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The worst crime continues
    In New Jersey, Memorial for
‘Comfort Women’ Deepens Old Animosity

   Published: May 18, 2012
      New York Times

Two delegations of Japanese officials
visited Palisades Park, N.J., this month
with a request that took local
administrators by surprise:
The Japanese wanted a small
monument removed from a public park.

But the Japanese lobbying to remove
the monument seems to have backfired
— and deepened animosity between
Japan and South Korea over the issue
of comfort women, a longstanding
irritant in their relations.

The authorities in Palisades Park,
a borough across the Hudson River
from Manhattan, rejected the demand,
and now the Japanese effort is
prompting Korean groups in the
New York region and across the
country to plan more such monuments.

“They’re helping us, actually,” said
Chejin Park, a lawyer at the Korean
American Voters’ Council, a civic group
that championed the memorial in
Palisades Park, where more than half
of the population of about 20,000 is
of Korean descent, according to the
Census Bureau.
“We can increase the awareness
of this issue.”

Korean groups have been further
motivated by a letter-writing campaign
in Japan in opposition to a proposal
by Peter Koo, a New York councilman
and Chinese immigrant, to rename a
street in Flushing, Queens, in honor
of comfort women.

Mr. Park said that in the past week or
so, his organization had received calls
from at least five Korean community
organizers around the country
— in Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey and
Texas — expressing interest in building
their own memorials. These would be in
addition to at least four memorials in the
works in California and Georgia, he added.

The monument in Palisades Park is the
only one in the United States dedicated
to comfort women, borough officials said.

“Starting from Flushing, N.Y., we will
continue the construction in the areas of
major Korean-American communities,”
said Paul Park, executive director of the
Korean-American Association of Greater
New York, one of the oldest Korean
community organizations in the region.
“We Korean-Americans observe the issue
on the level of a global violation of
human rights.”

Tensions between Japan and South Korea
over the legacy of comfort women were
reignited in December when a bronze
statue in honor of victims was installed
across the street from the Japanese
Embassy in Seoul, the South Korean
Japanese officials have asked the Korean
authorities to remove that statue.

Japanese leaders have said that their
formal apologies, expressions of remorse
and admissions of responsibility regarding
the treatment of comfort women are
sufficient, including an offer to set up a
$1 billion fund for victims. But many
Koreans contend that those actions are
inadequate. Surviving victims have rejected
the fund because it would be financed by
private money.
The victims are seeking government reparations.

Mayor James Rotundo of Palisades Park
said the lobbying began obliquely late
last month.
Officials at the Japanese consulate in
New York sent e-mails requesting a
meeting with borough administrators.

“I called the secretary and said,
‘What is this about?’ ” the mayor recalled
in an interview, “and she said, ‘It’s about
Japanese-U.S. relations,’ and I said:
‘Oh. Well, O.K.’ ”

The first meeting, on May 1, began
pleasantly enough, he said. The delegation
was led by the consul general,
Shigeyuki Hiroki,
who talked about his career, including
his work in Afghanistan — “niceties,”
Mr. Rotundo said.

Then the conversation took a sudden
turn, Mr. Rotundo said.
The consul general pulled out two
documents and read them aloud.

One was a copy of a 1993 statement
from Yohei Kono, then the chief cabinet
secretary, in which the Japanese
government acknowledged the
involvement of military authorities in
the coercion and suffering of comfort women.

The other was a 2001 letter to surviving
comfort women from Junichiro Koizumi,
then the prime minister, apologizing
for their treatment.

Mr. Hiroki then said the Japanese
authorities “wanted our memorial
removed,” Mr. Rotundo recalled.

The consul general also said the
Japanese government was willing to
plant cherry trees in the borough,
donate books to the public library “and
do some things to show that we’re
united in this world and not divided,”
Mr. Rotundo said.
But the offer was contingent on the
memorial’s removal. “I couldn’t believe
my ears,” said Jason Kim, deputy mayor
of Palisades Park and a Korean-American,
who was at the meeting.
“My blood shot up like crazy.”

Borough officials rejected the request,
and the delegation left.

The second delegation arrived on May 6
and was led by four members of the
Japanese Parliament.
Their approach was less diplomatic,
Mr. Rotundo said. The politicians,
members of the opposition Liberal
Democratic Party, tried, in asking that
the monument be removed, to convince
the Palisades Park authorities that
comfort women had never been forcibly
conscripted as sex slaves.

“They said the comfort women were
a lie, that they were set up by an
outside agency, that they were women
who were paid to come and take care
of the troops,” the mayor related.
“I said, ‘We’re not going to take it down,
but thanks for coming.’ ”

The Japanese consulate in New York
has been reluctant to discuss its lobbying.

In interviews this week, Fumio Iwai, the
deputy consul general, would not say
whether the consul general had requested
that the monument be removed.
But he denied that the consul general had
offered to help the borough in return for
the monument’s removal. Mr. Hiroki
“did not offer any such condition,” he said.

Mr. Iwai said the issue of comfort women,
if not Palisades Park specifically, was the
subject of continuing discussions
“at a very high level” between the
governments of South Korea and Japan.

“So,” he said, pausing as if to choose
his words carefully, “things are quite complicated.”






 == From a Reader ==

That article really got me thinking!
What I find so interesting is that if the
Japanese officials hadn't complained
about it, then no one would have even
known that this tiny little memorial
exists in New Jersey.
But because they complain, like fools,
now it's a news story and many
Korean communities around the country
are making their own memorials.

From the Japanese point of view,
it was really bad strategy to ask them
to remove it…

= From a Reader =

Those Japanese officials have such a
strong desire to change and a recent
history, that they gave Koreans a reason
to make a bigger deal about it now.
Why don't they just accept what is
historical fact?

= From a Reader =

I think it's unfortunate how the
government has too often engaged
in a white-washing campaign to try and
get such past atrocities to fade away
from people's minds all too soon!
It's a good thing that their efforts
backfired and that they have galvanized
the Korean immigrant population
throughout the states to take a stand
and do what they can to make people
remember what horrible things took
place in this region not too long ago.

= From a Reader =

I think you should become a politician
in Japan so that you can very
necessarily shake things up in this
country in a much bigger way!
by fighter_eiji | 2012-05-21 10:00 | English
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