Tag Archives: comfort women

Pope Francis waves to Catholic worshippers as he arrives to lead a mass at Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul

Pope Francis Wraps Visit to SKorea With Message of Reconciliation

by JAMES S. KIM

While it was the images of Pope Francis riding around in a Kia Soul that went viral last week when he first arrived in South Korea, it was his calls for forgiveness and reconciliation that resonated on Monday before he left the country.

“Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities and dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people,” he said during a Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul.

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“Peter asks the Lord: ‘If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ To which the Lord replies: ‘Not seven times, I tell you, but 70 times seven,’” he continued. “Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?”

The New York Times reported that after the pope’s appeal, the South Korean government issued a statement asking North Korea to accept a proposal from last week to restart high-level dialogue. In perhaps a more conciliatory tone, Seoul said that if North Korea were to “behave responsibly,” it would be ready to “discuss any subject,” which includes the possible easing of economic sanctions imposed after the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, in 2010. The South blamed the North for shooting a torpedo that sunk the warship, a charge the North has denied.

The high-level talks could also include restarting reunions for Korean relatives who were separated during the Korean War. When the governments met in February, the plan was to schedule one around the Chuseok holiday on Sept. 8, but those plans have so far fallen through, following the way of the talks.

The South Korean Catholic Church had invited a North Korean delegation to the pope’s Mass, but the North rejected the offer.

The pope also met with seven of the 55 surviving “comfort women” on Monday. The women, who were invited to sit in the front row during the Mass, presented a painting by a former sex slave who died in 2004 to Pope Francis. Titled “A Flower That Did Not Blossom,” the painting shows a Korean girl in a traditional hanbok among pink flowers.

Pope Francis 1Pope Francis meets seven comfort women, now in their 80s and 90s, at the Monday Mass.

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Pope Francis kisses a child upon arriving for Mass at Gwanghwamun square in Seoul. Reuters / Korea Pool / Yonhap

Prior to Monday, Pope Francis partook in a number of events that began last Thursday. He led a Mass to beatify Paul Yun Ji-chung and 123 other Korean Catholics who were killed by Korean rulers through the 18th and 19th centuries, when Catholicism was spreading rapidly and seen as a threat to the Confucianism-based society.

The pope also met dozens of sick and disabled people in a rehabilitation center in Eumseong, along with the grieving family members of those killed in the April Sewol ferry disaster, according to Yonhap News. He baptized a father of a victim at the Vatican Embassy in Seoul, when the man approached him with an impromptu request.

South Korean Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung presented two gifts to the pope after Monday’s Mass: a crown made with a part of a barbed wire fence in the inter-Korean border, and a statue of St. Mary, the symbol of the Cathedral of Pyongyang Diocese. As he left South Korea later that day, Pope Francis imparted one more blessing as his plane left for Rome:

“I invoke divine blessing upon you all as I renew my prayer for peace and well-being on the Korean peninsula,” he said, according to an air traffic controller.

Photos via Reuters/Korea Pool/Yonhap and European Pressphoto Agency

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‘Comfort Women’ Statue Stands Its Ground in Court Ruling

by RUTH KIM

After more than a year of controversy, the “comfort women” statue in the city of Glendale, Calif., that sparked a lawsuit calling for its removal is staying put. Ruling that the plaintiff’s claims lacked merit, a federal judge recently dismissed the lawsuit, according to local news reports.

The lawsuit, Gingery vs. City of Glendale, sought to remove the memorial honoring the “comfort women,” who were coerced into provide sexual slavery for Japan’s military during the Second World War. The primary plaintiff, Glendale resident Michiko Shiota Gingery, stated in the court filing that she could no longer enjoy the city’s Central Park where the statue is located because she experiences “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger.”

Plaintiffs, also including the nationalistic Japanese group Global Alliance for Historical Truth, also said the message on the statue’s plaque was too accusatory toward Japan and could negatively affect U.S.-Japan relations. “Glendale has taken a position at odds with the expressed position of the Japanese government,” said the complaint.

