News / USA

Comfort Women Statue Sparks Debate in California

Comfort Women Statue Sparks Debate in Californiai
March 18, 2014 3:01 PM
Last July, the City of Glendale California, unveiled a statute in its central park of a Korean-American who was a so-called “comfort woman” -- one of the women forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers during World War II. Report by VOA's Jeff Shu.
Jeff Shu
Last July, the City of Glendale California, unveiled a statute in its central park of a Korean-American who was a so-called “comfort woman” -- one of the women forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers during World War II.  In so doing, the city entered a transnational dispute that is progressively becoming fiercer.

Local officials and hundreds of people from Glendale's Korean community participated in the statue's unveiling.  The focus, though, was not so much on the statue as on its subject -- Bok-Dong Kim -- a local resident and a former "comfort woman."

She wants Japan's prime minister to admit his country's mistake and apologize.

“An apology, that is my request," stated Bok-Dong Kim. "As a Prime Minister [of Japan] you must apologize for past mistakes, even if they were forged by a former emperor.”

It's estimated the Japanese compelled some 200,000 women to provide sexual services to its soldiers during World War II.  Most of these women came from Korea, though many were from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Japan’s conservative faction, though, denies the charge -- saying there were only 20,000 women at the most and that the overwhelming majority were willing participants.  Thus, the comfort women issue has become a recurring historical debate that has soured Japan’s relations with South Korea and China.

The Korea-Glendale Sister City Association was one of the promoters of the statue.  Association Chairman Chang Lee said it was put up with the best of intentions. “The reason behind having this statute here is to promote world peace and also to promote the human rights issue,” Lee said.

Many Japanese and Japanese-Americans, though, do not welcome the statue and have called on the city to tear it down. The city has not accepted any of these demands.

Last week, a group called the Global Alliance for Historical Truth, along with several Japanese Americans, filed a lawsuit in federal court asking for the statue to be removed.

“A city like Glendale within the state of California does not have any authority to interfere in foreign affairs,” said Koichi Mera, the group's president.

The Glendale statue is the first of its kind outside of the Korean peninsula, but similar commemorations are popping up elsewhere in California. The City of Garden Grove has erected a monument and Sonoma University added three tiles to its Asia Holocaust Monument in honor of comfort women.

In the face of the Korean-American push to establish comfort women memorials, Mera says that if his side can win its lawsuit, it will stop all U.S. cities from erecting a such monuments.

But the lawsuit has not yet been resolved, and Glendale has vowed to continue to fight.

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Comment Sorting
by: David from: Baltimore
March 31, 2014 7:50 PM
Can we also build a statue for the Tibetans to commemorate the horrendous human rights violations caused by the chinese?

by: Haengja Ko
March 24, 2014 1:14 AM
My mother was a very cold-hearted women....
One day, a Korean woman in her early forties approached me. She introduced herself as my mother's acquaintance...
She urged me to go to senchi (battlefield in Japanese) Without really knowing what senchi was about,
I accepted this offer. I naively trusted this woman, who took me to an employment agency.
Then, Mr. Ko, Korean, took me and seven or eight girls to Hankow, China. There I worked as a
comfort woman...

C. Sarah Soh, The Comfort Women, page 91

Korean and Japanese academics have long given up use of Seiji Yoshida as a source.
He was the origin of claims of forced recruitment, and thus the original claim of
sexual slavery, but he has already confessed that he fabricated the whole story by himself.

The testimony of the women is in many case either self-contradictory, demonstrably
false or clearly exaggerated beyond belief. Some former women have testified that
most of the women were willing participants in prostitution. Clearly such testimonies
were not highlighted by activists.

The system paid its workers very well. What suffering occured was dependent upon
the wartime conditions at which workers were located. Some lived in relative luxury,
others in harsh conditions. Many made huge amounts of money during their service.
One of the first women who wrote about their lives found that most remembered their
war years fondly and felt bitter more for how they were treated after the war.

The exact same comfort system was utilized after WWII by US troops in Japan.
as well as in Korea by US and Korean troops, in Vietnam by US and Korean troops.


by: Lincolist from: China
March 20, 2014 11:07 PM
shame on some Japanese! if i am a Japanese, i would like to to build such statues as comfort statue, we will never fotget history not for hatred,but for avoiding recuring tragedy.

by: Anonymous
March 19, 2014 5:00 AM
No matter what it is, somebody is going to bitch about it! Kind of like that memorial dedicated to the firefighters who died on 9-11. The memorial was based off the photo of the three firefighters holding a flag. Someone bitched that all the statues looked caucasion and that wasn't fair to the minority firefighters.

by: Not Again from: Canada
March 18, 2014 8:02 PM
History shows, to this very day, women are amongst the biggest victims of wars/conflicts. All victims need a dedicated memorial; it is shameful, that anyone would oppose such memorials; such opposition will only serve to further victimize them, for light will not shine on the crimes committed on the victims, nor on the criminals that did carry out such crimes. I do hope, for the sake of humanity, that the judiciary will not side with those that want to obscure the crimes that have occurred. And it should not be about the numbers of victims, but it should be about the suffering of the victims, and the inhumanity of the pepetrators. Failure to expose the truth, will not help us to be better in the future or the present.

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