Legacy of war in Asia

San Francisco formally accepts ‘comfort women’ statue

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 1:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 10:23pm

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee on Wednesday signed a document formalising the city’s acceptance of a statue that symbolises Korean and other Asian women forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military, city officials said.

The Japanese government had called on Lee not to accept the statue. It appears certain that the city of Osaka will now dissolve its sister-city affiliation with San Francisco, as Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura had threatened to do unless Lee rejected the motion the US city’s council passed last week to accept the statue.

The statue – of three Chinese, Korean and Filipino girls standing hand in hand – was set up by a local private organisation as a memorial honouring “comfort women” in San Francisco’s Chinatown area in September.

Other “comfort women” memorials in the United States include a statue in Glendale, southern California, and a memorial in the state of Virginia.

In 2015, Japan and South Korea reached a landmark deal to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the comfort women issue, with Japan disbursing 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) last year to a South Korean fund to provide support to former comfort women and their families.

But the administration of new South Korean President Moon Jae-in argues that “the majority of the country’s public do not approve of the comfort women agreement” on an emotional level.

Osaka and San Francisco formed sister-city ties in 1957, launching high-school student exchanges and other programmes.

The Osaka mayor has warned that if San Francisco accepts the statue, it would impair their relationship of trust.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier said it was “extremely regrettable” that San Francisco’s assembly had accepted the statue.