Ms JODI McKAY ( Strathfield ) ( 17:06 :16 ): Today I will speak on an issue that is important to my Korean Australian community. I do so acknowledging that the sexual slavery by Japanese military personnel during World War II is diplomatically and politically contentious. However, following my recent visit to Korea, I feel Parliament is an appropriate place in which to speak of what happened then and what happened recently in my local area with the unveiling of a peace monument to recognise the struggles of Korean women and girls during World War II. My motivation to speak on this issue is not political. I do not wish to offend any individual, any organisation or any government. But I am a woman who represents many Korean Australian women and men. I have made a commitment to my community to always speak openly and in their interests in this Parliament.
Like many, I have struggled with whether a peace monument in Australia is appropriate. I did not support the involvement of the Strathfield Council in the erection of a monument, but I do support this community‑led initiative. I reached this conclusion after my recent trip to South Korea where I visited the monument in Seoul—the War and Women's Human Rights Museum—and spoke to a number of women connected to the movement. I believe that Australia, particularly with my local area's significant Korean Australian community, is the right place in which to erect a peace monument, and what a beautiful monument it is. It is a statue that shows a young woman who is sitting beside an empty and uncomfortable chair. She is gentle, humble and vulnerable. Her face shows no emotion. She is alone. She is carved in bronze. If it is cold, she might wear a coloured scarf.
To me, she represents the human rights struggle of women around the world. I thank the Korean women—and of course women and girls everywhere—who continue to raise awareness and seek justice for women and girls whose rights are ignored and abused. During my visits to the museum in Seoul, like thousands of people I posted a message on the wall written in yellow paper and in the shape of a butterfly. The butterfly represents a desire to see women and girls live free from discrimination, repression and violence. In Korea, it represents a desire for women to spread their wings freely. To me, the statue in Australia does not represent a perpetuation of long-held division. I see it as a symbol of peace, social harmony and the right of all women to live safely and free from exploitation as well as violence.
It is estimated that approximately 200,000 girls and women were forced into sexual slavery during World War II. I acknowledge that even the number of women who were involved is contested: It could be 20,000 or it could be 400,000.
What we know, however, is that it happened—women and girls were taken from their homes and forced into houses of prostitution for the supposed comfort of soldiers. During my visit to South Korea I visited the main monument in Seoul. I spoke to a young university student who was keeping watch and I asked her why she was there. She told me that she and others were concerned the Seoul statue would be removed. Of course the location outside the Japanese embassy is also a source of great conflict and there have been recent discussions about removing the statue.
I make no judgment on the statue's location nor on the complexities of the issues that have arisen since discussions between Japan and Korea on the issue in December last year. I do, however , acknowledge the women of South Korea who maintain a vigil by the monument night and day. The Australian statue was unveiled in August at the Korean Society of Sydney in my electorate, in the presence of the 89-year old Won-Ok Gil from South Korea who, at the age of 13, was raped hundreds of times by Japanese soldiers. I am told it is the ninth monument erected outside Korea.
I acknowledge the Peace Monument Establishing Committee in Sydney: co-chairs, Vivian Pak and Byung Jo Kang; vice chair, Yeon Jung Lee; general secretary. Young Ran Jung, committee members Andy Hwang, Yun Cho Moon, Maria Kim, Su Hyun Paik, Olivia Choi, Joseph Lim, Yeona Yeom, Byung Ryul Lee, Seung Hee Lee , Sin A Jun, Jeong Gon Kim, Eun Young Yoo, Tae Won Kim, Hae Dong Park, ata Hye Rin An, Keith Kwo, and, of course, the many members who supported the establishment committee in its work, including Sue Macdonald, Brian Shin and Anna Song. This is an important issue that should be acknowledged within this House. I acknowledge that it is an emotional issue, but as a woman and the member for Strathfield I feel it is important that this issue is brought to the New South Wales Parliament. I commend their work to the House.