Tag Archives: Glendale statue

Vandalized Anne Frank diaries are troubling sign of the times

There’s a reason the nuns in Queens had me and my classmates read Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl” several times — the same reason that’s made the book required reading around the globe. The 15-year-old’s account of hiding from the Nazis is impervious to nut jobs who argue the Holocaust is fiction.

Shockingly, in recent days at least 282 copies of Frank’s memoirs have been vandalized at 36 libraries across Tokyo — their pages torn or defaced. No one knows who did it, or why. But it requires an acrobatic feat of compartmentalization not to see the connection to Japan’s own recent efforts to deface history.

Earlier this month, the southern Japanese city of Minami Kyushu asked the U.N. World Heritage organization to enshrine farewell letters written by World War II kamikaze suicide pilots alongside documents like Frank’s diaries and the Magna Carta. The request drew an immediate rebuke from China and stirred up Japan’s right wing. What many see as evidence of Japan’s wartime fanaticism, nationalists view as testaments to manly duty and devotion to the Emperor.

I have no evidence that Japan’s right-wingers are behind this clearly coordinated campaign to desecrate Frank’s work. Anti-Semitism isn’t particularly pervasive among Japanese (although one extremist group is organizing a 125th birthday party for the Fuhrer so fans can “converse, listening to Wagner’s music and enjoying wine together”). But it would be a coincidence of astounding proportions if this shameful vandalism weren’t related to the kamikaze letters controversy.

One has to ask to what extent the return of nationalistic leader Shinzo Abe has encouraged such behavior. Though most attention has focused on Abe’s efforts to revive the economy, right-wingers have delighted in the prime minister’s other initiatives — to whitewash textbooks, beautify Japan’s wartime aggression, load the governing board of national broadcaster NHK with like-minded conservatives, and embolden the nation’s military.

No, I’m not suggesting Abe bears responsibility for the Frank diary attacks. But his 14 months in office have created an atmosphere that’s encouraging fringe activists, who may believe Abe secretly supports them. Intentionally or not, the Prime Minister has fed this impression by visiting Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 World War II Class A war criminals, and hinting that he wants to revisit a past apology for the military’s sex-slave program. Among Abe’s picks for the NHK board is a man who claims the Nanjing Massacre of the 1930s never happened.

When Abe and his ilk explain why Japan should be able to honor its dead soldiers and rewrite its pacifist Constitution, they highlight how their nation has been a model global citizen. The argument is not without merit. For 68 years now, Japan has been a peaceful, generous, and reasonably cooperative power.

Yet Abe’s rightward turn could squander much of the “soft power” Japan amassed since then. Japanese don’t tend to track events in Richmond, Virginia and Glendale, California very closely. But it’s in these two American cities that officials in Tokyo can get a glimpse of their nation’s future. It’s not pretty.

On Feb. 6, the Virginia legislature passed a bill to change textbooks to say the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea. It may not seem like a big deal, but the move outraged Japan. The change came at the behest of fast-rising contingent of Korean-American voters who are wielding that power to right what they view as historical wrongs by Japan 11,000 km away. Tokyo has also taken great umbrage at a “comfort women” statue in the Los Angeles area erected by Asian Americans, and protests from Japanese diplomats and an online petition to President Barack Obama have gone unheeded. More and more, Chinese-Americans are showing up at Japanese consulates with protest placards, including in December when Abe visited Yasukuni.

As Abe preaches the glory of patriotism more than capitalism, expect Korea and China to intensify efforts around the world to shame Tokyo. Take Xi Jinping’s trip to Germany next month.

According to Reuters, the Chinese president plans to highlight Germany’s atonement for the sins of World War II, in order to embarrass Japan. It’s a reminder that statements from Japanese politicians have repeatedly undercut the country’s many apologies for its wartime behavior.

Abe’s mandate from voters is the economy, not prettifying some ugly moments in the nation’s history. He should get back to that job. But first he must unequivocally condemn the Frank attacks in clear and strong terms. Few issues are more cut-and-dry than the need to denounce anti-Semitism in all forms. This isn’t an issue to be left to Abe’s Cabinet chief, Yoshihide Suga, whose name isn’t widely known outside Japan. It’s a task for the nation’s leader, and Abe’s silence is, like much of his other signaling thus far, damaging the nation’s interests.

By William Pesek,  a Bloomberg View columnist based in Tokyo.

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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

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