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2014 September 3 - 9 [PEACE]

What lies ahead of local governments’ moves to obliterate traces of Japan’s abusive acts during war?

September 3, 2014
Recently it has come to light that some local governments are trying to remove from public venues memorials to victims of Japan’s outrages during the Asia-Pacific War under the guise of acting on complaints from “citizens”. In Gunma Prefecture, for example, the prefectural government is intending to remove a statue commemorated to Korean victims of Japan’s forced labor policy from a prefectural park.

During the war, the Japanese government and large corporations took people away from the Korean Peninsula and China where the Imperial Japanese military invaded in order to force them to serve as laborers in Japan.

One of world’s major aircraft manufacturers at that time, Nakajima Aircraft Company, which operated many factories in Gunma, planned to construct underground factories in order to protect its production from U.S. air raids. The maker forcibly brought Korean people to the prefecture for the major construction project.

In February 2001, a citizens’ group working to make known to the public this historical fact and create a proper understanding of Japan’s past aggressive war submitted to the prefectural assembly a petition for building the statue in honor of the Korean victims of forced labor. The petition was unanimously adopted by the assembly. In 2004, the prefectural government gave the group permission to build the monument in the prefectural park, Gunma-no-mori, in Takasaki City.

The permission requires renewal every ten years and this year is the year for the first renewal. In June, the prefectural assembly passed a petition refusing to renew the permission by a majority vote of the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties. The Japanese Communist Party and one local political party voted against the petition. The petition was proposed by a local organization supported by nation-wide militarist groups and racist groups waging hate speech campaigns at various locations across Japan.

In July, the prefecture announced its decision to revoke the permission and remove the monument from the park. As reasons for the decision, the prefectural authorities cited “residents’ complaints” that the monument’s caption contains anti-Japanese sentiment. The caption was drawn up through discussions between the pro-monument group and the prefecture.

The group has expressed its determination to maintain the statue through various efforts such as filing a lawsuit and launching signature-collection campaign.

A high-ranking official of the Korean Embassy in Japan on August 7 visited the prefectural office and expressed his concern that the prefecture’s decision may adversely affect Japan-South Korea relations.

Meiji University Professor Suda Tsutomu pointed out, “The prefectural government’s move toward the removal of the monument can be linked with the Abe government’s hawkish and dictatorial characteristics. These local moves would prevent Japan from building friendship with other Asian nations.”

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