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The Continuing Battle Over Glendale’s ‘Comfort Women’ Statue

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A fight continues over a statue in Glendale honoring “comfort women,” women who were forced into prostitution by invading Japanese troops in World War II.

A Glendale resident and a nonprofit group have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Glendale over the 1,100-pound statue of a woman in traditional Korean dress, seated next to an empty chair, that was installed in Glendale’s Central Park last July, Glendale News-Press reports. Supporters of the statute say some 80,000 to 200,000 women from Korea, China, Indonesia and other countries occupied by Japan during the war were forced into sex slavery.

The plaintiffs argue that Japan was not involved in sexual slavery during World War II, despite many former comfort women coming forth over the years with stories of coercion and that the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said some women working in brothels overseen by the government were denied their freedom. The suit alleges Glendale exceeded its municipal power and infringed on the U.S. Constitution in meddling with foreign affairs.

Glendale resident Michiko Shiota Gingery filed the suit along with nonprofit GAHT-US Corp, which fights against the recognition of comfort women, and its president, Koichi Mera. Gingery said in the court filing she has “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger” about the statue and can no longer enjoy Central Park.

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Phyllis Kim, spokeswoman for the Korean American Forum of California, which helped pay for the $30,000 metal sculpture, said her group would not be swayed from spreading awareness of comfort women. In a statement, she said:

“The root cause of this wasteful dispute is the fact that the government of Japan has never taken the full responsibility for its crimes against humanity. To this day, it is trying to cover up, downplay and justify their past crimes instead of offering an official, sincere apology and sticking to it like [the] Germans did.”

Three delegations of Japanese politicians have previously visited Glendale and called for the statues removal, according to the News-Press. And in January, a Texas man collected more than 100,000 signatures for a petition to remove the statue that was sent to President Barack Obama, CBS reports.