Memorial to WWII “Comfort Women” Draws International Fire

Saturday, July 13, 2013
Memorial to Korean "comfort women"

The city of Glendale, California, seeking to honor Koreans who make up 5% of its population, voted to erect a memorial to the tens of thousands of women who were forced to act as sexual slaves or “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers during World War II. 


This seemingly humanitarian gesture was not universally appreciated.


A stream of emails, many from Japan, protested the city’s decision, reflecting a surge in revisionist sentiment which denies that the women, many of them not yet adults, were coerced into being prostitutes, and if they were, it was, in the words of Japan’s Osaka Mayor Tōru Hashimoto, “necessary.”


“When soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets, and you want to give these emotionally charged soldiers a rest somewhere, it’s clear that you need a comfort-women system,” Hashimoto told reporters in May.


Others have said that the women, estimated to be upwards of 200,000, worked in Japanese brothels because it was steady employment, their pimps back home compelled them, their families thought they would be safer during the war or their families sold them to the enemy. Those are not reasons heard from the Korean, Filipino and Chinese women who are still alive to tell the story.


And it’s not an explanation that the Glendale City Council was buying. “A 14-year-old girl doesn't voluntarily leave her village in Korea to go serve the Japanese army. Give me a break,” Councilman Frank Quintero said after the vote. Mayor Dave Weaver said he had received 350 emails opposing the monument, and 27 people, mostly Japanese-Americans spoke against the memorial before the vote on Tuesday. Weaver voted against it, saying he wanted a master plan for the park before deciding on statues, but lost 4-1.


The memorial, a statue of a young Korean woman with a bird on her shoulder seated next to an empty chair, will be a replica of one at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. Proposed memorials in other states, including New York and New Jersey, as well as Singapore, have also been the subject of protests.


Japan officially apologized to the women in 1993, but conservative nationalists there have been agitating the past 20 years for a new reading of the historical record. Many claim that the number of women pressed into service was greatly exaggerated and was probably closer to 20,000 than 200,000.


Although Hashimoto said his remarks in May were misinterpreted, he argued that there was no evidence that the Japanese government had anything to do with wartime “comfort women”—not that it would necessarily have been a bad thing then, or now. He suggested that the United State should follow the practice at its bases in Japan to reduce incidents of rape: “We can’t control the sexual energy of these brave Marines....They must make more use of adult entertainers.”  

-Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Glendale Steps Into Controversy with Memorial to WWII Sex Slaves (by Jack Dolan and Jung-yoon Choi, Los Angeles Times)

Glendale Approves Korean “Comfort Woman” Statue Despite Protest (by Brittany Levine, Glendale News-Press)

Glendale Moves Forward on Proposed “Comfort Women” Memorial (by Christina Villacorte, Los Angeles Daily News)

How “Comfort Women” Court Ruling Led to Kyoto Dinner Tiff (by Yuka Hayashi, Wall Street Journal)

The Mayor and the Comfort Women (by Amy Davidson, New Yorker)


Toshiaki Haginoya 5 years ago
koreans are liars. If you doubt me, ask someone who lived there, or someone who has had business with Korean companies.
Toshiaki Haginoya 5 years ago
Why do Americans kowtow to Koreans? Comfort Women Issue is part of defamation campaign of Koreans against Japan based on conjured up fake stories and lies. Visit this site to find the truth: False Accusations of Comfort Women
English Rose 5 years ago
I've been searching for this issue for some time. It's amazing how this has accelerated in recent years by Korean campaigns. No matter how you search at related governments' libraries and online, you cannot find any older data than those of 80s other than the text mentions in their claims. Seiji Yoshida, a Japanese communist, wrote a book "My War Crime" in '83, in which he "confessed" to have abducted Korean women forcedly. He testified on various newspapers the number of women abducted by him - 200 ('83), 950 ('92), 1000 ('92), 2000 ('92), 6000 ('92), etc, etc!!! Alas, the local historian of Jeju Island where he claimed the incidents taken place made a follow-up. He declared to have found no evidence and introduced the islanders' denials. Eventually Yoshida admitted his book was an absolute fabrication (fiction). Astonishingly the Korean Government decided to hide away the Jeju historian's findings and make use of Yoshida's "confession" as their Anti-Japan propaganda and have been extremely active in lobbying especially with US, who 'need' to maintain their post-war position re-WW2 - hence many US newspapers' stances. This article is slightly more balanced in comparison acknowledging they haven't done their own study. We as civilians have been brainwashed by Victors' propaganda world wide. Every war in modern history is the same. We hear only the Victors' reports and the Losers' voices are always denied. Knowing Japan's very positive reputations in 19th Century and after WW2, if Japan had been unthinkably barbaric as we were taught, don't you think it's absurd that a whole nation can change the character over night for just a period of time and switch back again on the wake of end of WW2? It was a war. Yet we don't hear about any cruel actions by Victors.
Belle 5 years ago
They weren't "coerced into being prostitutes", they were forced into rape slavery.

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