But in his ruling issued last week, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson said the city of Glendale did not break any laws by installing the statue at Central Park, according to the Los Angeles Times. He also invalidated Gingery’s assertion that she was being emotionally injured by the monument.

“The fact that local residents feel disinclined to visit a local park is simply not the type of injury that can be considered to be in the ‘line of causation’ for alleged violations of the foreign affairs power and Supremacy Clause,” said Anderson, according to court documents.

Glendale City Attorney Mike Garcia expressed satisfaction with the court’s ruling. “We are pleased that the court recognized our City Council’s right to make public pronouncements on matters important to our community,” said Garcia, according to the L.A. Times. The law firm of Sidley Austin also assisted the city in fighting the lawsuit pro bono.

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The statue in question–a bronze figure of a young girl seated next to an empty chair–is based on former Korean “comfort woman” Kim Bok-dong. Its installation was thanks in part to the efforts of the Korean American Forum of California (KAFC), the nonprofit that worked alongside the city of Glendale.

“Art speaks a thousand words,” Phyllis Kim, the executive director of KAFC, told the Times, the executive director of KAFC. “People come and they learn about this history and it’s a very strong testament to our petition to support human rights and women’s rights.”

Although the group is celebrating the court’s ruling, Kim said members plan to continue their work in honoring comfort women at the local, state and federal levels.

“The decision did not change anything,” Kim said. “The root cause of the issue has not been resolved, and the victims are still waiting for an official apology and reparations from the government of Japan.”

Photos via L.A. Times and Southern California Public Radio.

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2 Former ‘Comfort Women’ Meet With White House Officials

Lee Ok-Seon (front left) and Kang Il-chul (front right) pose with Paulette Aniskoff (back left), the director of the Office of Public Engagement and another White House official during a closed-door meeting on July 30.

by RUTH KIM

A recent series of meetings between two Korean “comfort women” survivors and White House aides is being hailed as a potential turning point in the longstanding struggle for redress for the victims of sexual slavery.

Lee Ok-Seon, 87, and Kang Il-chul, 85, who have been touring the U.S. the last few weeks, met with Paulette Aniskoff, the White House director of the Office of Public Engagement, on July 30, South Korean media reported. Though it was a closed-door meeting, Aniskoff took to Twitter this week, posting a picture with Lee and Kang, along with the caption: “Met with two brave Korean ‘comfort women,’ Ok-seon Lee and Il-chul Kang, last week; their stories are heartbreaking.”

The next day, the women also met with State Department officials from the Japan and Korea desks, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily. A potential follow-up meeting—one advocates hope will lead to Washington pressuring Japan on the matter—is in the works, the newspaper said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed the pair’s meeting with State Department officials and also issued a statement urging the Japanese government to “continue to address this issue in a manner that promotes healing.”

Lee and Kang flew in from Seoul as part of a three-week campaign in the U.S., visiting “comfort women” memorials and meeting with media and politicians to try and raise awareness about their ongoing fight. For decades, they, along with their supporters, have been asking Japan to apologize for victimizing as many as 200,000 girls and women, most of them from Korea, who were forced into sexually servicing soldiers during World War II.

U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, a Japanese American congressman from California and an ardent advocate for the “comfort women,” was instrumental in arranging the meetings in Washington, according to the JoongAng Daily.

They come at a key time in the “comfort women” debate, an issue gaining momentum lately especially in the U.S., with a number of memorials, from California to New Jersey and Virginia, being erected to call attention to the sex slave victims.

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Lee Ok-seon, left, and Kang Il-chul, right, speak with the press in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo via Kyodo News.)

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, also recently weighed in on the issue, expressing her “profound regret” that Japan has failed to resolve the issue, she said in a statement, Pillay noted that these women continue to confront denials and other offensive remarks from Japanese officials.

She was referring to Tokyo’s move to debunk the 1993 “Kono statement” made by the then-Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yohei Kono, who openly acknowledged the Imperial Army’s involvement of the coercion of girls into sex slavery during the Second World War. The current Shinzo Abe administration announced earlier this year that the statement was being re-examined, a move that further soured relations between Tokyo and Seoul.

