New York lawmakers unveil second ‘comfort women’ memorial

Kyodo

New York lawmakers joined Korean-American and other groups to unveil a second monument to the women forced into sexual slavery before and during World War II at Veterans Memorial in Nassau County on Long Island on Friday.

The victims are euphemistically referred to as the “ianfu,” or “comfort women,” in Japan.

Flanking the original monument set up in Eisenhower Park in 2012, the second memorial, consisting of two stone tablets, bear the comfort women resolutions signed by the state assembly and senate in 2012. The tablets were unveiled by New York Sen. Tony Avella, Assemblyman Chuck Lavine, Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and leaders of Korean-American and human rights groups.

The assembly’s resolution says the Japanese government “officially commissioned” the system of sexual servitude that was used on “hundreds of thousands of young women from Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands and elsewhere” from the 1930s through World War II.

David Lee, president of the Korean American Public Affairs Committee, which spearheaded the effort to raise the monument, said that when the resolutions were introduced “there were a lot of complaints from Japan.”

“We were obviously misunderstanding each other. This issue is not about embarrassing Japan,” Lee said.

South Korea has repeatedly called on Japan to recognize and offer a full official apology and official compensation to women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese military during World War II.

In a speech at the unveiling, Avella called Japan’s failure to recognize the comfort women “a shame on the country.”

“It has nothing to do with the present people of Japan or the present leadership, but I think it’s important . . . to recognize what happened,” Avella said.