Thursday, February 7, 2013

Comfort Women and Asian American Vote

On January 29, the New York State State adopted a Legislative Resolution recognizing a small stone monument in Nassau County dedicated to the myriad women in Asia who were forced to become sex slaves to Imperial Japan's Armed Forces and their contractors. A majority of these women were likely Korean who were procured through by a number of means and then trafficked to the war zones.

Many will simply see this simple act as another reminder of the horrors both East and West of World War II. The story is really bigger. The resolution is the second local resolution in the United States in memory of the Comfort Women. It follows one passed in the California State Senate in 1999 (Assembly Joint Resolution 27) and the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 (HRes 121).

It signifies greater participation and influence of the Asia American Pacific Island Community in American politics. Today nearly 6 percent if the U.S. population is AAPI and expected to reach 10% by 2050. The number of Asian-Americans jumped from 11.9 million in 2000 to 17.3 million in 2010, a 46 percent growth rate that outpaced even that of Hispanics, according to the Census Bureau. The AAPIC has become the swing vote with 40 to 50% participation rates and growing.

Second, the issue of violence against women and children in international conflict and human trafficking have become an important policy concerns to the American people and the Obama Administration. At its base, the Comfort Women issue is about what happens when policies do not exist to help this vulnerable population. The Obama Administration has made establishing mechanisms to assist women in conflict regions a priority. See: National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, US State Department.

Further, preserving the memory of the women (and boys) who were sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II is part of preserving the memory and lesson of that terrible conflict. The governments of Canada, European Union, South Korea, and the Netherlands all passed resolutions to their memory.

Below is the text of J304-2013: Memorializing a Memorial Monument in the State of New York that pays tribute to those who have become known to the world as 'Comfort Women' 
WHEREAS, During the Japanese colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II, approximately 200,000 young women were coerced into the Comfort Women system of forced military prostitution; and 
WHEREAS, On June 16, 2012, the Comfort Women Memorial Monument was established in the Veterans Memorial at Eisenhower Park in Westbury, New York, to honor and commemorate the victims of the Comfort Women system; and  
WHEREAS, The Memorial Monument, being the second memorial of its kind in the United States, symbolizes suffering endured by comfort women and serves as a reminder of the crime against humanity committed through the Comfort Women system; and 
 WHEREAS, It is the custom of this Legislative Body to recognize historical monuments within the State of New York that are established to increase awareness of serious events that have taken place in history; and  
WHEREAS, The United Nations reports that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited as sexual slaves; now, therefore, be it  
RESOLVED, That this Legislative Body pause in its deliberations to memorialize a Memorial Monument in the State of New York that pays tribute to those who have become known to the world as 'Comfort Women'; and be it further 
RESOLVED, That copies of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be transmitted to the Korean American Public Affairs Committee, the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Korean American Civic Empowerment.

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