‘Comfort women’ memorial triggers international controversy

Comments from the Japanese consul general in Atlanta about Brookhaven’s “comfort women” memorial – made in a Reporter Newspaper interview where he denied the women were sexually enslaved — have rekindled an international controversy and drawn criticism from the South Korean government.

The memorial is set to be unveiled June 30 at Blackburn Park 2, a small park tucked within a mixed-use development adjacent to the main Blackburn Park. The sculpture is intended to honor women sexually trafficked by the Japanese military during World War II, according to the city and organizers. The sculpture was originally offered to the Center for Civil and Human Rights, but the museum eventually declined to put the memorial on its Downtown campus.

The Japanese government in 2015 formally apologized for the “comfort women” system in a pact with Korea.

But in a June 16 interview with the Reporter at the Japanese consulate in Buckhead, Consul General Takashi “Thomas” Shinozuka said the women were “not sex slaves and not taken by force. Maybe you know that in Asian culture, in some countries, we have girls who decide to go to take this job to help their family.”

“No evidence has been found about that,” he said of the standard historical description of the women being forced into sex, as well as about a debated figure that about 200,000 women were victims of the system.

Those comments are drawing criticism broadcast everywhere from local press releases to Korean TV news. Much of the criticism highlights the term “paid prostitutes,” which was a Reporter paraphrase of Shinozuka’s comments, not a direct quote. Regardless, the controversy is about his overall denial of the “comfort women” system.

Cho June-hyuck, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, condemned Shinozuka’s comments in a press conference translated and broadcast June 27 by the South Korean English-language TV news channel Arirang News.

“If the report is true, it’s unbelievable that such a high-ranking diplomat would make that statement,” the spokesperson said. “It would be a really inappropriate remark that goes against the international community’s consensus that the ‘comfort women’ issue is about wartime sexual violence, and that it was a gross violation of human rights.”

The South Korean consulate in Atlanta could not be reached for comment.

The Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force, which commissioned the Brookhaven statue, also blasted Shinozuka’s comments. In a press release, the Task Force said his comments “denying the comfort women history by calling the sexually enslaved women ‘paid prostitutes’ marks the first time in recent memory that an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan has made such an extreme statement. Previously, it was the extreme neo-conservative nationalist right-wing faction of Japan that had uttered such unheralded levels of denialism.”

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  1. I am Japanese. I would like you to know that the prostitution was legal at war time in Japan. Japanese called all wartime prostitutes “Comfort Women”. So the “Comfort Women” has two meanings in it. Some of them were “Sex slaves”, others were “professional paid prostitutes”. Most of Comfort women were Japanese. Korean Comfort women are second largest in number.

    I don’t deny some of them were under sexually slavery situation. Most of them were trafficked by their own regional mafia (Korean mafia in Korea, Yakuza in Japan) and forced into Japanese-Korean (Koreans were Japanese at war time) military comfort stations.

    This was tragedy but happened again at the Korean War. Some women and girls were trafficked by Korean mafia and forced into prostitution for US military comfort station.
    It is obvious that not all of Comfort women of US military were forced into prostitution. But some were under sexually slavery situation.

    I beg you don’t use the statue as a tool of bashing-Japan. We will find better statue or memorial for the human right violations (or re-write better inscription). I fear more and more Japanese anger arises in Japan recent days. This anger is not from “Comfort women” things but from “Bashing-Japan” or “defaming Japan”.

  2. Ms. Bagby, thank you for covering this issue. Before the Japanese government-supported trolls descend yet again on the comments section of this article, I’d like to share this UN Commission on Human Rights Report. It refutes the comments made above by MISA.T that tries to dilute this tragic event in history.


    In addition to the South Korean Ministry on Foreign Affairs who expressed shock at Shinozuka’s comments, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a 6/28/17 press conference:
    “We all know that the forced recruitment of comfort women is a grave crime against humanity committed in the victimized Asian countries by the Japanese militarism during WWII. Ironclad evidence brooks no denial. We have told the Japanese side with all seriousness that Japan will never be able to unload the heavy burden of history if it refuses to face up to and reflect upon the history. We once again urge the Japanese side to take the history as a mirror, face squarely the international community’s concerns and deal with relevant issues in a responsible attitude.”

