If we want to solve the comfort women issue, Japan must place the statue in Osaka.

If we want to solve the comfort women issue, Japan must place the statue in Osaka.


Author: Akira Shiba  

 Osaka City’s decision to terminate its sister city relationship with the U.S. city of San Francisco reminded me of Tokyo’s plan to purchase the Senkaku Islands, which was revealed by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara in April 2012 during the administration of Yoshihiko Noda (then of the Democratic Party of Japan).

 While this case is certainly about the “comfort women” issue, I think there should be more discussion about local government diplomacy. This could be the start of a serious debate on the foundation of the nation and the nature of local autonomy. And Osaka, the spearhead of decentralization, is the stage for it.

 The inscription on the statue of comfort women, which was donated to the city of San Francisco and is now owned by the city, reads

Hundreds of thousands of women and girls, euphemistically called “Comfort Women,” who were sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces.

Most of these women died during their wartime captivity.

Most of these women died during their wartime captivity. In September 2017, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released a report in California, U.S.A.

A statue of a young girl symbolizing the issue of comfort women of the former Japanese military is unveiled in San Francisco, California, U.S., in September 2017 (AP)

 But insisting on this will be a tremendous challenge. I don’t know much about it, and I’m not interested in it because it has nothing to do with me, but since it’s a human rights issue and the military of the Axis powers of World War II is involved, I guess we should just condemn it. No matter how much evidence is presented, it cannot be easily overturned.

 The more the debate is publicized, the more disadvantageous Japan’s international position becomes. There are times when we have no choice but to endure, even though our basic stance is “harmonize, but not agree. I understand the criticism of the “do-nothing” policy and the view that it only benefits the other side, but the cost of confronting the issue head-on is great. The description of comfort women in the San Francisco City Council’s resolution, “200,000 people abducted by the Japanese Imperial Army and forced into sexual slavery,” is unacceptable, but if we try to deny or correct that statement, we will be seen as “right-wing” or “revisionist.

 It is important to have conviction and energy as a politician, but in diplomacy and international relations, compromise is sometimes necessary. If all you do is talk bravado, you may end up destroying your country. Perhaps there is a sense of righteous indignation in the Mayor of Osaka, Hirofumi Yoshimura’s decision seems to be a bit excessive for a local administration.

 On November 24, Mayor Yoshimura announced that he would no longer subsidize private exchange programs such as high school student exchange programs. There will also be no more government-to-government exchanges by the mayor and city council delegation. In reality, the dissolution of the sister city relationship may not have a direct and significant impact on the city. However, how will this news appear in the eyes of the general public in San Francisco, the U.S., and other countries? I don’t think the foreign media will be able to accurately convey its true meaning. Rather, I am concerned that it will encourage people around the world to “misunderstand” the situation, leading to unwarranted criticism.

 Osaka topped the “2017 Fastest Growing Destinations” list released by MasterCard at the end of September this year for the second year in a row. The city is also working to invite the World Exposition in 2025, and is expected to grow further as an international city where foreigners can enjoy traveling in comfort. In such a situation, this incident may become a hindrance if it is not handled properly.

 However, I don’t mean to say that we should have just kept our fingers in the air. The fact remains that this incident cannot be overlooked. Criticism without a response is an irresponsible form of speech. So what is the appropriate response to San Francisco’s municipalization of the comfort women statue and inscription? I would like to offer one idea.

 I would like to propose that the city of Osaka set up a “Girl of Peace” statue in the city. A statue in the shape of a woman to express the sincere spirit of “Never again” and to pray for peace in the face of the fact that in the past, especially during wartime, women’s rights were disregarded and sacrificed in various ways. We will not say, “We do not accept this,” but we will say, “We accept this,” to clearly show our position. Therefore, we do not reject the use of the term “comfort women,” but we will not use expressions such as “sex slave. If you can’t protest, set an example yourself. I don’t think anyone will complain about this, no matter what.

 What is needed is not a rebuttal, but a positive and dignified stand. This will help us fulfill our responsibility to history. We should wait for the right moment to come, without daring to persist in a solitary struggle, while striving to form a strategic ground.

 If it is a statue of a young girl, it will be the second largest statue in South Korea, but anything will do. Of course, we should not dare to erect this statue in front of a foreign consulate general. There is no need to describe the specific past problems of foreign countries in the inscription. We should simply assert our position to the international community without any intention of opposing Korea.

 There are certainly many problems between Japan and South Korea, but even though we may quarrel from time to time, we are still friends who have a “rotten relationship” with each other from childhood. In particular, Osaka has historically had a large number of Koreans living in Japan, and with its Korea Town, it is no exaggeration to say that the culture of Koreans living in Japan plays a part in Osaka culture. Promoting such an attitude of tolerance would help improve Osaka’s international standing.

 As part of its growth strategy, the Shinzo Abe cabinet has set a goal of promoting the creation of a society where all women can shine. How about positioning this as part of a project to increase the empowerment of women in our country and around the world? Rather than just being pessimistic about the past, we should congratulate them on their determination for a bright future.

 We have to turn a pinch into an opportunity. This will require some risk-taking. If we continue to avoid criticism for fear of being criticized, we will only fall behind. If this “Girl of Peace” statue is to be installed, a suitable place may be somewhere in Osaka City.

Osaka City Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura (right) and Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui (center) are interviewed in Paris, where they are staying, about the issue of the comfort women statue in San Francisco, U.S., in November 2017.

 The San Francisco City Council’s resolution states, “There are currently 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, 55% of whom are women and girls. WHEREAS, forced labor and human trafficking have become a $150 billion criminal industry worldwide, and San Francisco is not exempt from this problem and is considered a destination for human trafficking against the backdrop of its port, airport, industrial development and increasing immigration. He sees it as his role to “learn and teach about these harms in order to stop the epidemic of modern human trafficking in San Francisco and other countries around the world.

 It is only when we are willing to “take a stand” that we can be persuasive and have an honest discussion in the international community. This will require a great deal of determination.

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