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Diplomatic call for Comfort Women

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Rep. Adam Schiff urged the country’s top diplomat this week to press Japanese political leaders to formally recognize women used as sex slaves by the Imperial Army during World War II.

The Burbank Democrat, along with two of his Congressional colleagues, sent the letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the same week as Korean supporters of a Glendale statue honoring so-called comfort women hosted an incense ceremony at the monument to honor a former victim who died last Saturday.

“We recognize that this issue is deeply important to our constituents and should be a diplomatic priority for the Department of State,” he wrote, along with New Jersey Reps.Scott Garrett and Bill Pascrell.

All three have comfort-women memorials in their districts.

“Several of us feel that Japan can make a more full and consistent recognition of what happened to the comfort women,” Schiff said during a phone interview.

In 2007, Congress passed a resolution calling on the Japanese government to issue a formal apology to the comfort women. In the 1990s, a former Japanese prime minister sent letters of apology to former comfort women, but supporters say that wasn’t enough, pointing to a segment of Japanese people that continue to deny as many as 200,000 women were forced into prostitution by that country’s military.

The opposition persists despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan declaring that some women were coerced and deprived of their freedom as well as numerous survivors publicly sharing harrowing tales of servitude.

Glendale has become ground zero for the comfort-women controversy since the city installed an 1,100-pound statue in Central Park in July. Since then, three delegations of Japanese politicians — both local and national — have visited Glendale and called on the city’s leaders to remove the memorial.

“Periodically there are very prominent Japanese public officials who make erroneous and hurtful comments about what was done to the comfort women,” Schiff said in the interview. “It’s clear that there really isn’t a full recognition and reckoning at times of what Japan did during World War II.”

The bronze monument in Glendale — the first comfort-women memorial on public land on the West Coast — features a young Korean woman sitting next to an empty chair. It is often surrounded by bouquets of flowers.

On Thursday afternoon, the Korean American Forum of California, which is advocating for the installation of similar statues throughout the United States, hosted an incense ceremony to honor a former comfort woman who died last week.

Hwang Keum-ja died at 89 on Saturday of lung and respiratory disease at a Seoul hospital. She was 13 years old and living in North Korea when she was taken by a Japanese policeman to work at a glass factory for three years, Phyllis Kim, spokeswoman for the Korean American Forum of California, said.

After that, Kim said, Hwang moved to China and was forced to work in a brothel. She returned to Korea at the end of World War II, but lived in poverty throughout her life.

Comfort-women advocates are lobbying to erect more memorials like the one in Glendale in an effort to prompt a formal parliamentary resolution in Japan apologizing to comfort women. Advocates fear that the longer it takes to pen the resolution, more former comfort women will die.

Schiff’s Jan. 29 letter was sent about two weeks after a Congressional appropriations bill including a provision that reflected sentiments similar to those expressed in his message, was signed into law.

Schiff said it was not uncommon for appropriators — in this case members of Congress — to express their views on what departments, such as the Department of State, should do with their funding.

As much as Kerry has his plate full with issues in the Middle East and elsewhere, Schiff said North Korea is also a top priority and Japan’s ability to work together with South Korea and the Philippines will be important for the United States strategically in Asia.

“A full recognition of what happened to the comfort women would improve those relations and that is very much in our interest,” Schiff said.

By Brittany Levine, LA TIMES

Images: Google image

Article from Glendale News Press

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Congressmen enter fray monument to Korean comfort women

A California Congressman has waded into a months-long controversy over a statue the city of Glendale installed to honor Korean comfort women forced to serve Japanese soldiers during World War II.

A vocal contingent of Japanese in the US and abroad say that Japan has been unfairly vilified, with some denying the plight of the women from Korea and other Asian countries as they call for the monument’s removal. A petition to the White House has generated more than 126,000 signatures.

But Rep. Adam Schiff, whose district includes Glendale, said such protests threaten to destabilize relations between Japan and its neighbors. And that, he said, is a matter of international security for the US.

“It’s very important for Japan to work well with South Korea and with the Philippines and other nations, particularly in light of some of the Chinese expansionist moves in that part of the world,” said Schiff, D-Burbank.

Schiff on Wednesday called on Secretary of State John Kerry to confront the Japanese government about crimes against the comfort women in a letter he co-wrote with New Jersey Congressmen Bill Pascrell and Scott Garrett. Both also represent districts that have seen flareups over memorials to comfort women.

“With the remaining survivors now well into their eighties, these women deserve to hear a formal apology from the Japanese government nearly 70 years after the end of the war,” the representatives wrote.

