UK

Australia's Plans For Statue To Honour WWII 'Sex Slaves' Sparks Row With Japan

02/04/2014 10:49 BST | Updated 02/04/2014 10:59 BST
SAM YEH via Getty Images
A demonstrator displays a placard as the group demands an apology from Japan over the comfort women issue during a rally in front the Japan Interchange Association in Taipei on August 14, 2013. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou last December urged Japan to apologise for using Taiwanese women as sex slaves during World War II. Historians say up to 200,000 young women, mostly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, were forced to serve as 'comfort women' or sex slaves in Japanese army brothels. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan has voiced strong opposition to plans for a statue honouring the 200,000 sex slaves, known as 'comfort women', who were forced to service the Japanese army during World War Two.

SBS reported that campaigners who are lobbying for a statue in Sydney to commemorate the women, mostly Chinese and Korean abductees forced to work in brothels, have received a deluge of correspondence from Japan opposing the statue.

An Australia-based group, the United Chinese Korean Alliance Against Japanese Warcrimes, has determined the statue should be located in the western suburb of Strathfield.

They are supported by octogenarian Dutch-Australian Jan Ruff O'Herne, who was abducted aged 21 from a prisoner of war camp in Indonesia and made to work in a military brothel

Councillors are now receiving "dozens of opposition emails each day", the deputy Mayor of Strathfield Sang Ok said, adding that he supports the erection of the statue.

"We are bombarded every day. It is really disturbing. It is actually disturbing our official works as councillors. At least 40 or 50 emails we are receiving every day."

"I've read a lot of letters that have come through to Strathfield Council, over this issue," Ruff O'Herne's daughter Carol Ruff said. "They were really nasty and vindictive and when I think that my mother and the other 200,000 other comfort women suffered at the hands of the Japanese military in the enforced slavery, for them to be written off as voluntary prostitutes, paid women, it's an insult."

A petition opposing the statue started by Japanese Women for Justice and Peace has attracted over 10,000 signatures, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Australia's Japanese Embassy spokesman Hiroshi Nawata said the statue does not reflect Japan's position on what occurred in wartime, but said the government is sympathetic to the "immeasurable pain and suffering" of comfort women.

Amnesty International estimates around 200,000 women were taken into sexual slavery and that up to three quarters of comfort women died, with most others left infertile due to sexual trauma. Historical documents suggest that the Japanese Imperial Army organised the brothels, to prevent the rape of local women.

In February this year, Glendale city council in Los Angeles was subject to similar pressure after the erection of a statue commemorating the suffering of comfort women.