Glendale unveils 'comfort woman' statue opposed by some Japanese

July 31, 2013

By ERIKA TOH/ Correspondent

GLENDALE, California--With police on guard against protesters, a statue of a “comfort woman,” a euphemism for those who provided sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II, was unveiled at a ceremony on July 30 in Glendale's Central Park.

On July 9, the Glendale City Council decided to erect the statue, which was dedicated to all war victims. Some Japanese and Japanese-American residents strongly opposed the statue and called for protests, claiming that the former Japanese military was not the only one that used such women and asked why the statue was erected now.

At the protest planned for the July 30 unveiling in the Los Angeles suburb, only a handful of protesters actually showed up.

The bronze statue depicts a girl wearing a traditional Korean dress called a “chima jeogori” and is based on a similar statue erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in 2011. Several hundreds of people, including Korean-American residents and a former comfort woman, took part in the unveiling ceremony.

In Washington, the House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2007 stating that Japan should acknowledge its historical responsibility for the comfort women issue. Rep. Mike Honda, a Democrat and a Japanese-American, played the central role in drafting the resolution.

Since then, several statues of comfort women have been erected in the United States, with more planned on the West Coast.

Not all people of Japanese descent opposed the unveiling. Some Japanese-Americans who expressed concern over the protest rallies participated in the dedication ceremony.

Kathy Masaoka, co-chair of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, said her group of Japanese-Americans has a different viewpoint from those who she says deny history.

Masaoka, a 65-year-old third-generation Japanese-American, said a repeated apology and compensation can help the victims heal.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on July 31: “We had been asking those related to the (Glendale) city to take appropriate measures. It is extremely regrettable they went ahead and built the statue.”

By ERIKA TOH/ Correspondent
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A bronze statue depicting a "comfort woman" is unveiled at Central Park in Glendale, Calif., on July 30. (Kaori Suzuki)

A bronze statue depicting a "comfort woman" is unveiled at Central Park in Glendale, Calif., on July 30. (Kaori Suzuki)

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  • A bronze statue depicting a "comfort woman" is unveiled at Central Park in Glendale, Calif., on July 30. (Kaori Suzuki)

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