Tensions linger in US over “comfort women” plaques

A NJ plaque honoring 200,000 women forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers sparked international controversy

Topics: ,

Tensions linger in US over "comfort women" plaques (Credit: AP)

HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) — Four years ago, noticing plaques at the county courthouse commemorating slavery, the Holocaust and other atrocities, Korean-American community leader Chejin Park struck upon the idea of adding a tribute to the “comfort women” of World War II.

To his surprise, the seemingly small, local gesture — to honor the more than 200,000 mostly Korean and Chinese women forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers — would make a tiny northern New Jersey town a flashpoint in an international controversy.

Local officials would rebuff a request by Japanese officials to take down the first plaque put up just over two years ago in the town of Palisades Park, a square-mile borough outside New York where a majority of residents are of Korean descent.

But now the dedication of a second marker, this one at the courthouse whose memorials had inspired Park, has been held up until the wording can be changed to remove a reference to the Japanese government.

The top government official in Bergen County, Kathleen Donovan, said the delay is due to a mix-up, not any new pressure from Japanese officials.

Donovan and the county’s legislative body, the freeholder board, had asked that the second plaque state that Japan’s Imperial army, not the Japanese government, was responsible for what happened to those women, she said.

“Our monument is not anti-Japanese government; it is pro-comfort women,” said Donovan, the county executive. “We want to be very clear that it was the Imperial Japanese armed forces and not the government that, according to our historical research, committed these acts.”

Historians say the women, mostly from the Korean peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels. But rightists in Japan have questioned whether the women were coerced by the military to be prostitutes.

Some surviving women and their supporters have held a weekly vigil in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul for more than two decades, saying that an apology issued by a Japanese government official in 1993 has failed to convince South Koreans that Japan is truly contrite.

The issue is an important one for Bergen County, where the Korean population has quadrupled since 1990 and now accounts for nearly 8 percent of the county’s more than 900,000 residents. Last year, Donovan made an official visit to the county’s sister city of Dangjin, South Korea, and met with some elderly women who, decades ago, were forced to provide sex for the soldiers.



“It was quite an amazing experience to sit with them and have tea,” Donovan said. “I asked them if I could tell their story; these are women who lived through that horrible experience and wanted the world to know.”

Park, an attorney with a group that seeks to get Koreans more involved in community affairs in the New York metro area, worked with a memorial committee to build and finance the memorials to these women in Palisades Park and Hackensack.

“These memorials are simply stating the fact that it happened, and Japan is arguing that it didn’t happen,” Park said. “We just see the issue as a human rights issue. We see comfort women survivors screaming for justice.”

A similar memorial has since been built in Los Angeles, and plans are also under way to build them in San Francisco, Georgia, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, he said.

When the first plaque went up on a small boulder next to the library in Palisades Park, the mayor said he received a perplexing visit from Japanese consular officials, followed by a delegation of members of Japan’s parliament.

They offered to donate books to the library of the small suburban hamlet. They wanted to plant Japanese cherry blossom trees along the borough’s main thoroughfare. They offered to engage in activities with townspeople to “promote U.S.-Japan relations.”

“In the meantime,” Mayor James Rotundo recalled, the visiting officials also told him: “It would be nice if we’d take the monument down.”

The first plaque reads: “In memory of the more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan 1930s – 1945 known as comfort women, they endured human rights violations that no peoples should leave unrecognized. Let us never forget the horrors of crimes against humanity.”

The second plaque is being reworded to lay the blame on the Imperial armed forces of Japan instead of the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan, removing the government reference.

The Japanese consulate in New York, asked about the controversy in New Jersey, issued a statement on behalf of the government stating that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “is deeply pained when thinking of the ‘comfort women’ who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering, a feeling shared by his predecessors.”

The statement adds that Japan has apologized for the suffering it caused to “the people of many countries, particularly to those in Asian nations.”

On the issue of the women, the Japanese government said: “It is our sincere hope that we can focus on working constructively together and move forward, and not politicize this issue.”

Park said he believes the women’s struggles have a place alongside history’s greatest injustices.

“Human trafficking is a serious human rights violation, and the comfort women were the largest government-organized human trafficking case in the 20th century,” he said. “We should understand the comfort women memorial as something like the other memorials in the United States that memorialize many other human rights violations that happened in many places in the world.”

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>