Statue of Peace unveiled in Italy despite opposition from Japanese government

Posted on : 2024-06-24 17:35 KST Modified on : 2024-06-24 17:35 KST
Even amid pressure from the Japanese government, the statue went up with an inscription voicing regret over denialism on the part of Japan with regard to its wartime “comfort women” system of sexual slavery
The Statue of Peace that was erected in Stintino, Italy, on June 22, 2024, local time. (courtesy of the Korean Council)
The Statue of Peace that was erected in Stintino, Italy, on June 22, 2024, local time. (courtesy of the Korean Council)

Despite opposition and pressure from the Japanese government, the Italian island of Sardinia erected a Statue of Peace dedicated to victims of Japan’s system of sexual slavery on Saturday (local time).
 
The city of Stintino in northwestern Sardinia held a ceremony for the unveiling of the statue on the same day. The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, which was involved in the installation of the memorial statue, reported that around 200 people attended the ceremony, including local politicians and women’s rights activists.
 
The inscription to the statue reads, “It is sad that the Japanese government continues to deny the existence of comfort women and has sought to remove Peace Statues in various countries, including Germany, the Philippines, and elsewhere,” in Korean, Italian and English.
 

Mayor Rita Limbania Vallebella of Stintino sits in the empty chair that stands as part of the Statue of Peace installation in the Italian city, which was unveiled on June 22, 2024. (courtesy of the Korean Council)
Mayor Rita Limbania Vallebella of Stintino sits in the empty chair that stands as part of the Statue of Peace installation in the Italian city, which was unveiled on June 22, 2024. (courtesy of the Korean Council)


The Korean Council also stated that Rita L. Vallebella, the mayor of Stintino and a former human rights lawyer, announced in a speech that the Statue of Peace reminds viewers of where sexual violence, which women around the world still experience daily, stems from.

“By installing the Statue of Peace, we stand in solidarity with the pain of all women suffered by the tragedy of war,” she went on.
 
The Japanese government tried to block the installation of the statue by various tactics, including mobilizing its ambassador to Italy. Japan’s Kyodo News earlier reported that Vallebella said that the inscription expressed a “one-sided claim,” and that she was considering changing its wording.
 
However, Lee Na-young, the chair of the Korean Council, said that this was not the case in a phone call with the Hankyoreh.

“While speaking with Mayor Vallebella, she confirmed to me that she never stated that she would change the wording of the inscription nor does she intend to in the future,” Lee said. 
 
During an NHK broadcast, an official of the Japanese Embassy in Italy claimed, “We have explained our position to various Italian officials and made sure to express our strong concerns. We are also asking that appropriate measures be taken.”
 
L’Unione Sarda, Sardinia’s regional daily newspaper, also reported that Satoshi Suzuki, the Japanese ambassador to Italy, visited Stintino to meet Vallebella on Thursday, where he asked that the statue’s unveiling ceremony be postponed.
 

Locals, including politicians and representatives of women’s rights groups, gathered at the unveiling of the Statue of Peace in Stintino, Italy, on June 22, 2024. (courtesy of the Korean Council)
Locals, including politicians and representatives of women’s rights groups, gathered at the unveiling of the Statue of Peace in Stintino, Italy, on June 22, 2024. (courtesy of the Korean Council)


The South Korean Foreign Ministry stated that it will monitor the relevant developments of the situation and consider appropriate responses if the situation calls for it. 

“The government understands that the installation of Statues of Peace overseas is led voluntarily by local communities and civil society to commemorate and educate about the universal human rights violation of wartime sexual violence,” it said. 
 
The various Statues of Peace installed around the world are being threatened with removal due to unrelenting pressure from the Japanese government.
 
The fate of the Statue of Peace in Berlin’s Mitte district, which was installed in 2020, remains in limbo after local authorities suggested that it may be removed following pressure from the Japanese government.

By Jang Ye-ji, staff reporter; Kim So-youn, Tokyo correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

 

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