The letter comes about a half-year after the city of Glendale in July unveiled its monument — a young girl wearing traditional Korean clothes, and sitting next to an empty chair. It was donated by the Korean American Sister City Assn.

In the months since, three delegations of Japanese politicians have visited the city, making their case for the monument’s removal. They’ve challenged estimates that as many as 200,000 women throughout Asia – most of them from Korea – worked as comfort women in brothels serving Japanese soldiers.

Retired Japanese banker and Los Angeles resident Tomoyuki Sumori is among those fighting the memorial. He told PRI’s The World: “This is not the right place for them to wage this kind of anti-Japan propaganda. Why do they do it in another country?’

Other Japanese-Americans such as Harold Kameya, however, support the memorial. He’s president of the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Citizens League, which earlier this month passed a resolution expressing support for the Glendale statue.  Another Japanese-American organization, Nikkei Civil Rights and Redress, is also in support.

“It’s a civil rights issue,” said Kameya, a retired engineer. “It was important for us, especially as people of Japanese heritage, and as American citizens.”

By Josie Huang

89.3 Southern California Public Radio

Angouleme Comic Festival, ‘ComfortWomen’ issue press conference suddenly Cancelled by Festival Committee’s request.

In 2014 Angouleme Comic Festival,Cartoons about former Korean sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II will be exhibited. Some 20 cartoons and four videos including animations by local artists telling tragic stories of the former sex slavery victims will be featured in a special exhibition of the 2014 Angouleme International Comics Festival. Minister of gender equality and family plans to promote a special exhibition of Korean cartoons themed on Asian victims of the Japanese military’s sexual enslavement during World War II. The exhibition is part of the 2014 Angouleme International Comics Festival scheduled for Jan. 30-Feb. 2 in the southwestern French city of the same name.

However, the scheduled press conference meeting, inviting French newspapers and popular celebrities was suddenly cancelled  a day prior by the request of Angouleme International Comics Festival Committee. The Committee informed that the Committee would cancel the special exhibition of ‘Comfort Women’ if the press meeting were held.

It was strongly suspected that behind this sudden, unexpected request of the Festival Committee was driven by the pressure of Japanese government. Japan is the biggest financial contributor of ‘Angouleme’ Festival. Japanese government vehemently protested initially when the special exhibition for ‘Comfort Women’ was announced at ‘Angouleme’ Festival.

It is really sad and feels helpless to see that Japanese government tries every bit of their power to hide and squash Japan’s atrocious act during the war rather than acknowledge and apologize to its victims.

By Justice for Comfort Women.org

US rejects NHK President’s claim of using ‘comfort women’ during WW2

United States denied the Japan’s new NHK president’s claim that US operated the comfort women system during and after the war. NHK president claimed that US and other European countries employed the comfort women same as Japan did while his press interview.

http://world.time.com/2014/01/29/comfort-women-japan-us-wwii-katsuto-momii-nhk/

S. Korea ups budget on former sex slaves for Japan

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SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) — South Korea has more than doubled its budget this year related to former sex slaves to the Japanese military during World War II in an effort to raise global awareness about the issue, officials said Monday.

The government allocated 4.58 billion won (US$4.23 million) for programs and events for the euphemistically called comfort women this year, up 130 percent from 2 billion won in 2013, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said.

The 4.58 billion won budget includes 1.2 billion won in direct support to the elderly women, it added.

The budget for various commemorative events and government-led programs aimed at restoring the honor of the victims, in particular, has risen sharply from 783 million won to 3.38 billion won, according to the gender ministry.

The government plans to spend 3.38 billion won in producing films and documentaries about the victims and sponsoring a special exhibition during the world’s largest comic strip and cartoon festival set to open in France this week, issuing government reports and hosting a symposium on wartime sexual violence, officials said.

“The government will gradually increase its support every year tailored to the former victims who are now old and unhealthy, and work closely with various nongovernmental organizations, experts and international organizations to settle the comfort women issue,” Cho Yoon-sun, minister of gender equality and family, was quoted in a release as saying.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, many of them Korean, were coerced into sexual servitude by the Japanese army at front-line brothels during World War II when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony.

Of the 237 Korean women who reported themselves as former sex slaves, only 55 are still alive.

By Yeonhap News Agency

Second Comfort Women Memorial in NYC

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Legislators from New York together with Korean American and other community groups unveiled a second memorial for Korean “ianfu” or “comfort women” in a park in Nassau County, Long Island. Present at the ceremony were  Senator Tony Avella, Assemblyman Chuck Lavine and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel. The erected monument consists of two stone tablets with the comfort women resolution signed in 2012.

