‘Comfort Women’ Memorial in Virginia to be Unveiled Friday


A memorial paying tribute to the “comfort women” will be unveiled in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday, organizers announced.

Installed at the Fairfax County Government Center, the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden will recognize and pay homage to the women who were victims of sexual slavery and forced to work in military brothels servicing Japanese soldiers during World War II. Out of the estimated 200,000 women who were trafficked, a majority came from Korea, as well as other women from China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.


The Peace Garden features a monument that is 1.5 meters wide and 1.1 meters tall. Inscribed is a background on the history of “comfort women” in wartime Japan, as well as the words of U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, calling for the nation to formally apologize and provide direct compensation to the victims.

On either side of the monument are two butterfly-shaped benches. The butterfly was chosen by a group of “comfort women” victims as a symbol of hope. The ribbon-cutting ceremony will feature Korean food, refreshments, and a Korean cultural dance performance, and will be led by survivor, Il-Chun Kang from Korea. “This garden is located on the back lawn of the Fairfax County Government Center, adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial, and will be dedicated to all victims of human trafficking, in hopes that these crimes will cease to exist in the future,” read a statement by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues Inc. (WCCW), responsible for the monument. It is an association comprised predominantly of Korean Americans.

Fairfax County is home to a rather large Korean American community, and the memorial has reportedly garnered a great deal of support from its local residents.


However, a “comfort women” monument installed in the Southern California suburb of Glendale (statue pictured above) was greeted with considerable controversy, and it won’t be surprising if the Virginia memorial faces some backlash. Since the Glendale statue was unveiled last summer, three delegations of Japanese politicians have complained and its sister city in Japan even canceled a student exchange program. A group called the Global Alliance for Historical Truth also filed a lawsuit in federal court to have the statue removed. “A city like Glendale within the state of California does not have any authority to interfere in foreign affairs,” said the group’s president, Japanese American Koichi Mera.

The city of Palisades Park, N.J., where another “comfort women” memorial is located, has also confronted protests, mostly from nationalistic Japanese groups.

On the other side of the debate, Phyllis Kim, a spokeswoman for the Korean American Forum of California, stands firm in her organization’s resolve to spread awareness about the “comfort women” issue and sex trafficking in general. “The root cause of this wasteful dispute is the fact that the government of Japan has never taken the full responsibility for its crimes against humanity,” she told PRI’s The World in February, in defense of the Glendale monument. “Every German kid knows about the Holocaust. But the Japanese government just tries to downplay what happened.”

Photos via Naver News, WCCW’s Facebook, and the Los Angeles Times