The issue of the Comfort Woman Sculpture at the Glendale Library was first discussed at the August meeting of the JACL board. Nancy Takayama, Harold Kameya, Kathy Masaoka and other members of the NCRR and Manzanar Committee had been in attendance at the unveiling ceremony on July 30th.
After some discussion, the decision was made to study the issue and to have further discussion at the September meeting. Before the September meeting, links to several youtube clips and articles were sent out to board members for their study.
At the September JACL board meeting, Kathy Masaoka spoke on her involvement in the Comfort Women issue. She was among the speakers in the unveiling ceremonies on July 30th and she had asked the JAs in the audience to stand behind her in a show of support.
For those of you who are not familiar with the comfort women issue, I urge you to go to youtube.com and type into the search block: The Butterflies: flying high with hope, 20 years of history & Halmonies’ peace. The 25 minute documentary will provide you with essential information.
You will learn of the 20 year long weekly demonstrations in Seoul in front of the Japan embassy. One former comfort woman passionately screamed out: Who do I have: A husband? A child? I have NO ONE! Japan, Bring me back to when I was 15!
The Butterflies documentary also mentions the year 2000 investigation by the UN Commission on Human Rights, and its recommendations which were adopted by the UN. In 2007, the US House of Representatives passed bill HR121, sponsored by Mike Honda. The bill was supportive of the claims against Japan by the comfort women. That bill inspired similar resolutions to be passed in Canada, the Netherlands and the European Union.
To conclude the discussion, Phil Shigekuni, our Civil Rights chairperson, wanted to have the board pass a resolution that supports the Glendale Library sculpture and endorses House Bill HR121 by Rep. Mike Honda. President Brian Moriguchi stated that it was important, as a civil rights organization, to take a position supporting the comfort women and their need for a full apology and financial reparations. Additionally, we should contact the OCA, Organization of Chinese Americans and any Korean civil rights groups to see if a joint statement might be an appropriate action to take. Lastly, the Korean Comfort Women issue is a reminder of the continued abuse and sexual slavery of women today.
I invite you to provide us feedback of your opinions and thoughts. As with any controversial issue, we do not think as a single collective mind. I can also provide you with additional links for further study.
On a side note, there is a need to educate younger non-JA reporters and the Korean population about the various segments of our Japanese American population, as well as the JA history during WWII. To illustrate (note: the bolding is mine):
Christina Villacorte of The Daily News wrote: Over the objections of dozens of Japanese-Americans who crowded City Hall chambers, the Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to install a controversial memorial at Glendale Central Park honoring "comfort women" –
The Rafu Shimpo in its coverage used “Japanese nationals” or “Japanese nationalists” to describe the dissenters.
When I asked for information from a member of a Korean committee involved with the sculpture, his cautious response included the following words:
”... It is a great pleasure for us to see a Japanese organization supporting this issue. This
is very rare and I want to get a little bit more information....”
In my response to him, I delineated the various segments of the Nikkei population in the US (which included the Shin Issei), and I made sure to mention that since many of the JA’s (or their parents) were imprisoned by the US government during WWII, we are especially sensitive to the civil rights of each
Past Civil Rights Chair
San Fernando Valley JACL