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Comfort-women statue dispute continues

Resident is co-plaintiff in lawsuit that seeks to remove memorial.

February 21, 2014|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • The comfort-women statue in Central Park in Glendale on Thursday, January 30, 2014.
The comfort-women statue in Central Park in Glendale… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

A Glendale resident, along with a Los Angeles resident and a nonprofit group, filed a lawsuit this week asking a federal judge to force the city of Glendale to remove a controversial statue in a public park that honors women victimized by the Japanese government during World War II.

The lawsuit is the latest attempt to remove the 1,100-pound statue for so-called “comfort women,” which was installed in July.

Supporters of comfort women say the Japanese military coerced an estimated 80,000 to 200,000 women from Korea, China and other countries to work as prostitutes in military brothels against their will. Three delegations have visited Glendale in recent months requesting its removal.

The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit in U.S District Court on Thursday, disagree with international historical understanding of what occurred during World War II, and claim, like Japanese politicians have in the past, that the Japanese government was not involved in sexual slavery.

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The lawsuit was filed even though many former comfort women have publicly shared stories of their coercion and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that some comfort women working in brothels overseen by the government were deprived of their freedom.

According to the lawsuit, installing the statue “exceeds the power of Glendale, infringes upon the federal government's power to exclusively conduct the foreign affairs of the United States and violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.”

The lawsuit goes on to state that “by installing the public monument, Glendale has taken a position in the contentious and politically-sensitive international debate concerning the proper historical truth of the former comfort women.”

Glendale is not the first public agency in the United States to install a comfort-woman monument on public land, but it is the first city on the West Coast to do so. Valued at about $30,000, Glendale's statue in Central Park, which features a woman in Korean garb sitting next to an empty chair, has reawakened an international debate.

Michiko Shiota Gingery, the Glendale resident who filed the lawsuit, said in the court filing that because of the statue, she can no longer enjoy Central Park and she suffers “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger” due to the bronze monument, which is often surrounded by bouquets of flowers.

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