The statue was erected in 2013 in Glendale, California, in remembrance of the estimated 200,000 female victims mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines before and during World War II.Ed Royce, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California, denounced Japan, for its continuous efforts to remove a girl statue symbolizing sex slaves for the Japanese troops from his state.
“Sadly, some in the Japanese government continue to deny the existence of comfort women or the plight they suffered at the hands of the Imperial Army,” Royce said in a letter which was read out loud by his colleague in front of the statue Tuesday (local time). Comfort women is a term Japan uses for the sex slavery victims.
“It is equally egregious that the Japanese government continues to support efforts to force Glendale to remove this memorial to hundreds of thousands of victims of military sexual slavery. This is unacceptable and I will continue to work with you to fight for justice and recognition for the victims of these abuses.”
Japan’s first suit against the city of Glendale came in 2014. Japan, along with Japanese descendants, claimed the city’s move disrupted the U.S. government’s foreign policy and relations with Japan.
In 2015, the district court in California dismissed the case, and the appeals court in 2016 upheld the district court’s ruling. In January, the case was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court where the Japanese government filed an Amicus brief. According to news reports, Japan claimed the issue affects its “national core interest” in the brief.
Glendale also filed a brief asking the court to deny the petition.
The girl statue also represents 39 survivors living in Korea. Some are actively seeking Japan’s apology and reparations, so far unsuccessfully.
The statue in Glendale was a result of the victims’ efforts to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by the Japanese military. The statue was also possible thanks to Royce who spearheaded the campaign to pass House Resolution 121 in 2007, urging Japan to apologize and make reparations to the victims.
“No issue is more important to me than the fight for human rights. It’s our duty to always defend free speech and seek justice on behalf of the victims of human rights abuses, both past and present,” Royce said.
In Korea, a statue pushed diplomatic discord with Japan to a new level recently. The new statue in Busan angered Japan so much that it recalled its top envoy to Korea. Japan claimed new statues are unacceptable under a 2015 agreement to “resolve the issue” but the Korean government said the statues were placed by non-governmental groups.