Berlin, 9th of March 2021
On October 2020 I wanted to visit a statue, officially inaugurated on 28th of September 2020 in Berlin’s Moabit district at the corner of Birkenstrasse with Bremer Strasse. This art installation, and other similar art installations are the apple of discord between Japan and South Korea. Japan wants to rid of off this statue. Sounds harsh and weird, isn’t it? What is all this about?
The art installation’s name is “Statue of Peace” and was erected to raise awareness about sexualized violence against girls and women during peace times and armed conflicts, being internationally regarded as a symbol against war crimes committed towards girls and women. During the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945) more than 200,000 girls and women from 14 countries, were sexually enslaved, the so-called “comfort women”, by the Japanese military, in the entire Asia-Pacific region.
There are a few monuments commemorating the wartime atrocities committed against primarily Korean women, around the world, three of them in Germany. In the Moabit’s statue design there are two chairs on a small platform, one of the chairs is free and the other one is occupied by a young girl dressed in a traditional Korean hanbok, depicted with her hands clenched into fists resting on her lap. On the floor as the girl’s shadow is designed a mosaic silhouette of an old woman, with a white butterfly for the heart. It is a very powerful monument, brought me to tears instantly when I saw it.
Designed by the artists Kim Eun-sung and Kim Seo-kyung, was the first statue of its kind, erected in a public place in Germany. The memorial angered the Japanese officials, and due to their intervention it was almost removed soon after the approved installation, in October 2020, however its stay in Moabit near Mitte, Berlin, was granted for a year for the moment.
My love and respect for Japan is immense, but I can’t understand their behaviour in the present regarding this matter. The official story is the girls and women where not kidnaped and coerced to provide sexual services to the Japan’s army, and that they were voluntary doing that and were paid for it. In other words, those girls, and women, accepted and were paid for being raped, abused, tortured, coerced to suicide, and killed. No later than yesterday, 8th of March 2021, I’ve read an article about a Harvard professor’s allegations which stated that those girls and women had actually chosen to work as prostitutes, this igniting international uproar and scrutiny of his academic paper and integrity. Mr. Ramseyer, a professor of Japanese legal studies at Harvard Law School, in his paper “Contracting for sex in the Pacific War” published in December online and scheduled to appear in the March issue of the International Review of Law and Economics, argued that those girls and women entered willingly into contracts as prostitutes, with this statement rejecting a wide body of research about Japan’s “comfort women”, this paper intensifying the dispute between Japan and South Korea. The issue of the journal was suspended with an “expression of concern”, putting the academic paper under investigation due to the lack of evidence, after scholars at Harvard and other institutions combed through his sources and finding no evidence of so-called contracts described by him. It is baffling how a Harvard professor can make such claims, peers considering his article a fabrication disregarding decades of research and failing to meet the requirements of academic integrity. Hundreds of scholars, students, more than 1,000 economists, and a group of historians of Japan, signed letters condemning the article.
United Nations concluded in a 1996 report that the “comfort women” were sex slaves, taken through violence and coercion. Japan acknowledged in 1993 in a statement this fact, but later denied it.