SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) — Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon of South Korea Thursday paid tribute to a “comfort women” statue that honors victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery at a city park here.
Park said he was “deeply touched” to stand in front of the memorial erected at the St. Mary’s Square in downtown San Francisco to remember hundreds of thousands of Asian women, including many Chinese, Korean and Philippine girls, who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops during World War II (WWII).
He commended leaders of Chinese, Korean, Philippine and other communities in San Francisco for defying strong opposition from the Japanese government to push for the statue’s removal.
Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura of Japan cut the city’s decades-long “sister city” relationship with San Francisco in 2018 after the U.S. city rejected his request to remove the statue from the square.
Park said South Korea had experienced “a lot of pain and suffering” during the 20th century, referring to the invasion and occupation by Japanese forces until 1945.
A similar three-women monument honoring the victims of the WWII Japanese sexual slavery, better known as “comfort women,” was also installed on Namsan Mountain in Seoul, which holds the painful memories of the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
Judith Mirkinson, president of Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC), a San Francisco-based grass-roots organization, said Park’s visit to the monument shows his commitment to seeking justice for “comfort women.”
“That’s very, very significant, especially considering all the machinations of the Japanese government to force (South) Korea to take down the statue in Seoul,” she told Xinhua.
Retired Chinese American judge Lillian Sing of San Francisco Superior Court, who is also a co-founder of the CWJC, called Park’s visit to the memorial a stark contrast to what she described as “a bad sister city of Osaka” that broke its friendly ties with San Francisco because of the statue.
“The South Korean mayor is a man that wants to seek justice for the comfort women, speak about what happened to them and enhance Seoul’s relationship with San Francisco,” she added.