Japanese Effort to Remove N.J. ‘Comfort Women’ Monument Angers Koreans

The Japanese government has tried to convince a New Jersey town to remove a monument memorializing the wartime rape of Korean “Comfort Women,” the Korea Daily reported.

The efforts to remove the Palisades Park monument, the first U.S. memorial dedicated to the Asian women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s army during World War II, has infuriated Koreans in New Jersey, who see it as a denial that the wartime episode occurred. It has also provoked a defiant response from the town’s mayor.

Japanese lawmakers visited Palisades Park in New Jersey, seeking to remove a monument to Comfort Women. (Photo via New York Ilbo)

According to James Rotundo, the mayor of Palisades Park, the Consul General of Japan on April 30th proposed a private meeting with the City Council without disclosing the exact reason — saying only via email that the meeting was “for the international relationship between U.S. and Japan.”

Shigeyuke Hiroki, the Japanese Consul General in New York, suggested that the town remove the Comfort Women Monument, and offered trees, a youth exchange program between the two countries, and books for the public libraries to improve the relationship between the two countries. The Consul called the Comfort Women monument a stumbling block for this project.

The Consul General later denied a tit-for-tat offer, The Record reports:

But in an email sent to The Record on Wednesday, Hiroki’s office said he made no such offer. The email confirmed both meetings took place, but provided few details on what was discussed.

Rotundo’s account of the meeting, which included four visiting Japanese legislators, indicates that the monument was its main focus, according to The Record.

“Their purpose was to have us pretty much remove it,” he said on Wednesday as he stood in front of the library. “Regardless of whatever else they said their main goal was, to come here to think we would be intimidated to take it away, and we are not.” Rotundo said during a three-hour meeting last Sunday with town officials, the four Japanese legislators disputed the number of comfort women and claimed that they willingly served the soldiers.

New York Ilbo provided more detail on the Japanese legislators’ arguments.

The Comfort Women monument in Palisades Park has caused some controversy. (photo by Steve Chong)

In the meeting,  the four Parliament members from Japan argued that the writing on the Comfort Women monument in Palisades Park is not consistent with the fact.

In particular, the monument’s plaque says that it is “In memory of the more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of imperial Japan,” but they said that it is not true that there were 200,000 people involved.

Rotundo said he will not remove the monument. And Palisades Park’s deputy mayor, Jason Kim, defended it, The Record reported.

“This is an issue against women; this kind of atrocity of rape and abduction shouldn’t happen anymore,” said Kim, the first Korean-American to be elected to a council seat in the state. “If we don’t learn from the past history and correct this, it will happen again, and that scares me. That is what drives me to have this monument and tell the whole world why we should have this monument.”

On May 9th, After Japanese lawmakers left Palisades Park, three Korean lawmakers arrived to lay flowers at the Comfort Women monument, and Korean-Americans have expressed anger at the talk of removing the monument, The Korea Daily reported.

Korean lawmakers placed chrysanthemums on the Comfort Women monument in Palisades Park. (photo by Amy Newman)

Yun Hee Choi, chief of Korean-American Parents Association, strongly criticized the Japanese officials’ move.

“The purpose of creating a monument is to acknowledge the importance of women’s rights all over the world and to keep our future generations from repeating it,” she said. “Given that, the fact that the Japanese government requested removal of this monument, using aid as a lure, is committing a shameful crime.”

The issue of Comfort Women, and Japan’s limited apologies for the episode, has been a source of tension between the two countries and a political hot potato for Japanese politicians. The Record reports:

Last December, two comfort women traveled from Korea to visit the monument, and answered questions at the Palisades Park library about their stories of rape that they said lasted for several years. They are among a handful of comfort women who reside in Korea and protest every week in front of the Japanese Embassy asking for a formal apology from the government.

In 1993, the Japanese government accepted the role of its military in setting up brothels, and a declaration known as the “Kono Statement” offered an apology. But many, including the surviving comfort women, didn’t accept the statement because it was issued by a Cabinet secretary, not by Parliament.

In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution urging Japan to acknowledge and apologize for its wartime sex slavery. But in recent years, members of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party have said there is no evidence that the military kidnapped women and forced them into sex slavery. The four legislators who visited Palisades Park are members of that party.

