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Third Japanese delegation bashes comfort-women statue

Group requested meeting with City Council but members decline invitation to address comfort-women memorial

January 16, 2014|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • A delegation of Japanese city council members brought a sign that says "Children need heart-warming monuments" to the comfort-women statue at Central Park in Glendale on Thursday, January 16, 2014. The delegation first delivered a letter to the Glendale city clerk asking this statue be removed because they do not approve of its message.
A delegation of Japanese city council members brought… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

About a dozen Japanese politicians visited Glendale Thursday calling for the city to remove a monument that honors women taken from Korea, China, the Philippines and other countries to serve as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

PHOTOS: Third Japanese delegation bashes comfort-women statue

The visit marked the third delegation of Japanese politicians who traveled to Glendale since the 1,100-pound statue was erected in Central Park in July.

The four-day trip included visits to the monument — which features a girl in Korean garb sitting next to an empty chair — the Japanese Garden and Tea House in Glendale, Glendale City Hall, Buena Park City Hall and a press conference at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo.

For decades, a contingent of Japanese, including some popular political figures, has denied the extent of — and sometimes repudiated altogether — their country’s involvement in coercing an estimated 80,000 to 200,000 so-called comfort women to work in brothels serving the Japanese military.

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However, the Japanese government has acknowledged that women were indeed coerced by the military and deprived of their freedoms, and numerous victims have come forward to publicly share harrowing tales of their servitude.

While the comfort-women issue has long been a controversial one in the two Asian countries, the Glendale statue escalated a feud between those who want to increase awareness of comfort women and their opponents, members of the delegation said.

“Are we angry? Yes,” said Setsuko Sakuraba, a city assemblywoman from Joetsu City, which has a population of more than 200,000, during the press conference on Thursday. “

But I am more sad than angry because this statue is not supporting world peace.”

Earlier that day, Yoshiko Matsuura, a city assemblywoman from the Suginami Ward in Tokyo, which has a population of 543,000, said the delegation is concerned about the statue’s effect on Japan’s reputation.

“We would like to protect the honor of the Japanese people,” she said, adding that the mature topics etched on the monument’s plaque are not appropriate for a public park where children visit.

The delegation held a large sign in front of the statue that read: “Children need heart-warming monuments” as they posed for pictures by the statue before a crowd of Japanese and Korean media.

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