Statue honoring WW II-era sex slaves coming to Glendale

Despite protests, Glendale is expected to place statue in park.

June 26, 2013|By Brittany Levine,
  • The Korean Sister City Assn. plans to install a $30,000 statue that weighs 1100 pounds in Central Park next month.
The Korean Sister City Assn. plans to install a $30,000… (City of Glendale )

This story has been corrected. See details below.

An 1,100-pound statue honoring hundreds of thousands of women taken as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army decades ago is traveling by boat from South Korea and is just days away from arriving in Glendale, where it may become the first statue honoring the so-called "comfort women" on public property on the West Coast.

The memorial, like others on the East Coast and in Korea, has sparked controversy as opponents from Japan have emailed dozens of letters to City Council members in an attempt to block the statue from being placed in Central Park near the Adult Recreation Center.

A group of Japanese nationalists deny that soldiers took about 200,000 Korean, Chinese and other women as sex slaves during World War II, but supporters of the memorials say the atrocities are well-documented.

Chang Lee, a member of the Korean Sister City Assn., which paid for the monument, said the memorial is not about pitting one country against another. Rather, it's meant to raise awareness of a dark time in history and learn from it, Lee said.


"It's not about one ethnicity against one ethnicity. It's about human rights. It's here so this atrocity will not be repeated," Lee said. "I'm glad that Glendale has taken a bold step to do that."

The association paid $30,000 for the statue, which features a young woman in a traditional Korean dress sitting next to an empty chair.

While former comfort women have shared their stories of human rights abuse, the Japanese government continues to deny that the military forced Korean women into prostitution decades ago. In 2007, the House of Representatives passed a resolution asking the Japanese government to formally apologize but it has not done so, Lee said.

Several council members said this week they would not be deterred by the emails they have received that are critical of the memorial.

"This is a historical fact," said Councilman Frank Quintero, who visited with surviving comfort women in South Korea a few months ago.

The bronze, granite and obsidian statue is a replica of a memorial that sits in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, where surviving comfort women often protest, demanding reparations. It's the first replica in the United States, Lee said.

While the statue features a young woman, her shadow symbolizes an older version of herself. A bird on the woman's shoulder represents freedom and peace. A butterfly seen in the shadow represents rebirth.

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