Thou Shalt Not Remember Rape #1: Japan to Korea

I originally titled this post, “Japan to Korea: Thou Shalt Not Remember Rape”. I quickly realized, however, that the command not to remember rape is so common that over the course of this blog, I’m likely to have quite a few more posts referencing the command than referencing Japan’s government talking to Korea’s government. Moreover, writing the headline as if the important bit were the identities “Japan” and “Korea” only feeds into Japan’s odious framing that governments’ speaking to each other is much more valuable than the ability of humans to remember our own experiences generally and our rapes specifically. Newspaper-headline conventions be damned, then.

This post comes about courtesy of a wonderful website, Hyperallergic, to which our own Caine, writing the wonderful blog Affinity, just introduced me.


While Caine was writing about The Painting Hated by the GOP, I noticed a different story relating how Japan recalled diplomatic personnel because two South Koreans created a sculpture, later installed near a Japanese consulate, portraying, honoring, and most offensively, remembering, the so-called Comfort Women that Japan’s military enslaved and repeatedly raped during World War 2.

From Hyperallergic:

A statue commemorating the thousands of Korean women forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese imperial military during World War II — known colloquially as “comfort women” — is threatening diplomatic relations between South Korea and Japan. On Friday, the Japanese government temporarily recalled its ambassador and one of its consuls to South Korea in response to Korean protestors’ unsanctioned installation of the bronze figure of a young woman, sitting next to an empty chair, outside the Japanese Consulate in Busan. … Busan municipal officials had initially removed the statue but soon reinstated it in response to public pressure.

…it still may [remain] as a permanent protest monument: according to the Times, South Korea has given no indication of removing the bronze, barefoot girl, despite Japan’s severe response. Korean activists have also reportedly posted themselves near the consulate to keep watch over her all day.

Japan, of course, finds the existence and display of the statue, “extremely regrettable”.



  1. says

    I was wondering what the significance of the empty chair was. From Wikipedia:

    The statue also features an empty chair next to the girl as well as a shadow on the floor, which alludes to suffering that the comfort women underwent. It shows the long amount of time for a young girl having grown as adults who still have kept the harsh memories of the past and their faith in true justice deep down in their hearts. That is why, next to the shadow, there is a butterfly that symbolizes true meaning of independence that has hope for a day in which the victims can overcome such sorrows. In all, the statue in general stares in the direction of the Japanese embassy, representing the comfort women who died having waited for true apology from Japan.

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