The resolution, which was signed by the state assembly and senate, says that the Japanese government “officially commissioned” the sexual service system which victimized “hundreds of thousands of young women from Korea, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, the Netherlands and elsewhere” during the Second World War. It also acknowledged the first memorial erected in the Eisenhower Park, which stands beside the second one. The resolutions brought a lot of criticisms and complaints from Japan. David Lee, president of the Korean American Public Affairs Committee said the decision to build a second statue was not to humiliate Japan. “We were obviously misunderstanding each other. This issue is not about embarrassing Japan,” said Lee.

The monument consists of two stone tablets that are inscribed with the comfort women resolution stating that the Japanese government “officially commissioned” the sexual servitude of “hundreds of thousands of young women from Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands and elsewhere.” The resolution was signed by the New York State Senate and Assembly in 2012.

The Korean American Public Affairs Committee, which had a significant role in erecting the monument, received a lot of complaints from Japan. However, President David Lee stated that there is a “misunderstanding” and that the “issue is not about embarrassing Japan.”

Senator Avella’s speech at the unveiling, however, described Japan’s unapologetic stance on the issue of comfort women “a shame on the country.” He also noted that the issue is not an attack on the “present people of Japan or the present leadership” but that it’s essential that they recognize the wounds of the past. South Korea, time and again, has called for Japan’s recognition of the “comfort women” issue. The nation has been asking for Japan to issue an official apology and compensation for the victims of sexual slavery during the Second World War. Japan has previously issued an apology through then Chief Cabinet SecretaryYohei Kono in 1993, but this statement has been questioned by several right-wing politicians.

By Japan Daily Times & Korean American Journal

CNN REPORT: ANOTHER VOICE LOST

(CNN) — Another voice that could have told about the horrors of being a “comfort woman” — a sex slave used by Japanese soldiers during World War II — has fallen silent, according to South Korean authorities.

Hwang Keum-ja, 89, died of lung and respiratory disease at a hospital in Seoul Sunday.

Cho Yoon-sun, South Korea’s Minister of Gender and Equality and Family, said she had been attempting to meet each of her country’s surviving comfort women individually, but had not yet visited Hwang.

“My heart is aching as she died before I was able to meet her,” she said in a statement, praising Hwang for her efforts to support others despite the hardships she faced, and vowing that her government would deliver greater support to other comfort women.

Japan forced about 200,000 women into sex slavery, luring them to “comfort stations” set up throughout East Asia by the Japanese military from 1932 until the end of the war, according to nonprofit advocacy group Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues. Mostly Korean, the women were lied to and told they would get jobs if they went to the brothels, the center says.

CNN has widely reported on the stories of the women. Many have said they were kidnapped. For resisting sex, some say, they were raped and beaten.

Hwang Keum-ja was forced to work at a glass factory at 13 and then sent to China to work as a sex slave at 16, South Korea’s state news agency Yonhap reported. After Korea was freed from Japanese occupation in 1945, she went home and lived the rest of her life alone, the agency said. She worked as a garbage collector, but didn’t make enough, so she had to rely on government subsidies.

It’s unclear how, but she was able to make three donations to a scholarship fund totaling more than $92,000, which helped earn her an award for her generosity in 2011 in Korea, Yonhap said. Hwang’s dying wish was that all her assets be donated to charity.

She had one adopted son, according to the ministry.

Japan’s government has formally apologized on numerous occasions for the atrocities against comfort women. The country helped establish the Asian Women’s Fund in 1995, which is supported by government funds and provides assistance to former comfort women.

But Japan has resisted direct payments to the victims, prompting activists and former comfort women to say leaders are avoiding officially acknowledging what happened.

In 2013, the mayor of Osaka, Japan, stirred fierce controversy when he told reporters that “anyone would understand” the role of “comfort women” when soldiers were risking their lives and deserved a “rest.” Toru Hashimoto said the use of the women was “necessary.”

Though he acknowledged the issue was a “tragic result of war,” Hashimoto insisted that soldiers using the women wasn’t unique to Japan.

Hashimoto also revealed that he told a U.S. military commander during a trip to a base on the island of Okinawa that U.S. personnel should “utilize more” the adult entertainment business in Japan.

South Korea has urged Japan to resolve the issue directly with victims, noting that time is running out because most of them are elderly and dying.

Hwang’s death brings the total number of living South Korean victims of the comfort women sex slavery circuit in South Korea down to 55, 5 of whom live abroad.

By Ashley Fantz and Paul Armstrong, CNN