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Mayor Dave Weaver's letter states regret about "Comfort Women" memorial

November 02, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver expressed regret to a Japanese counterpart for the City Council's decision to place a memorial to sex slaves taken by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II in a public park — a vote in which he was the lone dissenter.

Weaver wrote the Oct. 1 letter, which some council members said was improper, in response to a missive from the mayor of Higashiosaka, Glendale's sister city. In his July letter, Mayor Yoshikazu Noda admonished the Jewel City for installing the controversial statue.

Weaver's letter echoes earlier statements he made to Japanese media about why he voted against the memorial for so-called "comfort women," which included concerns about appropriateness and placement. However, it contradicts the sentiment of other city leaders, who adamantly supported placing the 1,110-pound bronze statue of a young woman in traditional Korean dress sitting next to an empty chair.

"His opinion doesn't coincide with the rest of the council. In fact, it directly conflicts with it," said Councilman Zareh Sinanyan.

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Councilwoman Laura Friedman said while everyone is entitled to their opinion, when the council votes, it makes a decision as a group.

"We don't always have to agree, but we all have to respect the final decision, and that includes the mayor," she said.

In the letter, Weaver states that he regrets the statue was installed and the "deep divide" it created between Glendale and Higashiosaka. After Glendale installed it in Central Park on July 30, officials from the Japanese city considered ending the 50-year cultural exchange relationship with Glendale for several reasons, one of which was statue.

"I hope that this critical wound can heal itself in time," Weaver said in the letter.

The statue has been a point of controversy for months. Glendale installed it following a request by the Korean-American Sister City Assn., despite a barrage of emails from Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans protesting the roughly $30,000 replica of a memorial that sits outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

While advocates for former comfort women say Japan hasn't sufficiently apologized to the estimated 200,000 Korean, Chinese, Filipino and other women coerced into prostitution, opponents disagree. They say an apology issued by a former Japanese prime minister in the 1990s should have been enough.

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