“Justice for comfort women!” “Apologize for war crimes!”
Activists chanted in front of the Japanese Embassy in Massachusetts Avenue, Washington D.C., on Thursday (local time). The “Statue of a Girl of Peace,” though on a tow truck, also joined Thursday’s rally, which was organized to urge Japan to apologize for its war crimes. The statue had arrived in Washington D.C. about three years ago, but could not be installed due to Japan’s opposition and was locked in a warehouse for nearly 32 months.
The protest named “an outing with the Statue of a Girl of Peace” was participated by some 20 activists at Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues (WCCW) and Washington D.C. Butterfly for Hope, a civic group that has led the efforts to establish the statue in Washington. They called on the Japanese government to apologize for its atrocities and to stop trying to thwart a plan to find the statue a home.
The Statue first met with the public in the U.S. capital in November 2016. It was supposed to be permanently installed in a university in Maryland, but the plan was indefinitely postponed at the last minute and it has not yet found its home due to fierce opposition from Japan. “We have continuously stressed that the Statue of a Girl of Peace is not something to be politicized but what delivers a universal message about the horrors of war crimes and the value of peace, but Japan’s lobbying efforts has made it difficult to proceed with our plan,” said Lee Jae-soo, a member of Washington D.C. Butterfly for Hope.
Still, the activists are determined to establish the statue in Washington D.C. or nearby areas before the end of the year. Another member of the civic group said that while a Korean American church and some other places have offered to provide a site, they are looking at public places such as a library or a park for potential sites if possible to share the meaning of the statue with mainstream society.
If successful, the statue in Washington D.C. will be fifth girl statue in the United States, joining the ones in Glendale, California; Korean American Cultural Center of Michigan in Southfield, Michigan; the main Blackburn Park in Brookhaven, Georgia; and the Korean American Association of Greater New York in Manhattan, New York City.
The statue met with Washington citizens Friday, passing through the Old Korean Legation Museum and the White House. Also at a Korean American church in Virginia, as part of an event celebrating the Liberation Day, the second- and third-generation Korean Americans took photographs with the girl statue. Yet, the statue, with no place to go, had to head back to a warehouse after a short outing.