The countries in conflict also happen to represent two key U.S. allies, so the issue is a sensitive one for the White House to negotiate.

S. Korean 'comfort women' speak in defense of memorial

‘Comfort Women’ Survivors Defend Glendale Memorial During L.A. Visit

by RUTH KIM

It’s a scene both painful and inspiring at the same time—two halmeonis, including one with a head of sparse, white hair and holding a cane, speaking out for justice for 60-year-old crimes.

“Comfort women” survivors Lee Ok-seon, 87, and Kang Il-chul, 85, flew from Seoul to Los Angeles this week to lend their support to the city of Glendale, as it faces a lawsuit to remove a controversial statue meant to honor the victims of sexual slavery.

The women met and spoke with the press on Tuesday, in front of the U.S. District courthouse in downtown L.A. According to the Global Post, they are represented by the Korean American Forum of California (KAFC), an advocacy group seeking justice for the “comfort women.” The organization said it has submitted declarations of support for the city of Glendale from Lee and Kang to the court, and also requested permission for the women to address the court in the case.

“Thank you for erecting the peace monument, and thank you for trying to protect the peace monument,” Kang said in remarks translated from Korean, according to KPCC.

Lee, who said she was abducted around the age of 15 off a street in Ulsan, Korea, in 1942 and was held for three years, spoke in more passionate terms. “Is it really what you want, to wait until all of us die?” said Lee in Korean. “I don’t think that is the right thing to do.”

Kang and Lee are currently on a two-week trip across Southern California and the East Coast. They will attend events, visit various comfort women memorials and meet with politicians to discuss the “comfort women” issue.

la-glendale-comfortwomen-statue-sparks-lawsuit-001The “comfort woman” statue erected in the city park of Glendale, CA, surrounded by bouquets of flowers.
(Photo by Tim Berger with Glendale News via the L.A. Times)

The statue that sparked the lawsuit was based on Kim Bok-dong, a former “comfort woman,” who also spoke at the unveiling of the statue in July 2013. Kim echoed the survivors’ decades-long demand for Japan’s prime minister to offer a formal apology on his country’s behalf to the tens of thousands of women who were forcibly taken during World War II to “service” soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army.

“An apology, that is my request,” said Kim at the time. “As a prime minister [of Japan] you must apologize for past mistakes, even if they were forged by a former emperor.”

The Glendale statue was met with controversy and opposition from individuals who felt that the message on the plaque next to the statue was too accusatory toward Japan and could negatively affect relations between U.S. and Japan. A Glendale resident, a Los Angeles resident and a nonprofit group called the Global Alliance for Historical Truth, which opposes the recognition of the “comfort women,” filed the lawsuit back in February that sought to remove the statue in the public park, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Glendale plaintiff, Michiko Shiota Gingery, stated in the court filing that she could no longer enjoy Central Park, on Glendale city property, where the statue is located because she experiences “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger.”

The lawsuit also accuses the city of violating its city code, stating the statute was installed without a city council vote on the language of the message written on the plaque, said the L.A. Times article.

However, the statue’s defenders say that the memorial is not just about a dispute between two countries–it’s about shedding light on the crimes that violated basic human rights and getting justice. Catherine Sweetser, KAFC’s attorney, said, “In this lawsuit, Gingery vs. City of Glendale, the plaintiffs seek to silence the voices of these women and of the people like the Korean American Forum of California that are advocating for them and for remembrance of their history and the tragedies that happened during World War II.”

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The Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden at the Fairfax County Government Center in Virginia.
(Photo by Gretchen Powell)

KoreAm recently shared a story in our July issue on the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden, another memorial dedicated to raising awareness about “comfort women,” which was unveiled in late May in Fairfax, Va. Kang Il-chul also attended the unveiling ceremony for the garden, noting at the time she was grateful for the memorial, but also felt “a little grief” over the longstanding fight to get Japan to properly address this injustice. There are only about 54 surviving Korean “comfort women,” according to KAFC.

