The mayor of a New Jersey town has refused to comply with Japanese officials' request to remove a public memorial dedicated to Korean women who were used as sex slaves by Japanese military forces during WWII.
The officials visited the New Jersey town of Palisades Park, home to some 20,000 residents of Korean decent, earlier this month to ask the city to remove its public memorial paying tribute to women abused by Japanese forces during WWII as "comfort women."
"In memory of more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of imperial Japan. Known as 'comfort women,' they endured human rights violations that no peoples should leave unrecognized. Let us never forget the horrors of crimes against humanity," the plaque dedicated to the thousands of women who faced forced prostitution reads.
On May 1, 2012, the Japanese Consul-General Shigeyuki Hiroki visited Palisades Park Mayor James Rotundo to discuss Japanese-U.S. relations, but Hiroki turned the diplomatic conversation into a request to remove the memorial, Rotundo told The New York Times.
"They said the comfort women were a lie, that they were set up by an outside agency, that they were women who were paid to come and take care of the troops," the mayor told the paper.
Despite the request, Palisades Park refused to remove the memorial that was placed in a New Jersey park in October of 2010.
In 1991, Kim Hak-Sun, became the first woman to publicly share her ordeal, propelling several other South Korean survivors to come forward and share their tales of subjugation and abuse at the hands of the Japanese army.
Research suggests that girls primarily between the age of 13 and 20 were coerced or kidnapped from their homes and moved to military stations set up in occupied countries. The Japanese army referred to the mostly-Korean women as "jugun ianfu" and used them for sexual purposes.
Toward the end of the war thousands of women used for the "comfort" stations were executed by the army to dispel evidence that such locals existed.
The Japanese government has vehemently denied the existence and usage of "comfort women," but a 1992 investigation conducted by a prominent national historian forced authorities to recognize, albeit reluctantly, the Japanese army's role in establishing and operating comfort stations.
"On busy days, a comfort woman might have to service 40 to 50 men a day. Women who refused to have sex were beaten by soldiers or their proprietors. Some even tell of being bound to the bed so that they could not fight or refuse to have sex," according to an article on "comfort women" in The National WWII Museum.