Fairfax County to Unveil Controversial 'Comfort Women' Memorial

Women were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese military during World War II. Some in Japan deny the number of women involved and say many were willing participants.

A plaque will be featured in the middle of Fairfax County's Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden. Photo courtesy of WCCWI via Facebook
A plaque will be featured in the middle of Fairfax County's Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden. Photo courtesy of WCCWI via Facebook
More than 50 reporters — many of them from Asian news outlets — are expected to converge Friday afternoon on the Fairfax County Government Center for the dedication of a garden that is little-known but could soon become controversial.

Dubbed the Memorial Peace Garden, the land is a memorial to the thousands of "comfort women," some of them girls, who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II, according to the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, Inc., the group that is behind the creation of the park.

"Comfort women" is the phrase used for, what some say, were up to 200,000 women from various, mainly Asian, countries forced into sex slavery for the Japanese military, according to the group.

The memorial garden is one of several such memorials to be erected in the United States. The Memorial Peace Garden is located on the back lawn of the Fairfax County Government Center, adjacent to the 9/11 Memorial. A similar memorial, in Glendale, Calif., has been defaced and the city faced legal action by disgruntled citizens, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Delegations from Japan have visited Glendale and Palisades Park, N.J., where another memorial is located.

Some conservatives in Japan deny the number of women involved in the camps and say that the majority were willing participants, according to news reports, including this story by the Voice of America. 

A survivor of the camps, Il-Chun Kang of Korea, will speak in her native language at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday in Fairfax. Another one of the speakers will be Grace Wolf, a council member for the nearby town of Herndon.

"Japan and Korea don't see eye to eye on the issue," said Wolf.  Some Japanese, mainly conservatives are "like Holocaust deniers or climate change deniers." 

"What is relevant to me is that Fairfax County residents wanted this," she said. "They expressed concern to their government, and it's a good way to launch talks today about human trafficking."

Remarks Friday will also be made by others who are trying to call attention to the decades-ago events, including U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, via video and Sen. Yonah Martin of Vancouver, Canada.

Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova is set to deliver a proclamation from the county in support of the memorial.

RDH53 May 30, 2014 at 08:02 AM
Carl May 30, 2014 at 09:33 AM
So Fairfax County is spending taxpayer money on a memorial for an event which took place in another country over 50 years ago and involved two other countries' citizens? It was a sad and outrageous event, but will the next memorial involve Attila the Hun's atrocities? Who sponsored this memorial?
Mary Ann Barton May 30, 2014 at 11:39 AM
Although it is located on county land, the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, Inc., raised funds for it and will take care of the upkeep, is my understanding.
Jim Daniels May 30, 2014 at 01:00 PM
I have no problem with this at all. What those women went through was horrific and definitely needs to be remembered and the victims memorialized. And although it is my understanding that the WCCW is paying for the memorial as well as its upkeep, if the county chipped in some for security I certainly would not mind. The question I have, and it is a sincere one, is why Fairfax County? Are there a number of descendants of the victims living here for example? What's the connection? I'm not familiar enough with the history to know what connection the County may have with the survivors...
Rights Human July 16, 2014 at 01:25 PM
122 Korean women claimed that "we were the U.S. military comfort women", and sued the class action lawsuit on June 25, 2014. If the issue is not a diplomatic one about history, but a human rights concern for the future of all nations, the Memorial in Fairfax should engrave the phrase on the statue " We were the U.S. military sex slave too." All comfort women were the victims of human trafficking. County Board Chair Sharon Bulova should not be a hypocrite. The USA itself is deeply committed to this Korean "comfort women" matter.


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