  3. +Honor,
    Do not attack me in an aggressive manner. I didn’t deny crimes what Japan did in WW2.
    I only want you to know that not all of 200,000 “Comfort Women” were sex slaves. Japan consul general Shinozuka said “paid prostitutes”. Yes, some were “sex slaves”, others were “professional paid prostitutes”. (The number of whole comfort women depends on historians range from 20,000 to 200,000)

    United States also said in this ww2 report.
    (US military report(1944) states Comfort Women are nothing more than prostitutes) http://www.exordio.com/1939-1945/codex/Documentos/report-49-USA-orig.html

    If anti-Japan activists want to accuse Shinozuka, they should accuse US military too.

    I don’t want to hurt any victims, especially who suffered from sexual slavery experience. But if someone tries to distort history to defame Japan, we have to insist our own justice. (But I don’t know why Japan and Korea are fighting each other on American soil)

    If this statue is installed for the purpose of humanity, many atrocities Korea did in Korean War and Vietnam War also should be remembered in the statue. Millions of women and girls were killed, raped during the War. And what is worse, they have never apologized yet.
    Especially, comfort women for the Korea/US military comfort station in Korean War are still suffering without apology and compensations.

    If the purpose of the statue are only against japan crimes, it should be installed in Japan or Korea NOT IN THE UNITED STATES.

  4. It is proved by objective historical fact that women were high-paid prostitutes.
    “American military report that captured Burma’s Korean comfort women” (1944)
    “Women’s deposit certificate”
    “Survey report by the US government” (2007)
    “Diary of comfort women station employee” (2016)
    “Public advertisement on newspaper at the time” (There were also many Korean executives)

  5. Honor.

    Current. The average age of comfort women criticizing Japan is under 80 years old.
    Many women are “Fifth Supply (Comfort Women)” in the Korean War.

    That is what the US military requested from Korea.
    They were secured by abduction and fraud.

    The system was maintained until the 1990s.

    Women sued the Korean government.
    The Korean court dismissed their complaint.
    “It is already prescription”

  6. As an American mercenary, the Korean army participated in the Vietnam War.
    The Korean army forcibly made a Vietnamese woman a sex slave.
    (And raped and slaughtered from child to mother.The subject of genocide of Korean army is fetus to old man)
    Park Geun-hye and the Korean Army Commander insisted.
    “Atrocities against Vietnamese citizens by the Korean army are legitimate war acts!”
    (Rape. Kidnapping. Torture. Plundering. Massacre. Assault, meaningless murder. Arson)
    There were villages where all the inhabitants were slaughtered by the Korean army.

  7. We want to remove that statue because the statue is built on fiction.
    Even as a cause of ignorance, many Japanese are angry about Brookhaven.

    I imagin that you are planting the wrong image of Korean Peninsula before WW?.
    so I think you will be very surprised by content of e-mail, although Japanese people are beginning to notice

    Even to such simple following questions, you can not answer one

    I am not an expert on the problem of comfort women just like you, but I can correctly point out the lies current Koreans are saying.
    Most of these information are clear from the then detailed statistical data (Korea Governor General Statistics Yearbook 1908-1941)
    which is the famouse primary material that many Korean historians are using.
    You can access the following address of the National Diet Library of Japan.

    http://dl.ndl.go.jp/search/searchResult?searchWord=% E6% 9C% 9D% E 9% AE% AE% E 7% B 7% 8 F% E 7% 9 D% A 3% E 5% B A% 9 C% E 7 % B 5% B 1% E 8% A 8% 88% E 5% B 9% B 4% E 5% A 0% B 1 & facetOpenedNodeIds = & featureCode = all & viewRestrictedList = 0 & pageNo = 1

    Koreans can not answer such a simple question, either. The reason why they can not answer is that their arguments are wrong.
    I wonder that Americans in Brookhaven do not feel such simple doubt.
    People on the Korean Peninsula before 1945 were legally equal as Korean-Japanese who also got voting rights.

    1) When the comfort women were forcibly taken away, did the Korean-Japanese tremble and hiding?
    in spite of that many korean-Japanese were working for police,militaly,administration.

    2) Have the comfort women taken back to Korea afterwards?

    3) some koreans people assert that they were killed, why do not you collect the remains?
    This is about the atrocity by the Japanese Army, why did not it become a problem at the conclusion of Japan-Korea Basic Treaty(1965)?
    However the return of savings of several comfort women was on the topic.

    4) Who took women forcibly?
    At that time, 100% of the village mayor, 80% of the county council members and 60% of the police officers were Korean-Japanese,
    and Japanese soldiers composed of Korean-Japanese were over 240,000.
    On the other hand the population ratio of archipelago-Japanese population in the Korean Peninsula was between 1.5% and 3.0%.
    From the problem of words, the administration near the residents (village office) and security (police) were in charge of Korean-Japanese

    The Koreans themselves forced them to take sexual women into sexual slavery?

