Atlanta, March 2, 2017 — Derreck Kayongo, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights officially withdraw the agreement signed last month between the Center and a task force representing The Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Taskforce in a letter delivered via email.
In the Center’s letter, they stated as their reason that “permanent exterior fixtures were not part of the original design or any new strategic plan” for the Center.
“We’re deeply disappointed to hear the Center is backing out of our written Agreement and work we’ve been engaging them in for 6 months now,” said Task Force Chair, Baik Kyu Kim.
The Task Force first approached the Center in September and received written notice of their board’s approval in early December. They worked with Center staff members to assess and select the outside space for the memorial.
The Task Force and Center held a joint public press conference three weeks ago. The Task Force then purchased the statue, and spent thousands of dollars on advertisements showcasing the Center itself.
“We did all this in good faith and belief in the integrity of the Center board and staff. If there really was a policy that existed, why are they telling us now?” said Kim.
Since the press conference and public launch on February 9, the local Japanese Consul General met with business leaders at the Metro-Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Center, and City of Atlanta, among many others to express concerns and threaten Japanese business fall-out from erecting this Memorial, according to Helen Ho, consultant and Special Advisor to the Task Force.
This was followed by an email trolling campaign from non-local Japanese to all known donors to the Center, refuting the history and human rights violations of the comfort women and referring to them as “well paid and well treated prostitutes.”
“The Task Force was never contacted or notified of this anti-Memorial campaign effort, and found out third-hand a week and a half after it began, so it’s hard to believe their decision is policy-based,” said Ho.
“Part of the tragedy of the comfort woman story is that there has never been full governmental acknowledgement, apology and reparations that United Nations rapporteurs, human rights tribunals, our US House of Representatives and other political bodies have universally demanded for decades. With continued efforts to silence and dismiss this history, it’s another trauma.”
“Likewise, the Center failed to alert us and invite us to help share information when this anti-Memorial campaign occurred. This felt sadly familiar to the systematic efforts to silence and ignore the truth and power of these women and girls we are seeking to honor,” said Ho.
Despite this set back, the project is going extremely well and nearing its fundraising goal. “We are confident we will find a site deserving of this beautiful statue and memorial honoring the brave lives of girls and women who were forced into one of the largest known sexual and human trafficking rings in the 20th century,” said Chair Baik Kyu Kim.
“We have almost reached our original fundraising goal and will simply redouble all our efforts. We would dishonor the spirit and history of these women if we didn’t keep moving forward at this time,” said Kim.
(The signed MOU Agreement between the Center and Task Force, and executed signature page, are attached).
(The troll email is attached).