The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation on Tuesday urging the city to build a memorial in remembrance of the approximately 200,000 women who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese army during World War II. The decision puts pressure on the city to take on the project, but does not actually provide funding.
The resolution, written by Supervisor Eric Mar, was a controversial one—the Japanese government, as well as many Japanese Americans, voiced concerns that a memorial would reignite anti-Japanese sentiments in the U.S. According to Board President London Breed, via KCBS:
“We can build a ‘comfort woman’ memorial to Korean and Chinese victims without it being an attack on Japanese-Americans just as we have built Holocaust museums that are not an attack on German-Americans. They are victims who deserve our respect and lessons we must never forget. We have a moral obligation to remember.”
In order to appease concerns, a sentence was added to the legislation: “Japan is not the only country that has victimized women.”
In addition to the construction of a memorial, the resolution urges Japan to “fully acknowledge and apologize” the enslavement of Korean and Chinese women during WWII, and also calls for compensation to the approximately 50 “comfort women” (as they were known) who are still alive.
According to SFGate, supporters of the memorial came in droves to Tuesday’s meeting, wearing shirts decorated with a yellow butterfly, the comfort women’s symbol.
Yong Soo Lee, an 86-year-old South Korean woman who was forced into sexual slavery at 15, gave a harrowing testimony this week to the Supervisors about her experience being tortured and raped for two years by Kamikaze pilots. Lee also visited Washington, D.C. in April of this year, sharing her experience—a kidnapping, electric shock torture, isolation, miscarriage—with the Washington Post:
“I never wanted to give comfort to those men,” she said with a glare of disgust. “That name was made up by Japan. I was taken from my home as a child. My right to be happy, to marry, to have a family, it was all taken from me.”
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