Published on Saturday, 23 June 2012 22:18 Written by Heo Jae-hyun, Yoon Hyung-joong
On June 22, KCWDMSSJ team leader An Seon-mi stated, “For several years now, every Wednesday morning, when we hold a rally outside the Japanese embassy with former comfort women, unidentified people have been calling our office and harassing us, saying, in Japanese or English, 'I hate Korea, why are you doing this?' Worse still, a package containing photos of women's genitals was delivered to our office last year, which shocked the elderly women.” The council believes the package was sent as a threat by Japanese right-wing activists, but they did not ask the police to investigate at the time because it contained only photographs.
Japanese right-wingers have continuously used threats and intimidation regarding the comfort women issue. According to the KCWDMSSJ, these have recently grown stronger. The threats appears to be connected to incidents such as building of a memorial to comfort women in New York in October 2010, the installation of a statue of a young comfort woman outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul in December 2011, and the building of a human rights museum focused on women and war in May 2012. “Japanese right-wingers never used to issue specific threats, but in the last one or two years such threats have been increasing,” said An.
The KCWDMSSJ presumes that a Japanese group campaigning to “not allow special privileges for ethic Koreans in Japan” was involved in the recent incident outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. In March this year, the group left a stake of similar size in a flowerbed in front of the Korean embassy in Tokyo.
The June 18 stake was left by 47-year-old Japanese man Suzuki Nobuyuki, known to be the leader of a right-wing party called Ishin Seito Shimpu. Suzuki once served as a representative of the volunteer organization that cleans the Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrimes a number of Japanese war criminals from the Second World War.
The party, which was formed in December 1995, has such a low profile in Japan that the number of its members cannot be determined. It displays right-wing extremist tendencies, opposing Japan's post-war system and claiming that Japan fought World War II in order to liberate East Asia. In 2007, it fielded around 10 candidates in an election for Japan's House of Councilors, but none of them managed to get elected. Suzuki is known to have accompanied Japanese lawmakers on a trip to Korea in August last year, when they attempted to visit Dokdo.
After returning to Japan, the activists boasted on their blog, “We delivered a headstone of Takeshima to a statue of a comfort woman in Korea.” On the uploaded video, Suzuki came out first and said, “Right in front of the Japanese embassy, there is a comfort woman statue. No, it’s a prostitute statue. We have to get rid of it.”
“Since such action is taken by insignificant right-wing extremist groups in order to raise their profiles within Japan through noise marketing, it's good if the Korean public avoids getting drawn in and deals with it using calm criticism,” said Ha Jong-moon, a professor of Japanese Studies at Hanshin University.
The police's noncommittal response to the incident, however, is drawing public criticism. Video footage of the incident confirmed that police on guard near the embassy did nothing to stop Suzuki despite discovering him tying the stake to the statue. “Police, are you all blind or something?” asked one netizen, while Twitter user “@dnd**” tweeted, “Someone was tying a stake to the statue of the girl and even taking a video of it, but the police just watched. I'm speechless.”
Suzuki posted on his blog later saying, “When we visited the embassy a day before for a preview, the police was tightly guarding the building and they even hindered us taking photos and videos. On the very day, June 19 morning around 7:30, of course, there were some securities, but there was no guard for a statue of prostitute.”
An official from Mapo District Police Station stated, “Tying a stake to a statue could be subject to charges of damaging property, but we will have to consider the matter from a diplomatic angle.”
Credit: The Hankyoreh