Thursday, May 1, 2014

Comfort Women Memorials

Glendale, CA
American and Australian municipal and state legislators have been bombarded with emails, letters, and petitions demanding that they refuse to errect or tear down memorials to the Comfort Women. The Japanese writers insist that the thousands of women, girls, and boys used as Comfort Women for the Imperial Japan's military were merely willing prostitutes who profitted from their labor. They feel that these momuments are an insult to Japan's honor.

To be sure, all the writers are from a handful of Japanese rightwing, anti-Korean groups coordinated by a group called Nadeshiko or Pink Action (note this is not the literal translation, but theirs). They appear to be working with the reactionary Society for History Textbook Reform, Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, former General Toshio Tamogami's group, and Nippon Kaigi the most prominent organization for Japan's conservative nationalists. On April 19, 2014 they held a Mass Rally against the Kono Statement in Tokyo.

The ties Nadeshiko has to the virulent anti-Korean hate groups in Japan such as Zaitokukai are unsettling. APP examines these links in this Japan Brief that finds the head of Nadeshiko to be the same person as the deputy director of Zaitokukai.

All these groups are involved in some way in establishing the California-based Global Alliance for Historical Truth (GAFHT) that is behind a lawsuit filed with the Federal District Court in February, Gingery v. City of Glendale. The suit contends that the Comfort Women memorial in the City's public park is unconstitutional as it interfers with American foriegn policy and is causing Japanese to suffer "feelings of exclusion, discomfort, and anger." The plantiffs believe that the memorial is a "pointed expression of disapproval of Japan and the Japanese people" and diminishes their enjoyment of the park.

Nathan Hale at Yale
Lawyers and legal blogers have not only ridiculed the plantiffs' contentions, but also have heaped contempt on their law firm, Mayer Brown. Ken White of Popehat a prominent commentator on the legal profession, calls the suit “despicable” and “thoroughly contemptible,” writing that he “cannot remember a lawsuit that so immediately repulsed and enraged.” For a summary of these opinions see Above the Law. You can also vote whether you think the suit is digusting or comendable.

The City of Glendale's pro bono law firm, Sidley and Austin filed their motion to dismiss on April 11th.

By May 1, Mayer Brown decided to end their relationship with GAFHT. They returned the legal fees and found another law firm, the DeClercq Law Group, for the plantiffs.

Kissimmee, FL
What first comes to mind is whether the British are offended by the defiant statue of a bound and ready to die Nathan Hale on the Yale campus and in front the U.S. Justice Department and CIA. Or if Japanese are alarmed by the growing number of Bataan Death March memorials throughout the U.S. funded by the Filipino-American community. The larger than life statues are always the same, a brave Filipino woman is offering food to two sick, exhausted, and starving American POWs.

But more interesting, is that these anti-Comfort Women activists do not have to leave the shores of Japan to protest memorials to these sex slaves. In fact, there are at least three memorials in Japan as well as a research center and museum dedicated to the Comfort Women.

In Chiba Prefecture, there are two memorials to the Comfort Women. Both pre-date when the first Korean woman spoke out on August 14, 1991 about being forced to become a Comfort Women.

There is one in Tateyama, Chiba on the compound of a Christian Church's elderly community for former wayward women. On a hill stands a stone memorial to “Military Comfort Women” erected in 1986. In the group's Church is a small memorial honoring the only Japanese Comfort Women to identify herself as such, Suzuko Shirota.

As a point of interest, Tateyama was the headquarters for the Imperial Navy’s Air Service. 

Not too far from Tateyama is Kamogawa City, Chiba. There, facing the sea,  is a “Memorial to the Nameless Women,” erected in 1973 by two former Imperial Army soldiers who felt that these women who provided them solace should not be forgotten and deserved the
respect of being remembered.

On Okinawa’s Miyako (jima) Island there is a new stone monument to the Comfort Women unveiled in 2008 that bears inscriptions in 12 languages. The inscription in English reads, “We remember the suffering of the individual women who were subjected to sexual violence by the Japanese military, lament the victims of wartime sexual violence throughout the entire world, pray for a peaceful world without any more war.”

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