A Glendale resident, along with a Los Angeles resident and a nonprofit group, filed a lawsuit this week asking a federal judge to force the city of Glendale to remove a controversial statue in a public park that honors women victimized by the Japanese government during World War II.
’Comfort women’ is a term used to describe the approximately 200,000 women of various backgrounds (Chinese, South Korean, Taiwanese, etc.) who were forced into a glorified sex trade by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. While the existence of this human rights violation has been denied and disputed by the Japanese government, much like was the Nanjing Massacre, there has been a landmark apology (the Kono Statement) made nearly two decades ago in a rare instance of acknowledgment of past mistakes. This apology, however, is currently also under review.
To add insult to injury, however, one of the memorial statues for these ‘comfort women’, located in Glendale, California, is currently under fire for making resident Michiko Gingery suffer “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger” and for supposedly stepping beyond the rights of the town to pay tribute to the fallen victims. The co-plaintiffs on this lawsuit include GAHT-US Corp, which is an organization that seeks to abolish the rights of these ‘comfort women’ to be recognized and memorialized. As of February 21, 2014, Glendale council members are still reviewing claims.
Regardless of a the current reality of a being, be it a government, institution, country, or individual, acknowledging the past is a crucial component of showing that one can move forward while recognizing that mistakes have indeed been made previously. Furthermore, while wartime actions are no more excusable than are crimes in times of peace, refusing to admit that atrocities were committed both on and off the battlefield, and even seeking to retract an official apology made decades ago, demonstrates the fatal flaw of an institution both to own up to its past and to look forward to a more honorable future.
(thanks to Phil Yu for bringing this issue to light)
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