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Glendale City Council denounces anti-statue lawsuit

The comfort-women memorial, located in Central Park, remains a controversial issue.

February 26, 2014|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Bok-dong Kim, a comfort woman survivor, is directly behind the monument as it is being unveiled at the unveiling ceremony of the Comfort Women Memorial monument in Glendale on Tuesday, July 30, 2013.
Bok-dong Kim, a comfort woman survivor, is directly behind… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

In City Council chambers packed with about 100 people, Glendale council members said they were not fazed by a lawsuit filed last week in federal district court asking a judge to remove a city statue honoring women victimized by the Japanese Army during World War II.

The statue isn’t going anywhere, they added.

“I think the lawsuit will be put to bed very quickly and we can move on and we can be proud of this statue,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, noting that she was glad the statue has focused international attention on Glendale and the women honored by the 1,100-pound memorial in Central Park.

The statue for so-called comfort women — an estimated 80,000 to 200,000 women from Korea, China and other countries who were used as sex slaves in military brothels — has been a lightning rod for controversy even before it was installed in July.

Although Mayor Dave Weaver has said he regretted the statue’s installation because he didn’t want Glendale to get involved in international affairs, he also spoke out against the lawsuit.

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“The council voted to put the comfort [women] statue there, it’s there, it passed, it’s going to stay there, period,” Weaver said.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court is just one of a string of attempts by opponents — including multiple visits by Japanese politicians and the threat by a Japanese city to end its sister city relationship with Glendale — to have it removed.

Opponents, both Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans, say the women acted willingly as prostitutes and the military was not directly involved in any coercion.

Their disapproval of the statue comes even as many former comfort women have told devastating stories about their servitude and a former Japanese Prime Minister apologized for the comfort women system in the 1990s. However, comfort women supporters have described that apology as insufficient.

The lawsuit, filed by a Glendale resident, a Los Angeles resident and a nonprofit group, claims that Glendale has infringed upon the federal government’s power to exclusively conduct foreign affairs by installing the statue, which has whipped up fury among some Japanese lawmakers.

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