Below is a video of press conference about the monument, including Rotundo and other speakers, from The Record.

12 Comments

  1. It’s a lie. That plaque is nothing more than hate speech and should be removed. But you care nothing for truth.
    The mayor is just another shameful, despicable politician.

  2. Koreans need to remove their 300,000 comfort women working in massage parlors throughout the US, Europe, and Japan if it wants the world to take them seriously about the WWII comfort women issue.

    • nakamura says:

      Park: According to your logic, does that mean the former existence of Japanese karayuki san, or Japanese overseas prostitutes who once contributed to more than 10% of Japan’s GDP, automatically make your mom and grand mom a prostitute?

  3. What does this have to do with America? Did Japan come to America and abduct these women? Does every country that Koreans live in have a monument to remember comfort women? Koreans and Japanese are just using America as a medium for their political grandstanding.

  4. Korean women made the bulk of victims but the Japanese army also kidnapped women from China, Taiwan, Philippines and other neighbouring lands. This horrible time in history should never ever be forgotten. Although in Japan, their atrocities have been wiped out from textbooks, the victim countries will remember and be haunted by it forever.

  5. What Japan did to women… hell, to EVERYONE is that part of the world for decades is beyond dispute. You don’t like being reminded of it? Too bad. This country has been far too FORGIVING to Japan, considering what was done to American POWs during the war years…. but that’s just my opinion.

    In New Jersey, we have a saying… if you don’t want none, don’t start none. This issue could have rested in peace, but the Consul came from NY to NJ with an attitude. Mistake… because now what he did may go viral. That would be entertaining, wouldn’t it?

    >>>> science fiction….. it wasn’t RADIATION that woke up Godzilla… it was BAD KARMA….

  6. After the world warII, Germany apologized to all victims who was molested or hurted. However Japanese who destroyed in Asia, they tried to attact America to make Japanese slave. Can American imagine japanese to conquer your land at that time? If japanese did, think about more worse, it’s up to you! You think how Korean victim ladies felt like!
    Japanese never say ” sorry “. They said ” Self-defense ” it’s ridiculous.
    If Japan is really the one of the Developed countries. You Japan should tell the contries victims ” really Sorry “

  7. Pingback: Monumenti contro la violenza | Mauro Corso, attore e scrittore

  8. i am korean.. i dont understand why they build stuff in america.. you may not know koreans do bad things to koreans sometimes. they do good things for rich foreigners than koreans. i hate the japanese but i hate those present koreans who are blind with love of money and fame. those koreans never help koreans. all the old people who experienced war committed suicide. they couldn’t get any help. they died like beggars. even the retired soldiers. they all committed suicide because they were extremely depressed without help and love. and korean students commit suicide. korea is highest suicide rates in OECD.

  9. Toshiaki Haginoya says:

    Fools Marching in Kimuchi Land
    http://www.howitzer.jp/korea/page16.html

  10. Rights Human says:

    I understand that the Korean readers do not accept the following news, but I have to present them here for human rights and talks for future.
    I am very shocked because I found two news as follows.
    http://iamkoream.com/comfort-women-for-u-s-military-sue-south-korean-government/
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/05/national/politics-diplomacy/asahi-shimbun-admits-errors-in-past-comfort-women-stories/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asahi-shimbun-admits-errors-in-past-comfort-women-stories
    The first one says that 122 Korean women claimed that “we were the U.S. military comfort women”, and sued the class action lawsuit on June 25, 2014. It means that the US military and the Korean Government itself is very deeply committed to this
    Korean “comfort women” matter during and after the Korean War, as an assailant
    of violence against women.

    The second one say that on August 6, 2014, the Asahi Shimbun, pro-Korean and
    liberal news paper in Japan, admitted to serious errors in many articles on the
    “comfort women” issue, retracting all stories going back decades that quoted a
    Japanese man who claimed he kidnapped about 200 Korean women and forced them to work at wartime Japanese military brothels. It means that as far as the
    present-day Korean Peninsula is concerned, no hard evidence had been found to
    show the Japanese military was directly involved in recruiting women to the
    brothel system against their will.

    Anyway, the issue is a human rights concern for the future of all nations. Palisades Park should not turn its face away from the inconvenient truth, Korean comfort women enslaved for the US military. All comfort women were the victims of human trafficking.

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