On Tuesday, Kang seemed encouraged by the ongoing efforts of supporters in this country. “Many different countries have come together to work on this issue in solidarity for many years,” she said. “But recently, the people in the United States have been making strong voices to speak out about this issue, and we are utterly grateful for the American people for doing this.”

Featured photo via Kyodo News

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Comfort Women For U.S. Military Sue South Korean Government

by STEVE HAN

South Korean “comfort women” are often known as those who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II. The long-standing controversy centering on South Korean government’s demand for Japan’s sincere apology is still ongoing and widely publicized.

Recently, however, another group of South Korean “comfort women” sued their own government for coercing them to serve as sex slaves in state-controlled brothels for the U.S. military after the Korean War, which ended in 1953.

Korean daily Kyunghyang Shinmun reports that the alleged victims filed the lawsuit on June 25, and are seeking close to $10,000 in compensation, along with an apology, for forced prostitution. This is the first legal action by “comfort women” against the South Korean government.

The U.S. sent over 300,000 troops to South Korea for the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. The so-called “comfort stations” allegedly operated on the frontline throughout and after the war.  While working in brothels, the women allegedly went through medical check-ups for sexually transmitted diseases.

It is reported that over 60 percent of all South Korean prostitutes worked near U.S. military camps in the 1950s and 1960s.

"Comfort women" memorial unveiled in Washington suburb

Peace Garden Seeks to Raise Awareness

story by RUTH KIM
photos by KYODO via AP IMAGES and GRETCHEN POWELL

Advocates in northern Virginia unveil a “comfort women” memorial that carries a message not just relevant to history, but very much engaged with the present.

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In the backyard of the Fairfax County Government Center in Virginia, a brick pathway trails into a quaint, circular garden, where an unassuming boulder stands at its center. Flanked by butterfly-shaped benches of a brilliant turquoise hue, the two by-two-foot boulder displays a brass plaque, and the garden, surrounded by green grass and an open expanse, offers a moment of peace and serenity for any passerby.

However, the inscription on the plaque engages in a much more agitated conversation. In part, it reads: “In honor of the women and girls whose basic rights and dignities were taken from them as victims of human trafficking during WWII…. May these ‘comfort women’ find eternal peace and justice for the crimes committed against them. May the memories of these women and girls serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting the rights of women and an affirmation of basic human rights.”

Situated near the 9/11 Memorial Grove, the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden pays tribute to the girls and women, referred to euphemistically as “comfort women,” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. An estimated 80,000 to 200,000 women who were enslaved—a figure that is still being debated today—were predominantly from Korea, but included others from China, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Netherlands, East Timor and other territories, where Japanese so-called comfort stations were set up to “service” soldiers at that time.

Installed by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues (WCCW), the memorial peace garden was unveiled in Fairfax, Va., on May 30 in a ceremony that featured Korean song and dance, a release of butterflies, as well as speeches by U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, Fairfax County officials and “comfort woman” survivor Kang Il-chul.

“I am grateful and excited to see you all, but somehow feel a little grief,” said Kang, 85, through a translator, expressing mixed feelings at the ceremony, which drew both smiles and tears from her.

Kang’s comments seemed to capture the overall tone of the discourse on the issue: a feeling of hope for the future, mixed with the bitter pain of the still unresolved past.

It is unresolved because the government of Japan has yet to issue a formal apology to the “comfort women” and to provide reparations to survivors, even though allegations of these war crimes first came to light in the early
1990s. The closest it came to one was a statement of “sincere apologies and remorse” delivered by the country’s chief cabinet secretary in 1993, and a private fund established to assist survivors.

But, adding fuel to the flame is the fact that over the years there have also been a number of controversial statements given by various leaders about how the “comfort women” were prostitutes, not slaves. Current Prime Minster Shinzo Abe said this past February that he wanted to revisit the evidence that led to the 1993 expression of regret. He has since back-stepped on his own statement, as tensions between South Korea and Japan have intensified.

