National

California city unveils memorial statue of Korean 'comfort woman'

Kyodo

Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday at Glendale Central Park near Los Angeles to witness the unveiling of the first “comfort women” memorial on public property on the U.S. West Coast.

Supporters, Glendale city officials and other community members attended the event on the sixth anniversary of the passage of Resolution 121 by the U.S. House of Representatives, which urges the Japanese government to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept responsibility for the forced sexual slavery of hundreds of thousands of women by the Imperial Japanese military.

On Wednesday in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed displeasure after Japan failed to gain support for its position on the issue from authorities in Glendale.

Setting up the monument “conflicts with the government’s view that the issue of the comfort women should not be part of any political or diplomatic agenda,” Suga told reporters.

The government has repeatedly claimed the matter was settled by a Japan-South Korea treaty in 1965 that normalized diplomatic ties and has provided compensation through a private fund. In a 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, Japan acknowledged and apologized for the forced recruitment of women into sexual servitude.

Glendale City Council member Frank Quintero said he is proud of what the city has accomplished in helping to shine more light on the issue of sexual slavery and violence.

“The city approved the monument because it was the right thing to do,” he said.

The memorial, a bronze statue of a woman in traditional Korean clothing sitting next to an empty chair, is a replica of a memorial in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

Kim Bok Dong, 87, who said she spent eight years providing sexual services to Japanese troops after she was forcibly drafted when just 14 years old, was in Glendale for the unveiling and at one point sat next to the bronze woman, holding her hand.