June 30, 2017, Brookhaven — A “comfort women” memorial statue dedicated to sexually trafficked women by Japanese military during World War 2 was unveiled at a ceremony at Blackburn Park II. The statue was unveiled in a rain soaked ceremony attended by key city officials, local Korean community leaders, activist, and media from Japan and Korea.
The statue memorial, named the “Young Girl’s Statue for Peace,” is a life-sized golden statue of a young girl seated next to an empty chair.
Mayor John Ernst at the unveiling explained the city’s view that a memorial to the “comfort women” matches Brookhaven’s battle against sex trafficking in metro Atlanta. “It’s not all about the past. It is about the future. And that’s what these monuments are about,” said Ernst.
Brookhaven was ranked by the FBI as America’s top city for human trafficking crimes in 2014.
The memorial landed in Brookhaven after the National Center for Civil Human and Rights in Atlanta reverse its plan from an earlier decision to host it in March 2017.
The “comfort women” memorial statue has caused much diplomatic controversy between the government of Japan and Korea on the historical facts on comfort women. Japanese government has publicly stated that “comfort women” were actually paid prostitutes during the World War 2.
At a June 29 Brookhaven City Council meeting, a day before the official ceremony, Consul Tomoko Ohyama of the Japanese Consulate of Japan in Atlanta, made a last-minute plea to Brookhaven council members to reject the statue as it discriminates against Japanese people.
In addition, neighbors of Blackburn Park II have threatened a lawsuit over the memorial being located there without public input. City of Brookhaven may relocate the statue memorial to a new location, according to unconfirmed report.
Kang Il-chul, a “comfort women” survivor also known as “Grandma Kang”, traveled from Korea to Brookhaven for the unveiling ceremony of the “Young Girl’s Statue for Peace” statue.
Kang was abducted from her home in South Korea when she was 14 and was shipped to China on a train with numerous other young girls.
She was unable to return to South Korea after the war ended in 1945 and lived most of her live in China before moving back to Korea in 2000, according to the official testimony.
There are currently a total of 38 living “comfort women” including Kang in South Korea.
“This is not about Korea against Japan,” said Baik Kyu Kim, the founder of the Atlanta Comfort Women Task Force and who helped raise more than $1 million to donate the memorial to Brookhaven.
“While many victims were from Korea, there were also many girls and women from some 13 Asian Pacific countries, including China, Thailand and the Philippines,” added Kim.
“Only by remembering and acknowledging the history can we move toward eradicating sexual violence and human trafficking in our communities both local and global,” Kim said.
Official inscription to the memorial:
This memorial honors the girls and women,
euphemistically called “Comfort Women,”
who were enslaved by the Japanese Imperial
Armed Forces from 1931 to 1945.
The Comfort Women constitute one of the largest
known cases of human trafficking in the 20th century
with estimates ranging up to the hundreds of thousands.
This dark history was hidden for decades until the 1990s,
when the survivors courageously broke their silence.
The Comfort Women are from at least thirteen
Asian-Pacific countries, principally from Korea.
Most died or were killed during World War II.
This memorial is dedicated to the memory of these girls
and women and to the crusade to eradicate sexual violence
and sex trafficking throughout the world.
We will never forget. We will teach the truth.
Presented to the City of Brookhaven for its leadership
in the fight against sex trafficking
From the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force
June 30, 2017