The WCCW, a nongovernmental organization, first formed in 1992 to advocate for Japan to issue a formal
apology and provide formal reparations to the women, according to Grace Han Wolf, the group’s co-chair. But she
added that, over time, the group’s focus has shifted somewhat to emphasize “more on outreach, education and awareness building,” and that’s how the memorial idea emerged. “It’s really about making sure these women were not forgotten, making sure the crime was not forgotten, and making sure Fairfax County stands vigilant against human trafficking,” said Wolf.

Wolf, the first Korean American woman elected to office in the Commonwealth of Virginia and serving her third term on the Herndon Town Council, joined the coalition in 2012 to help facilitate the memorial’s planning. “[The WCCW] had put together this idea of a memorial after some of the other memorials had been erected in other parts of the U.S., and they weren’t really sure how to go from the idea to reality,” Wolf said. That’s where she stepped in as a liaison between the group and the local government.

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The memorial serves as a reminder that this is not just a historic issue, but a contemporary one. “It’s one of those things where you think, ‘Oh, that happened so long ago,’ but, no, it’s happening right now. And that’s really where this group is really more focused on, to really educate people about what happened, and about what continues to happen,” Wolf said. “Human trafficking is still a big issue, and Fairfax just announced a big initiative in January of this year to combat teen sex trafficking, which unfortunately is still a [problem] here in Fairfax County.”

The peace garden is not the first memorial dedicated to “comfort women” to be constructed in the U.S. In 2013, a statue was erected in Glendale, Calif., portraying a girl in a hanbok sitting on a chair with an empty chair next to her; it is based on local resident and “comfort woman” survivor, Bokdong Kim. That memorial unleashed a storm of controversy. Since its installation, three delegations of Japanese politicians have complained, and Glendale’s sister city in Japan even canceled a student exchange program as a result. A group called the Global Alliance for Historical Truth filed a lawsuit in federal court to have the statue removed. Even counter petitions on the White House’s “We the People” website—one to take down and the other to keep the statue—each garnered over 100,000 signatures. Some opponents of the memorial have said that the statue promotes hate toward the people and nation of Japan, while others have said that this kind of international conflict should not be played out on American soil.

Although the Japanese Embassy and a nationalistic Japanese group have protested the Virginia memorial, Wolf said it has not sparked as much controversy as the Glendale memorial. “I think the [statue] in Glendale was probably more of a lightning rod for controversy,” she said. “The garden [here] is really positioned as awareness building not just for the history of comfort women, but more importantly the issue of human trafficking.”

She said the organization also reached out to many local community groups in the county in a conscious effort to be inclusive.

“We don’t really perceive ours as anti-Japanese nor particularly pro-Korean. We were really careful to position it that way because we didn’t want it to become just about that,” Wolf said. “The ‘comfort women’ is one of many sad stories about human trafficking, which disproportionately affects Asian American women and children. So we really took a pan-Asian approach…. We reached out to all [ethnic] groups equally. We didn’t make a special effort or not a special effort—we included everybody.”

One supporter of the Virginia memorial has been Congressman Honda, a Japanese American who spent part of World War II in an internment camp. He has also championed a congressional bill this year that called for Japan to issue an “unequivocal” apology to the “comfort women,” many of whom have already passed away. In a statement, Honda said, “For the women still alive, and for the countless who have passed, official recognition and acknowledgment is the only way to bring proper closure to this terrible chapter of World War II history.”

This article was published in the July 2014 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the July issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).

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Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden Unveiled in Northern Virginia

by Gretchen Ho Powell

Korean Americans in northern Virginia unveiled a new memorial last Friday evening that honors hundreds of thousands of women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. Kang Il-chul, 85, a former “comfort woman,” the euphemistic name given to these women, took part in the ceremony, also attended by U.S. Congressmember Mike Honda and local Fairfax County officials.

“I am grateful and excited to see you all, but somehow feel a little grief,” said Kang in remarks translated from Korean, expressing the bittersweet nature of the memorial, which brings up painful memories of the past, but she also hopes helps prevent these acts in the present and future.

