Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Glendale's monument to comfort women comes under attack — again (Updated)



A statue commemorating the sexual slavery of women by the Japanese army in World War II was publicly unveiled in July 2013 in Glendale.
A statue commemorating the sexual slavery of women by the Japanese army in World War II was publicly unveiled in July 2013 in Glendale.
Photo by Melissa Wall via Flickr Creative Commons

The fight over Glendale's monument to World War II 'comfort women' slogs on.

A few weeks after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking the bronze statue's removal by a conservative group of residents of Japanese descent, the plaintiffs have filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs, who are members of the Global Alliance for Historical Truth, have also filed a new lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging "administrative negligence" by the City Council and the City Manager for not subjecting the wording on the statue's plaque to a vote. The inscription urges the Japanese government "to accept historical responsibility for these crimes."

In a statement e-mailed to KPCC by their Pasadena-based lawyer William DeClercq, the plaintiffs said:

GAHT does not seek to interfere with the international relations of Japan with the United States or any other country. To the contrary, GAHT is eager to improve them through a balanced examination of the issue of wartime prostitution and of Japan’s experience in redressing its past in this regard. GAHT deplores this issue being used to create a negative image of Japan, Japanese citizens, and Japanese Americans in order to weaken the US-Japan strategic partnership that has flourished for over 60 years and has been the backbone of the U.S. policy in East Asia.

Glendale city attorney Michael Garcia was not available for comment.

The plaintiffs challenge views by mainstream historians that the Japanese military during World War II used sex slaves from Korea, China and other countries. In Gingery v. City of Glendale filed February, they assert the city is meddling in foreign affairs. Lead plaintiff Michiko Gingery said the monument of a young Korean comfort woman was so upsetting she had stopped visiting the park where it sits.

The Korean American Forum of California which worked with Glendale officials to install the monument in the city's Central Park blasted the appeal as "frivolous." 

In a statement, the KAFC said the lawsuit was "designed to scare off any other city, county or local government bodies from recognizing and/or installing a memorial to remember the pain and suffering the victims went through." 

KAFC continues to look for California cities who will help preserve the memory of comfort women, many of whom have died. This month, Fullerton officials voted to support a House of Representatives resolution that urges the Japanese government to formally apologize for wartime sex slavery.