The memorial to Koreans killed while performing forced labor for Japan during the latter’s colonial occupation that was located in the Gunma Prefectural Forest Park before its removal and after. (Yonhap)
After Japan’s Gunma Prefecture demolished a memorial honoring Korean victims of forced labor mobilization, a politician belonging to the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has expressed glee at the memorial’s demolition and is calling for more memorials dedicated to Korean victims of Japanese colonization to be torn down.
Mio Sugita, a member of the LDP currently serving in the House of Representatives, shared a link to an article regarding the Gunma Prefecture’s removal of the memorial on social media, writing, “What a relief. I hope that the memorials and statues of ‘comfort women’ or Korean workers will keep getting demolished.”
Her next suggested target is a statue erected to commemorate Korean victims of forced labor mobilization that stands at the site of a former manganese mine in Tamba, Kyoto.
In a post to the social media service X, the lawmaker wrote, “This is a statue of a conscripted worker in Kyoto, which was erected before even those in Korea. Since it is on privately owned land, it won’t be easy to get removed. I hope we will be able to see it brought down soon.”
This memorial targeted by Sugita was jointly erected by the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions in 2016 to memorialize Koreans forced to labor in the manganese mine in Tamba. The two Korean umbrella trade unions erected the statue in order to raise awareness of the human rights violations against Koreans forcibly mobilized to toil for Japan and to restore their honor. Identical statues currently stand in Seoul, Incheon, South Gyeongsang Province and Jeju Island.
Post on X (formerly Twitter) by Mio Sugita, a lawmaker with the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, on Feb. 3.
The lawmaker’s comments appear aimed at stoking far-right organizations within Japan that deny Japan’s historical wrongdoings in order to rally support for another organized effort to bring down monuments similar to that which came down in Gunma. There are currently movements underway in Japan organized around bringing down monuments to Korean victims of Japanese imperialism.
Soyokaze, the right-wing organization whose name means “breeze” that successfully campaigned to demolish the memorial in Gunma, continues to hold rallies annually calling for the memorial to Koreans massacred following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that stands in Yokoamicho Park in Tokyo to be torn down. This particular monument was erected in 1973 and is in the possession of the Tokyo government. Backlash from right-wing groups about the memorial has played a role in the decision by the metropolis’s governor, Yuriko Koike, to not send a letter of condolence to memorial services held there since 2017.
Sugita’s comment has raised alarm bells in Japan as well. Kyodo News said the lawmaker’s rhetoric “incites historical revisionism and discrimination, and is likely to be met with harsh criticism.”
Some have taken to social media to criticize Sugita for using the removal of the memorial in Gunma to attack other monuments to Korean forced laborers.
Crews working on the removal of the memorial to Koreans who died while performing forced labor that had stood in Gunma Prefectural Forest Park finished their work Sunday afternoon and the park has since been reopened to the public after being closed since Jan. 29.
The prefectural government moved to tear down the monument, which had been erected and maintained by a Japanese civic group since 2004, citing political controversy stoked by right-wing backlash to the use of the term “forced mobilization” during memorial vigils held at the monument between 2004 and 2012.
By Kim So-youn, Tokyo correspondent
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