Privately funded by benefactors domestically as well as in Korea, the intimate memorial is located on the grounds of the Fairfax County Government Center, about 20 miles west of Washington, D.C. The area is home to a large number of Korean Americans, and a group called the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues formed to create the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden, which consists of two metal butterfly benches, a circle of flowerbeds and two plaques mounted on either side of a large stone in the center. Butterflies have long been a symbol of hope for “comfort women.”

“In honor of the women and girls whose basic rights and dignities were taken from them as victims of human trafficking during WWII,” one of the plaques reads. “May the memories of these women and girls serve as a reminder of the importance of protecting the rights of women and an affirmation of basic human rights.”

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Grace Han Wolf, co-chair of the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, emphasized that this memorial should not just be seen as a response to the injustices of the past. “Human trafficking is a very real, very present issue,” Wolf said. “And this memorial garden serves not only as a reminder of the past, but is here to create awareness for these crimes in Fairfax County today.”

The program also included remarks from Congressmember Honda and Fairfax County Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, a traditional Korean dance and the release of live butterflies.

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Similar memorials honoring the “comfort women” have gone up in Palisades Park, New Jersey, and Glendale, Calif. As was the case with those monuments, the one in Fairfax County has drawn some public protests. Some object to using government grounds in the U.S. for international, political conflicts, while others dispute that the “comfort women” were actually sexual slaves, versus prostitutes. 

Top and bottom photos via AFP. Middle photo of memorial by Gretchen Ho Powell.

TOP PHOTO: Former comfort woman Kang Il-chul (center) thanks Park Jeong-Sook for her performance during the dedication of the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden on May 30, at the grounds of the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Va.

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‘Comfort Women’ Memorial in Virginia to be Unveiled Friday

by RUTH KIM

A memorial paying tribute to the “comfort women” will be unveiled in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday, organizers announced.

Installed at the Fairfax County Government Center, the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden will recognize and pay homage to the women who were victims of sexual slavery and forced to work in military brothels servicing Japanese soldiers during World War II. Out of the estimated 200,000 women who were trafficked, a majority came from Korea, as well as other women from China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

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The Peace Garden features a monument that is 1.5 meters wide and 1.1 meters tall. Inscribed is a background on the history of “comfort women” in wartime Japan, as well as the words of U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, calling for the nation to formally apologize and provide direct compensation to the victims.

On either side of the monument are two butterfly-shaped benches. The butterfly was chosen by a group of “comfort women” victims as a symbol of hope. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will feature Korean food, refreshments, and a Korean cultural dance performance, and will be led by survivor, Il-Chun Kang from Korea. “This garden is located on the back lawn of the Fairfax County Government Center, adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial, and will be dedicated to all victims of human trafficking, in hopes that these crimes will cease to exist in the future,” read a statement by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues Inc. (WCCW), responsible for the monument. It is an association comprised predominantly of Korean Americans.

Fairfax County is home to a rather large Korean American community, and the memorial has reportedly garnered a great deal of support from its local residents.

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However, a “comfort women” monument installed in the Southern California suburb of Glendale (statue pictured above) was greeted with considerable controversy, and it won’t be surprising if the Virginia memorial faces some backlash. Since the Glendale statue was unveiled last summer, three delegations of Japanese politicians have complained and its sister city in Japan even canceled a student exchange program. A group called the Global Alliance for Historical Truth also filed a lawsuit in federal court to have the statue removed. “A city like Glendale within the state of California does not have any authority to interfere in foreign affairs,” said the group’s president, Japanese American Koichi Mera.

The city of Palisades Park, N.J., where another “comfort women” memorial is located, has also confronted protests, mostly from nationalistic Japanese groups.

On the other side of the debate, Phyllis Kim, a spokeswoman for the Korean American Forum of California, stands firm in her organization’s resolve to spread awareness about the “comfort women” issue and sex trafficking in general. “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,” she told PRI’s The World in February, in defense of the Glendale monument. “Every German kid knows about the Holocaust. But the Japanese government just tries to downplay what happened.”

Photos via Naver News, WCCW’s Facebook, and the Los Angeles Times