    5)As you kinow,the issue of comfort women is triggered by the Asahi Shimbun’s Comfort women forcibly taking report in 1991.
    (Later, the Asahi Shimbun apologized for misinformation, and the verification committee at that time has verified that the search frequency of the newspaper was the starting point of 1991)

    In the meantime, Korea is seeking apology and compensation for Japan, but Korea did not try to catch the comfort station manager and the abductee’s culprit.
    In the newspaper at that time the information of the abduction remained as evidence.They were mostly korean-japanese.
    Why does not Korea try to catch direct culprits?


    I want to know your reply.

    Do you think who took women forcibly?
    Korean-japanese soldier/native-japanese soldier?
    Korean-japanese police/native-japanese police?

    followings are simple social background of Korean peninsula before 1945(WW?)

    First of all koreans were Japanese legally equal who had the right to vote.
    100% of the village mayor, 80% of the county council members and 60% of the police officers were Korean-Japanese,
    and Japanese soldiers composed of Korean-Japanese were over 240,000.
    On the other hand the population ratio of native-Japanese population in the Korean Peninsula was between 1.5% and 3.0%.
    From the problem of words, the administration near the residents (village office) and security (police) were in charge of Korean-Japanese

  9. Subject: RE: Justice and friendship for the future regarding ‘Comfort Women’ issue

    Dear Sir or Madame,

    I write this in order to save democracy, in order to save freedom of speech and fair and fact based discussions,
    I write this in order to make people can self-reflect whether what they heard and believed have been totally free from biases or ethnocentrism.
    As for myself I just can’t let harmful lies spread over the world to make everyone including Koreans unhappy and make the world worse.
    I believe America as a nation which put great value on justice and fairness.
    I hope you never give hand to propaganda or thoughtless fabrications again so that cause and deepen hatred between neighboring two nations, Japan and Korea also in the future.

    Second Sino-Japanese War started in early 1930’s.
    Even though I don’t discount a few Pan-Asianist’s wish to liberalize Asia from European Imperial powers, I believe majority of Japanese wanted to make China their colony like Indian Empire was for the British Empire then.
    And because Japanese were familiar with Chinese literature and history they might easily regard themselves same as historical barbarian empire which rose from China’s margins and eventually became foreign dynasty in China.
    But if they believe that way they didn’t understand Chinese people’s hope for self- determination and ambition for better life and democracy.

    Japanese Imperial Army occupying China faced guerilla type warfare and resentments from local Chinese population.
    Chinese people despised Japanese Imperial Army all the more because of guerilla hunt which was same as casual murder of citizens, scorched earth campaign and rapes.
    Then Japanese Imperial Army decided to introduce and accompany brothels to battle field in order to prevent sexual crimes by Japanese soldiers which had stirred up angers towards occupying foreign force.

    Regarding composition of ‘Comfort Women’ or professional camp followers, around 60% were Japanese from Japanese archipelago, about 30% were Korean Japanese from Korean peninsula and 10% were Taiwanese Japanese.
    Japanese and Koreans and Taiwanese were Japanese Imperial subjects then. Portion of comfort women roughly reflected the population of Japanese Empire’s ethnic groups.
    Small portion of comfort women also came from local population like Chinese, Filipina, Indonesian, Burmese and Dutch from East Indies colonist families.

    Regarding 35 Dutch women in Semarang, Indonesia, Japanese military officials were blamed for compelling them to work as prostitutes against their will. When Japanese Imperial Army’s headquarter in Indonesia noticed the fact, they shut down the comfort station immediately. Person in charge, Lieutenant Colonel was executed as war criminal in the Allied military tribunal after war ended.

    From 1980’s story about abductions of Korean girls by Japanese Imperial Army were told and spread by couples of Japanese.
    In 1983 former Japanese soldier Seiji Yoshida wrote a book ‘My Wartime Crime’ and he addressed that he had kidnapped 200 girls from Jeju, a Korean island and brought them to battlefield. Local Jeju historian instantly denied the story and later in 1996 Yoshida admitted that the book was a fiction.
    But before he confessed that his story was a fabrication, in 1991 a female Japanese human rights lawyer, Mizuho Fukushima former leader of Japanese Social Democrats took up this story to sue Japanese Government for damage and Asahi Shinbun, leading liberal Japanese paper spread this fabrication.
    At first Korean researchers together with Japanese researchers identified abduction story is not truth. Meanwhile Korean newspaper erroneously reported number of Korean ‘Comfort Women’ was 200,000 which equals to one tenth of Japanese Army troops stationed in hostile foreign soil at peak and 1 percent of population of Korean peninsula at the end of WW2.
    People might say number is not important but it is not accurate at all.
    From 1990’s on, democratized South Korea’s presidents have been pushed by public opinion and repeatedly take up the story together with other Japanese colonization issues once he came close to the end of his tenure and became lame duck to salvage his popularity.

