Memorial to ‘comfort women’ unveiled near Washington D.C.

Kyodo

A monument was unveiled in Virginia on Friday to commemorate the thousands of women who were forced to provide sex for Imperial Japanese soldiers in military brothels during the war.

Japan euphemistically refers to the women as the “ianfu,” or “comfort women.”

Similar memorials have been established in California and New York. The stone monument erected on the premises of Fairfax County’s government office is the first one to grace a suburb near the U.S. capital. It was set up in the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden to help raise public awareness of the women, many of whom were Korean.

A group of Korean-Americans spearheaded the project in Fairfax, just west of Washington. Fairfax County Board chairwoman Sharon Bulova said at the unveiling ceremony that its purpose is not only to commemorate the comfort women, but also to draw attention to human trafficking, an issue that remains a worldwide problem even today.

Putting the comfort women issue in a “human trafficking” context, Bulova said, “This memorial helps us to be sensitive to the subtle signs where someone may be living under conditions where they are powerless and afraid to change.”

“To Japan’s credit” its chief Cabinet secretary in 1993 made a formal governmental apology to the comfort women and their families, she told the couple of hundred people at the ceremony.

The plaque on the memorial reads, “May these ‘comfort women’ find eternal peace and justice for the crimes committed against them.” The victims were from “Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Netherlands and East Timor,” it said.

Kang Il-chul, an 85-year-old victim of the sexual servitude system, said Japan should “make a prompt apology” for the issue. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

The Japanese Embassy in Washington was unhappy with the monument.

In a commentary, it said: “It is very regrettable that a comfort women monument has been created.”

“We wish ethnic groups from different countries live together in peace and harmony in a local community of the United States,” and that the issue not be treated as a political or diplomatic issue, the embassy said.

The Japanese government has said the issue has been formally settled with the South Korean government, but disputes between Tokyo and Seoul over the women, particularly the lack of official compensation, continue to strain bilateral ties.

The county, with a population of some 1 million, is home to some 40,000 Korean-Americans and many U.S. federal government workers.

In February, the Virginia state legislature passed a bill requiring public textbooks to list “East Sea” to places where the Sea of Japan is mentioned. East Sea is how South Korea referred to the body of water separating the two countries before the nation came under annexation in 1910.

U.S. President Barack Obama has branded the Japanese military-led system of sexual servitude as a “terrible” violation of human rights, while the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution in 2007 urging Japan to make a formal apology.

In 1993, thenChief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono said in a statement that the Japanese government extends “its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government stirred controversy last year by saying it would “review” the process of how the Kono statement was made, but sometime later, Abe backed off and denied his government intends to change the wording of the Kono statement itself.

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    Again, this liar old woman Kan Il Chul makes fuss about her demented story of being saved by Kim Il Son’s command before Japanese solders throw her into bonfire. Her own testimony published in 1993 only shows that she was sold by her own mum into prostitution.

    • Scott Reynolds

      This sort of slander reflects extremely poorly on you and certainly does not help your cause in the slightest.
      In any case, you say that Kan Il Chul was *sold into prostitution* by her own family. Ergo, she is a classic victim of human trafficking. She was, one assumes, then “purchased” at some point by a contractor running a brothel for the Japanese military, thus making the Japanese military a willing participant in this sordid, criminal enterprise.
      I suggest that you stop posting in forums like this if you want to defend the honor of Japan, because your attempts to speak in Japan’s defense end up sounding more like testimony for the prosecution!

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Some of the women were forced. But many were common Korean hookers – an inconvenient fact for these Korean politicians seeking to make propaganda capital out of this.

    • Scott Reynolds

      I think you need to look into how women became “hookers” in Korea, or for that matter in Japan, in those days. In most cases it was not a voluntary choice.

      I think that the evidence shows pretty clearly that the vast majority of the “comfort women” were indeed forced, and that they did not have the option of leaving. This goes for Japanese “comfort women” as well as women from other countries.

      The quibbling about who exactly did the forcing is simply an attempt to evade moral responsibility for this shameful, dishonorable episode in Japan’s history.

  • JusenkyoGuide

    As terrible as the Comfort Women… (event? Situation? Not really a good word for it) thing was and still is, I’m left wondering just what does a county in Virginia have to do with it?

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    Koreans remain silent about the existence of Korean brokers who paid money to the parents to buy the girls and took them to brothels.

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    Korean efforts of building comfort women memorials all over the United States are really disgusting and outrageous.

    Koreans have had a long tradition of selling the first born daughter into prostitution in order to feed the rest of the family. I wonder if Americans feel sympathy for Koreans and building monuments with such knowledge. As they were sold by their own parents, there were no protests or eyewitness records of being brought by the Japanese police/military by their own parents (or any other third party). American should ask themselves if this blame-shifting and smear campaign by Koreans is a right thing to do.

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    Congratulations! The most recent data show that Japanese companies’ year-on-year direct investment in S. Korea was down by 40% in 2013 and the number of Japanese tourists to S.Korea was down by 22%. The long-time anti-Japan campaign of Koreans made some success.

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    The most recent data show that Japanese companies’ year-on-year direct investment in S. Korea was down by 40% in 2013 and the number of Japanese tourists to S.Korea was down by 22%. The long-time anti-Japan campaign of Koreans made some success.

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    Korean efforts of building comfort women memorials all over the United States are really disgusting and outrageous.

    Koreans have had a long tradition of selling the first born daughter into prostitution in order to feed the rest of the family. I wonder if Americans feel sympathy for Koreans and building monuments with such knowledge. As they were sold by their own parents, there are no protests or eyewitness records by their own parents (or any other third party) alleging that their daughter was abducted by the Japanese police/military.

    Besides, during the Annexation Era, nearly 90% of policemen were Koreans and 80% of local parliament representatives were Koreans. Did those Koreans allow the Japanese police/military to take 200,000 young women to brothels? Are you saying Korean men were so chicken weaklings to see their women were taken by foreign people? At least Japanese men often resorted to fist-fights during the occupation by US Army.

    Americans should ask themselves if this blame-shifting and smear campaign of baseless slander by Koreans is a right thing to do.

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    To all Koreans:
    The next time you face financial crisis or are combined with North Korea for Unification, Japan will NOT help you. Serve you right!

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    Koreans are stupid. The seven comfort women memorials built in the US made the Japanese people VERY ANGRY about them. In 1997, in response to the request of the S. Korean president, Japan helped S. Korea with financing of 10 billion dollars before Korea is placed under the IMF-control. The next time S. Korea faces economic crisis, Japan will NOT help them.

  • Toshiaki Haginoya

    1. The Korean government employed comfort women and operated state-owned brothels for the
    Korean Army during the Korean War while it ignores the fact and never deals with the fact in
    the same way as it deals with the Comfort Women Issue related to the Japanese Army. Why?
    2. The Korean government has employed comfort women and operated state-owned brothels for US
    troops up until today for a long period during and after the Korean War, while it never deals
    with the fact in the same way as it deals with the Comfort Women Issue related to the Japanese
    Army. Why?
    3. Korean government pays so great attention to the past comfort women while it ignores the
    present-day Korean women who are compelled to become modern-day comfort women because of their
    dire situation of being deeply in debt. Why?
    Korean government is a bunch of hypocrites! Koreans have no right to criticize the present day
    Japanese.