San Francisco has unveiled a memorial dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of young women forced to serve as sex slaves.
They did so for the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World World II.
The Japanese called the victims “Comfort Women.”
As Mark Niu reports, the monument is the 8th comfort women memorial in the United States, but the first in a major U.S. city.
In the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, victims of sexual slavery – known as “comfort women” – are not forgotten.
The names of 11 comfort women are read out loud. They’ve died since this project began two years ago.
Eleven others are still alive, including 89-year-old Yong-soo Lee.
“I am very happy. I feel like the whole world is with us. Standing with us. With the energy you give me and the love you give me. I’m planning to live for 200 years.”
The memorial pays special tribute to Kim Hak-soon – the first victim to break the silence on the horrors comfort women endured.
She watches over the future – represented by three young girls – one Chinese, one Korean, and one Filipina.
“This is the first time in history that Korean, Chinese, and Filipino communities – with victims of all 13 communities – have worked together,” Jonathan Kim, Korean American Community Representative said.
It’s been a long journey for the statue to find a home here. Back in 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support the creation of this memorial. But opposition quickly followed.
“The Japanese Consulate office lobbied all the supervisors to urge them not to support or pass the resolution,” said Julie Tang, Co-Chair of Comfort Women Justice Coalition. “Later on, after we picked the artist, he received 12-hundred emails – all from Japan – urging him not to build a memorial for us and even threatening that if he did, he’d lose business with the Japanese companies.”
Tang is one of two retired San Francisco judges who left their jobs to spearhead the project.
“What is two years out of my life compared to a lifetime of misery, nightmares for what the ‘comfort women’ endured,” Lillian Sing, co-chair, Comfort Women Justice Coalition said.
A replica of this memorial will be put up in South Korea next year and plans are in the works for replicas in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Shanghai, China.
The Japanese consul general complains the memorial is “one-sided.”
Japan’s critics say there is only one side to this story – that kidnapping, rape and sexual slavery are crimes against humanity that should never be repeated.
Lillian Sing talks about San Francisco’s memorial to comfort women
CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Judge Lillian Sing, co-chair of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, about a new memorial in San Francisco dedicated to comfort women.