Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) called on the Japanese government on Tuesday to “speak plainly” about a dark chapter in the country’s history in which Korean, Chinese and other women were used as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
Standing next to a controversial Glendale memorial honoring the so-called “comfort women,” Schiff said clear recognition will pave the way for an improved diplomatic relationship between two of the United States’ most important Asian allies, ensuring security in the east.
“Avoidance is not a solution and reconciliation cannot be predicated on lies,” Schiff said, referring to Japanese officials who have downplayed the victimization of an estimated 80,000 to 200,000 women.
This was Schiff’s first visit to the comfort-women memorial in Central Park, which features a young woman in Korean garb sitting next to an empty chair. Since it was installed in July, several delegations of conservative Japanese lawmakers have demanded the 1,100-pound statue be removed.
In addition, two residents of Japanese descent — one from Glendale and the other from Los Angeles — have filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to force Glendale to get rid of the monument.
“Glendale has been under pressure to remove the memorial,” said Schiff, who co-sponsored a 2007 Congressional resolution on comfort women. “I felt it was important to show my support.”
During his visit, Schiff lit incense and knelt before the statue in honor of an 87-year-old former comfort woman of Chinese descent who died recently.
A Japanese Prime Minister personally apologized to comfort women in the 1990s, but survivors and their supporters want the Japanese parliament to pen an official resolution.
Opponents of the monument deny the military’s involvement and say the women acted willingly.
The Glendale statue is the first public memorial on the West Coast.