By Paulina Hernandez
On September 22,2017, the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, or CWJC for short, unveiled a memorial honoring “comfort women”. “Comfort women” is translated from the Japanese word,”ianfu” which is a euphemism for prostitution. “Comfort women” were women and girls subjected to rape, and beatings by the Japanese Imperial Army.
(continued) During World War II, young women from the following countries were used as “comfort women”: Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, Malaya, New Guinea, Taiwan, Macau, and French Indochina. A small number of women from Netherlands and Australia were also used as “comfort women”.
The unveiling ceremony was emceed by Phyllis Kim and Judith Mirkinson. Speakers included former Congressman Mike Honda, Dr.Jonathan Kim and former Supervisor Eric Mar. The theme of the ceremony was memory, resilience, and justice. A commonality amongst the speakers was accountability from the Japanese government and the demand for reparations for the victims and their families. Furthermore, for the Japanese government to conduct an investigation and punish those found guilty. Finally, the coalition demanded that the government of Japan teach an accurate history of Japan during World War II.
The ceremony included drumming from Cham E. Sori and singing from Do Hee Lee. The ceremony was presented as a multiethnic project between the following communities: Korean, Filipino, Japanese-American, Chinese, and Japanese. The keynote speaker of the event was Yong-Soo Lee, one of just a few survivors left to tell the story of being a “comfort woman”. Her main message was of the importance in acknowledging the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, specifically to the “comfort women”. Furthermore, the opportunity for her to share her story and the impact it will have for future generations. She was especially grateful to retired Judges Lillian Sing and Julie Tang for their impact on this project.
The memorial is named, the Women’s Column of Strength. The sculptor who designed the memorial is Steven Whyte. The memorial depicts three “comfort women”, one Korean, one Filipina, and one Chinese. They are being watched over by a fourth figure, a grandmother.The grandmother is Kim Hak-Soon who was one of the many “comfort women” who came forward with her story in 1991. The Women’s Column of Strength memorial is open for public viewing at the Saint Mary’s Square.