    From 1993 on Japanese Government has formally apologized for the suffering caused and Japanese public raised compensation funds for the victims. Consolatory payment is about 30,000USD per person and letter attached from Japanese Premier describes sincere apology.
    One nation which rejected to accept the goodwill from Japan was and still is South Korea. South Korean activists said they can’t accept apology nor money unless Japanese Government admits Japanese Imperial Army directly kidnaped girls from peaceful Korean villages.
    We know it is a fabrication invented by certain persons.
    And finally in August 2014 Asahi Shinbun admitted that their report was based on false story.
    So other than testimonies of victims made after 1990’s and now discredited Seiji Yoshida there is no evidence like government documents, military orders, newspapers, pledges from the family, rumors of the neighbours which show tens of thousands of victims were abducted by the military and coerced into ‘Comfort Women’.
    If abductions of 200,000 girls were the case why nobody was tried as war criminal?
    Contrary there are many prewar and wartime Korean newspapers reporting Japanese governmental police raided on human trafficking from Korea to China.

    It’s pity to learn that indentured labor was illegal but did exist in Japan before WW2.
    Many of Korean prostitute girls were sold by their parents. Few might have been cheated by pimps.
    I personally feel sorry for their sufferings but it is not correct to modify history in order to denounce neighboring country and harm mutual friendship in the future.

    Even I am aware of Korean resentments towards Japan because of colonization in 20th century and invasions in 16th and in 7th century I like Korean culture and cuisine and had some Korean friends.
    I studied Korean history and when Korean economy took off towards industrialized country in late 80’s, I expected now new era had come for Koreans to forgive the past and two nations to understand equally.
    But that was just a dream and I accuse Japanese left activists who try to gain fame and profit by fabricating story in 80’s and planting seeds of current troubles and also short sighted Korean nationalists who are just the prisoners of hatreds.

    I believe that American people cherish and enthusiastically defend fairness, justice and the truth. I hope that you will make a truthful, fair and objective judgment in regards to so called ‘Comfort Women’ issue.

    Kind regards,


  10. Dear Dyana,

    What he said was nothing more than a statement of the Japanese government’s official views and not a personal view
    that these were decided by the cabinet and higher ranking diplomat have also expressed the official views in the United Nations.
    This views are structured 1) not found evidence of forced intercourse of the comfort women, 2) the comfort women do not agree to call them sexual slaves
    because they have received the money for which they have been paid a high price.

    These are all historical facts.

    1) it is the demon ‘s proof(nobody can not find nothing), and it is Koreans’ job to find any evidence.
    2) there are a ton of evidence.to ensure accuracy, I present fact that everyone knows,
    to ensure accuracy, that is the famous court records which is attached bottom to the text.

  11. Dear Dyana,

    It is a simple question for you, you mention the taken by force in the article, but who is the subject?
    Koreans (precisely korean-japanese at that time) soldiers, policemen, politicians and Japanese (precisely native-Japanese)
    soldiers and police officers?
    if the kidnapping would be fact, Judging from the population ratio, many expect the subject would be Koreans.

    As a preliminary knowledge, the race ratio of the Korean Peninsula before WW2 is shown below.
    1) The ratio of native-Japanese was 1.5% to 3%.
    2) 60% of policemen were Koreans.
    3) The Korean soldiers were 240,000, including military personnel (current Japanese troops are 227,000)
    4) All the village heads (100%) were Koreans, 60% of the prefectural assemblies were Koreans.


  12. Dear Dyana,

    There are many evidence of comfort women who got high-priced rewards were prostitutes.
    In order to ensure accuracy, I have selected fairly well-known materials.

    Asia Pacific War Korean victim compensation claim case

    This is the first famous lawsuit in Japan (demand of returning the money)

    (Moon-o-chu) is a Korean woman.
    In 1992, she filed a lawsuit seeking the return of 21,645 yen(\) in postal savings,
    Which she had saved for two and a half years during the period of comfort women,
    But she was deemed to have been resolved by the South Korea.
    Therefore, she had to pay 5,000 yen for a deposit of 26,245 yen.
    “I bought a small house in Daegu in the hometown of a thousand yen.

    Steve Miwa

    P.S. I expect your answer a question who were the subject.

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