Palisades Park ‘comfort women’ memorial saluted by Japanese-American congressman
FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2013 LAST UPDATED: SATURDAY JUNE 8, 2013, 10:45 AM
BY MONSY ALVARADO
CARMINE GALASSO/ STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Rep. Michael Honda, of California, places flowers at the Comfort Women Memorial in Palisades Park, with a crush of press, well-wishers from the Korean-American community, and local politicians, including Rep. William Pascrell, center, watching.
PALISADES PARK — Michael Honda, a U.S. representative from California of Japanese descent, on Friday placed a bouquet on a stone memorial to women sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army during years including World War II, and then again urged the Japanese government to formally apologize to victims.
It was Honda who had introduced a resolution that passed in the House in 2007 that called for Japan’s apology to the women, known by the name “comfort women” and for the history to be taught to new generations in the Asian country.
“It is fitting that Japan start to recognize their responsibility to become part of the human rights movement,’’ said Honda, at a press conference at the Palisades Park library. “They took away almost 200,000 young ladies’ lives — girls, wives, sisters, aunts and mothers, and all of their lives just ruined. So today, that responsibility, that acknowledgement must be done today, because today we have a global movement surrounding the idea that we should not have any violence toward women.”
The Office of the Consulate General of Japan in New York on Friday e-mailed the same statement it issued days before Bergen County dedicated its own monument to the women in Hackensack in March. The statement says that the Japanese government has apologized for its actions in the past, that it set up a women’s fund that distributed money to benefit former comfort women and that it will work toward preventing future offenses against women.
In 1993, the Japanese government acknowledged the role of its military in setting up brothels, and a declaration known as the “Kono Statement” offered an apology. But many, including the surviving comfort women, didn’t accept the statement because it was issued by a Cabinet secretary, not by Parliament.
Lawmakers in New Jersey also are moving forward with their own comfort-women measure, which calls upon the Japanese government to accept historical responsibility for the sexual enslavement and educate future generations about the crimes.
On Monday, the bill, sponsored by Bergen County Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson and Connie Wagner, and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, was released by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee; and it now awaits approval by the full Senate. A vote is scheduled for June 20, said Weinberg, who was in Palisades Park on Friday for Honda’s visit.
“Its an acknowledgment of the horrors that they went through,” said Weinberg.
The resolution commemorates and supports comfort women in their fight for proper acknowledgement for their suffering in military “comfort stations.”
“Some of these women were sold to ‘comfort stations’ as minors, others were deceptively recruited with the promise of employment and financial security, and still others were forcibly kidnapped and sent to ‘work’ for soldiers stationed throughout the Japanese occupied territories,” Johnson said in a statement. “Although many have long since passed, they still deserve the dignity of having these crimes acknowledged by their perpetrators with the hope that it will never be repeated again.”
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The majority of comfort women were of Korean or Chinese descent. But women from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia and the Netherlands also were interned in military comfort stations run directly by the Imperial Japanese military or by private agents working for the military from 1932 to 1945.
Palisades Park dedicated its stone — the first in the United States to honor the women — in 2010, and since then, besides the one in Hackensack, another has been erected in New York, and plans for similar monuments are underway in Fort Lee, Texas and Michigan.
The tributes have led “right-wing” Japanese activists and their supporters to object to their existence. Opponents of the memorials say that the women were not enslaved by the military, but instead were paid prostitutes. Last year, members of the Japanese Parliament visited Palisades Park and asked borough officials to remove the stone because they said it contained “historical inaccuracies.”
Honda, who had been sent to an internment camp in the United States during World War II because of his Japanese ancestry, said he learned of the comfort women in the mid-1990’s and that he doesn’t want history to be forgotten.
During his visit, he was accompanied by Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson. Pascrell, a co-sponsor of the House resolution that passed in 2007, called the memorial in Palisades Park a “universal symbol.” He said that last year, he had heard some surviving comfort women speak about what they had been through, and he described their accounts as “heart wrenching.”
“It can’t be ignored, it can’t be forgotten, it must live in our own lives and mean something to us,” he said. “By being mindful of the comfort women suffering, we strengthen our own commitment to human rights around the world.”
The visit was organized by the Korean American Civic Empowerment, a group with offices in Hackensack.
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although,his family name is like japanese, but Mike Honda has a doubt that his is not a japanese birth,because his parents were not japanese....he is very mystery person....