade and K-Town Festival. The statue was carried across Manhattan by members of the Youth Council of Fort Lee, a student organization led by Korean-American high school students in New Jersey. The symbolic parade was accompanied by an exhibition of activism advocating for the rights of ‘comfort women’ and of the portraits of the victims and survivors by artist Steve Cavallo.
Statues sharpen democracies by peacefully compacting the history and artfully exposing its lessons to the public, stirring reflective emotions and planting seeds for further political actions. But, to those who are unwilling to unlearn and relearn their single-sided and short-sighted understanding of a historical and sociopolitical context of history, statues stir opposing emotions – outrage in the place of awe, violence in the place of peace.
Despite the 27 years of Redress Movement for the victims of Japanese military sexual slavery across the globe, the Japanese government has made charges against Statues of Peace in Seoul, Busan, California, and New Jersey (including the aforementioned statue at the New York parade). The government recently awarded a contract to a right-wing organization through the Japanese Consulate General in New York to set up a ‘helpline’ for Japanese residents in the area who are bullied due to ‘historical issues’.
Statues of Peace around the world have intended to signify a solemn remembrance of the victims and survivors of the Japanese military sex slavery system and a pledge for solidarity in the fight against sexual violence against women. Although many took the chance to learn about the movement, it’s appalling to see that a sign of peace can turn into an awl that continues to dig into the wounds of the survivors and pierce through the hearts of their allies.
When I first typed the title of this blog post, I paused longer than I did elsewhere in the blog. What I initially wrote was this: Artivism continues, haters are gonna hate. I couldn’t decide which of the two parts of the title precedes the other. Does artivism ignore the opposition and continue their work regardless? Or, is artivism particularly fueled by its opposition to continue their work to further engage with them? How do oppositions influence the delivery of the intended lessons of public arts education? Are clashes of different interpretations a process of the education? What lays ahead of artivism on the issue of the victims of Japanese military sex slavery will be an educational journey for all.
More: never too early to begin Artivism
The younger generation is at the forefront of the movement. A group of university students in Korea has built, on their own, their interpretation of the Statue of Peace sculpture. Last year, a group of high school students at Incheon, Korea organized an in-school fundraiser and collected funds from fellow classmates to purchase a small Statue of Peace, in hopes to contribute to hearing a sincere apology from Japan, which the Japanese government continues to balk against.
More: (female) Artivism in Action
The younger generation, particularly women, are at the forefront of the movement in Korea.
Koreans take photos and further demand the Statue to be displayed for longer than the initial project duration.
Cho, K. (2018, October 9). Japanese consulate in New York recommends right-wing organization for historic counseling. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/865098.html.
Fendnow. (2018, September 12). Far-right Japanese Nationalist’s Theatrical Assault on “Comfort Women” Statue in Taiwan is Part of the Pattern. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from http://fendnow.org/2018/09/12/far-right-japanese-nationalists-theatrical-assault-on-comfort-women-statue-in-taiwan-is-part-of-the-pattern/.
—— (n.d.) Rompa Project. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from http://fendnow.org/encyclopedia/rompa-project/.
Fisher, M. (2015, December 29). Life as a ‘comfort woman’: survivors remember a WWII atrocity that was ignored for decades. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from https://www.vox.com/2015/12/29/10682830/comfort-women-japan-survivors.
Han, S. and Griffiths, J. (2017, February 10). Why this statue of a young girl caused a diplomatic incident. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://www.cnn.com/2017/02/05/asia/south-korea-comfort-women-statue/index.html.
Hyun, H. (2018, September 11). Gookmin University students trying to build Statue of Peace…met by opposition from school [소녀상 세우려던 국민대 학생들…학교 반대로 무산 위기]. Retrieved October 3, 2018, from http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2018/09/10/0200000000AKR20180910158500004.HTML.
Jeong, S. (2018, October 5). A(r)tivism: statue as a form of activism. Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://insightouted.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/artivism-statue-as-a-form-of-activism/.
Lee, J. (2017, April 9). High school students collect pocket money to erect ‘Statue of Peace’ at school [용돈 모아 학교에 ‘평화의 소녀상’ 세운 고등학생들]. Retrieved October 3, 2018, from http://www.wikitree.co.kr/main/news_view.php?id=297797.
Moon, J. (2018, October 8). Statue of Peace appears in the center of New York … raising awareness of Japanese military ‘comfort women’ [뉴욕 한복판에 등장한 소녀상…일본군 ‘위안부’ 문제 알려]. Retrieved October 21, 2018, from https://www.ytn.co.kr/_ln/0103_201810081425065649?utm_source=dable.
Nikkei Asian Review. (2018, September 11). Taiwan protesters arrested for defacing Japan’s de facto embassy. Retrieved from October 22, 2018, from https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-Relations/Taiwan-protesters-arrested-for-defacing-Japan-s-de-facto-embassy.
Oba, M. (2017, January 14). Japan’s Terrible Mistake on ‘Comfort Women.’ Retrieved October 22, 2018, from https://thediplomat.com/2017/01/japans-terrible-mistake-on-comfort-women/.
Rich, M. (2018, January 12). Japan Balks at Calls for New Apology to South Korea over ‘Comfort Women.’ Retrieved October 1, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/12/world/asia/japan-south-korea-comfort-women.html.
Rose, E. (2017, August 15). Chilling statues in South korea commemorate ‘comfort women’ raped by Japanese forces in WWII. Retrieved October 1, 2018, from https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/chilling-statues-in-south-korea-commemorate-comfort-women-raped-by-japanese-forces-in-wwii-a3611926.html.
Tolbert, D. (2016, January 29). Japan’s Apology to South Korea Shows What Public Apologies Should (Not) Do. Retrieved October 3, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-tolbert/japans-apology-to-south-k_b_9111566.html.