Deal Between Japan and Korea Regarding Comfort Women Deserves Criticism

A photo of a memorial statue honouring the thousands of WWII "comfort women" victims who endured sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.
A photo of a memorial statue honouring the thousands of WWII “comfort women” victims who endured sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.

In a major development, the Japanese and South Korean governments reached an agreement today concerning Korean comfort women kidnapped and routinely sexually assaulted by Japanese military personnel during World War II. Despite ample evidence demonstrating that the Japanese army deliberately kidnapped thousands of women from Korea and other parts of Asia and forced them into sexual slavery, Japan’s government has been notoriously resistant to confronting this chapter in their history.

In 1993, the Japanese government issued a formal apology to comfort women, but since that time the country has reefused to be held further accountable. There even remains in Japan a widespread revisionist movement that denies that the forcible sexual assault of thousands of women and young girls by Japanese troops even took plac; those revisionists deny the stories of the more than two hundred comfort women brutalized during World War II who have since come forward to describe their rape by Japanese troops. Those survivors have carried out an unrelenting campaign to demand justice from the Japanese government — a government that seems to have adopted a policy of waiting for comfort women survivors to die off so that the issue will just quietly go away.

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Chicago-based law firm takes despicable Comfort Women-denier case against Glendale memorial

A photo of a memorial statue honouring the thousands of WWII "comfort women" victims who endured sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.
A photo of a memorial statue in Glendale honouring the thousands of WWII “comfort women” victims who endured sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. Photo credit: Action Images

The statue is as striking as it is unassuming. A bronze statue of an Asian woman wearing traditional Korean dress is seated next to an empty chair in Glendale Central park. The memorial, installed in the park last July, honours the estimated 80,000 to 200,000 so-called “Comfort Women” — including women and young girls from Korea, China, the Phillipines, other parts of Southeast Asia, and even parts of Europe — who were kidnapped and sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Memorial statues for victims of  atrocities that occurred overseas are nothing new in America. This legal blog cites Wikipedia in noting that the U.S. is home to roughly 45 memorial sites for Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust, 16 to those who died in the Irish potato famine, and 6 commemorating those who died in the anti-Armenian genocide in Turkey.

A product of advocacy by Glendale’s relatively large Korean American population (representing 5.4% of the city’s total population), the Glendale statue is the fourth such memorial of Comfort Women erected in the United States according to New American Media. However, all have been embroiled in political backlash from Japanese politicans and local Japanese American residents. Not only have 3 separate Japanese delegations complained to the city of Glendale since the statue’s erection last year, but a New Jersey-based memorial was vandalized in October 2012 with pro-Japanese nationalist messages.

Now, the latest salvo from Japanese nationalists arrives in the form of a lawsuit, filed by Japanese American groups and residents demanding removal of the statue; this revolting lawsuit — which is based almost entirely on denying the Comfort Women atrocity — has been taken up by Chicago-based law firm Mayer Brown, a massive law firm that Google tells me is the 22nd largest law firm in the world.

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Valleywag casually compares WWII Comfort Women to internet matchmaking site

A screen capture from The Dating Ring promotional video. Who interviews subjects in front of a headline about applying hot rubber tread to tires?
A screen capture from The Dating Ring promotional video. Who interviews subjects in front of a newspaper headline about applying hot rubber tread to tires?

Okay, before I start this post, let me first ask one thing: what the heck is a Valleywag? Apparently, it’s some Gawker-esque site for Silicon Valley. I know now, because Google told me so.

Anyways, earlier today, Valleywag writer Nitasha Tiku decided to report on a matchmaking start-up called “The Dating Ring”, where the basic business plan is to match single women from NYC with single men from San Francisco, in some sort of unholy love-child born of the sweaty caresses between OKCupid and a frequent flyer program.

I guess this is what ValleyWag considers news. Personally, I don’t really think this is news-worthy; but, I also think this is a relatively harmless start-up, that should in theory facilitate romance between consenting (if kind of insipid, if one bases one’s opinion on those interviewed for the campaign video) adults while also helping to buoy sales for the nation’s flagging airlines. So, if that’s what floats the boats of Valleywag readers, and apparently is something that Tiku finds disturbing in some way, then by all means — write away.

But, nothing about The Dating Ring — in any way — resembles the Comfort Women who were brutalized and victimized during World War II. And yet, writes Tiku for Valleywag (emphasis mine):

A startup called The Dating Ring has taken its inspiration from an unlikely source: the “comfort women” of World War II. How else can they explain this crowdfunding campaign to help fly New York women “in dateable ages” to San Francisco to service the Bay Area’s soldiers of code.

(This post was updated on March 5, 2014 with an email chain containing Valleywag’s refusal to apologize for this incident. It was updated again on March 6, 2014 with an email chain between Valleywag writer Nitasha Tiku and a reader, and again later that day with further developments.)

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Japan Continues to Deny Comfort Women History