Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

BUENA PARK — A proposal to build a monument to Korean “comfort women” in Buena Park was stopped after Councilmember Art Brown announced that he would not support it, The Orange County Register reported on Aug. 30.

The motion had been met with trepidation when the council first took up the issue at its July 23 meeting. No vote was taken at that time, but Brown, who expressed sympathy for the victims of sexual slavery, had asked for more time to research the issue.

Buena Park City Councilmembers Fred Smith, Art Brown and Steve Berry

In a statement read at the end of the August meeting, Brown said, “While I have sympathy for all victims of past and present wars and conflicts, I do not support placing memorials through the city for any and all.”

Mayor Beth Swift and Councilmembers Fred Smith and Steve Berry had also expressed sympathy for the women, but did not support building a memorial in the city to address the issue. Mayor Pro Tem Miller Oh said during the July meeting that the issue should be discussed further.

The City of Glendale erected a memorial to the comfort women on July 30, following an emotional public meeting in which several speakers from both sides presented their arguments. Some of those speakers also addressed the Buena Park City Council.

Proponents said that Japan’s military forced as many as 200,000 women from Korea and other countries into sexual servitude during World War II, while opponents denied or downplayed the charges, claiming that the women worked voluntarily as prostitutes.

The monument in Glendale is a replica of one erected across from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, where comfort women and their advocates regularly hold protests demanding an apology and reparations from the Japanese government.

The issue of Japan’s treatment of its neighbors throughout Asia during World War II has continued to be a source of tension. In May, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto sparked a fury of criticism when he suggested that forced prostitution by Japan’s military was necessary to “maintain discipline.”

The Korean American Forum of California, a group dedicated to educating the public about the comfort women, proposed the monument and would have covered the $36,125 cost to build and maintain the monument, The OC Register reported. 

The unveiling of the comfort women monument in Glendale became a national and international news story. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

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