Members of the Glendale City Council have made comments during its Tuesday evening city council meeting in support of the Korean ‘comfort women,’ who were victims of sexual slavery in World War II, in response to backlash from Korean American activists.
“I want to reassure all of you, that Glendale, this council, myself included, have not abandoned you,” said Glendale Mayor Paula Devine. “We will stand with you and continue to stand with you.”
The reassurance comes after comments made by Glendale city council member Ara Najarian regarding the ‘comfort women’ issue made news among the Japanese and Korean communities last week, when he said he “welcomed” the agreement reached between the Japanese and South Korean governments late last year.
The controversial agreement between the two nations includes an apology from the Japanese government and $8.3 million in compensation to provide resources for 46 sex slaves who are still alive today.
The agreement was met with controversy from the international community. Though some applauded the two nations’ efforts to come to an agreement, others argue that the interests of the ‘comfort women’ were not represented, and particularly take offense at the portion in the agreement that both of the governments will never discuss this issue again.
“The agreement does not serve the grandmas,” said Korean American male commenter during the city council meeting. “I think there’s a misunderstanding here … The city council has not changed its position … I think it would be wise for you to make that statement again tonight so that the community does not get wrong ideas that you are turning your backs.”
“The city of Glendale is not turning its back on the comfort women,” said Najarian, and added that in his comments last week, he “wanted to acknowledge that the two sides have come together, not that the issue in any way made full compensation to the grandmas.”
Council Member Laura Friedman urged the activists to “keep doing what you’re doing,” and to not let “politics get in the way of history and remembrance and recognition and reparations.”
Phyllis Kim, the executive director of the Korean American Forum of California, said she was "very happy" that the city council has reassured them "strongly that they stand with the grandmothers."
Meanwhile, the city of Glendale has the only monument dedicated to honoring the women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army, and has also proclaimed a city-wide ‘Comfort Woman’ Day annually.