Koreans, Japanese Tussle Over NJ Comfort Women Memorial

Objections to a proposed memorial to comfort women were heard at a recent council meeting of the borough of Fort Lee. (Photo via The Korea Times)

The effort to establish a memorial to comfort women in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which is mainly being led by Korean high school students, has been put on hold.

On Sept. 7, final approval was to be decided at a meeting of the council of the borough of Fort Lee. However, 15 Japanese representatives of Nadesiko Action which is known as a far-right organization, and Sunflower Japan, a Japanese parents organization, objected to the establishment of the memorial and insisted that it stop.

Due to the objection, final approval was postponed.

The Japanese women’s organization, Nadesiko Action, is promoting the comfort women denial movement across the U.S., updating news about proposed memorials and Sonyeosang (Statue of Girl) projects in various states.

The members of the organizations insisted that “Japanese students in Fort Lee may be bullied in school because of the [proposed] memorial and this is not good for their education in many respects.” Also, “since memorials have already been built in Palisades Park and at the Bergen County Courthouse, it is inappropriate to erect another one in Fort Lee which will be funded by taxes.”

Meanwhile, a Japanese government official who will attend the 72nd session of the U.N. General Assembly made an appointment with the mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich. According to a Fort Lee official, they will discuss this controversial issue.

The council of Fort Lee will decide the memorial issue on Oct. 5.

Joseph Hong of the Youth Council of Fort Lee, which planned to establish the memorial, said, “The insistence that the memorial will cause bullying is jumping to conclusions.” He added that “it will be more educational for the Japanese students to know the right history.”

Mayor Sokolich also strongly refuted the arguments of the Japanese organizations, noting that the memorial represents not only an issue between Japan and Korea, but also tells the story of women who were forced into servitude in many countries, including China and the Philippines in World War II, and that this should not be repeated.


  1. ruewarwick says:

    See the article by Professor Park Yuha

    “I first confronted the comfort women issue in 1991. It was near the end of my study in Japan. As a volunteer I was translating former Korean comfort women’s testimonies for NHK. When I returned to South Korea, the nationalism was out of control. The anti-Japanese activist group “Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery” (also known as Chong Dae Hyup 정대협 挺対協) was formed by the South Korean communists. Its leader said publicly it was determined to defame Japan for the next 200 years. Its propaganda turned me off, so I stayed away from this issue for years. I regained my interest in this issue in the early 2000s when I heard that Chong Dae Hyup was confining surviving women in a nursing home called House of Nanumu. The only time these women were allowed to talk to outsiders was when Chong Dae Hyup needed them to testify for the UN Special Rapporteur or the U.S. politicians. But for some reason I was allowed to talk to them one day in 2003. I could sense that women were not happy being confined in this place. One of the women (Bae Chun-hee) told me she reminisced the romance she had with a Japanese soldier. She said she hated her father who sold her. She also told me that women there didn’t appreciate being coached by Chong Dae Hyup to give false testimonies but had to obey Chong Dae Hyup’s order. When Japan offered compensation through Asian Women’s Fund in 1995, 61 former Korean comfort women defied Chong Dae Hyup’s order and accepted compensation. Those 61 women were vilified as traitors. Their names and addresses were published in newspapers as prostitutes, and they had to live the rest of their lives in disgrace. So the rest of the women were terrified of Chong Dae Hyup and wouldn’t dare to defy again. Chong Dae Hyup (some of its members were arrested as North Korean spies) has used the comfort women issue for its political purpose, which is to drive a wedge into U.S.-Japan-South Korea security partnership.”

  2. ruewarwick says:

    Composite report on three Korean Navy civilians, list no. 78, dated 28 Mar 45, re “Special question on Koreans” (1945)
    Military Intelligence Service Captured Personnel & Material Branch
    The three prisoners are recorded as having responded, “All Korean prostitutes that POW[Prisoners of War] have seen in the Pacific were volunteers or had been sold by their parents into prostitution. This is proper in the Korean way of thinking but direct conscription of women by the Japanese would be an outrage that the old and young alike would not tolerate. Men would rise up in rage, killing Japanese no matter what consequence they might suffer.”

  3. ruewarwick says:

    We Japanese did and do apologize sincerely many many times like this.
    Subsequent governments (including Shinzo Abe’s) have reaffirmed.
    But Koreans ignore and trampled on it.
    2015 settlement was not first one. At least we apologized and compensated huge amount three times in 1965, 1993 and 2015.

    Letter from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the former comfort women
    The Year of 2001
    Dear Madam,
    On the occasion that the Asian Women’s Fund, in cooperation with the Government and the people of Japan, offers atonement from the Japanese people to the former wartime comfort women, I wish to express my feelings as well.
    The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women.
    As Prime Minister of Japan, I thus extend anew my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.
    We must not evade the weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future.
    I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations.
    Furthermore, Japan also should take an active part in dealing with violence and other forms of injustice to the honor and dignity of women.
    Finally, I pray from the bottom of my heart that each of you will find peace for the rest of your lives.
    Respectfully yours,

    Junichiro Koizumi
    Prime Minister of Japan

  4. ruewarwick says:

    Existence of Comfort Women or professional camp followers was no secret after WW2.
    They were portrayed in novels, newspapers and governmental documents.
    Most of Japanese admit that sufferings of Comfort Women were genuine and we have no wish or reason to retract government’s apology made in 1993.We wished better relationship with Koreans after 1993 apology and we didn’t imagine that the apology itself was regarded as new evidence for further claims; i.e. direct involvement of Japanese Imperial Army in abductions of as much as 200,000 girls and request for more apologies and compensations.
    Maybe because we Japanese have easier access to primary source document, we thought story about kidnapping 200,000 girls was just a joke. But Koreans meant it.
    In 2011 South Korean NGO influenced by North Korea erected statue of Comfort Woman in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
    Again in 2015 this time the US acted as mediator Japan and Korea resolved the issue ‘finally and irreversibly’. Japanese government expressed that it was aware of its responsibility and Premier Abe expressed anew his most sincere apologies and remorse.
    ROK government stated it acknowledged Japan’s concern over statue and it strived to solve the issue.
    In Japan they say Koreans move goal post whenever new President needs it. But we thought this time was the last. We thought this time we could finally came to reconciliation.
    Then here could be another statue in New Jersey! If it is installed people in Fort Lee will effectively destroy ‘final’ chance of reconciliation between Japanese and Koreans.

  5. ruewarwick says:

    Do you New Jersey people want this Japanese-American and Japanese bashing?
    ‘’Japanese cemetery is Oxnard’s latest vandalism target’’

    We current day Japanese living in Japan face same kind of vandalism.
    Few but score of patriotic Chinese and Korean tourists brainwashed by their anti-Japan education flied to Japan vandalize, set fire on old temples, shrines and monuments and steal ancient Buddhist statue from uninhabited temple saying Buddhist statue was robbed from Korea in 16th century.
    To our surprise Korean court admitted Korean temple’s vague claim that the statue was stolen by Japanese pirates 600 years ago and Korean government refuses to return object.

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