'Comfort Women' Statue in Glendale Preserved
LOS ANGELES (CN) - The city of Glendale can keep its monument to women whom the World War II Japanese army forced into sexual slavery, a federal judge ruled.
Michiko Shiota Gingery, Koichi Mera and his group the nonprofit GAHT-US asked the Central District of California in February to have Glendale remove a 1,100-lb. bronze statue from Central Park, claiming that it poses a threat to diplomatic relations between America and Japan.
The monument depicts a young girl sitting next to an empty chair, with a bird on her shoulder. It is accompanied by a plaque that condemns Japan for avoiding responsibility for the abduction of more than 200,000 women, including Koreans, Filipinos, Chinese, Indonesians, Dutch and Japanese, during the 1930s and '40s.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson dismissed the complaint on Aug. 4, however, after finding that the challengers lacked standing to pursue their claim under federal law.
"The fact that local residents feel disinclined to visit a local park is simply not the type of injury that can be considered to be in the 'line of causation' for alleged violations of the foreign affairs power and Supremacy Clause," Anderson wrote.
A failure to demonstrate how the monument violates the Supremacy Clause or foreign affairs powers also doomed the plaintiffs' claims. Judge Anderson found that the monument is "entirely consistent with the federal government's foreign policy."
"Plaintiffs' complaint provides no well-pleaded allegations of the required 'clear conflict' between the federal government's foreign relations policies concerning recognition of the plight of the comfort women and Glendale's placement of the monument in its Central Park," he wrote. "Indeed, as alleged in the complaint, the plaque accompanying the statue cites to House Resolution 121, passed by Congress on July 30, 2007, 'urging the Japanese Government to accept historical responsibility for these crimes.'"
A ruling in Gingery and Mera's favor would "invite unwarranted judicial involvement in the myriad symbolic displays and public policy issues that have some tangential relationship to foreign affairs," Anderson said.
"For instance, those who might harbor some factual objection to the historical treatment of a state or municipal monument to the victims of the Holocaust could make similar claims to those advanced by plaintiffs in this action," the eight-page opinion states.
Dismissing the plaintiffs' remaining state-law claim, Anderson denied Glendale's motion under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law as moot.
Glendale City Attorney Mike Garcia said praised the court for "recogniz[ing] our City Council's right to make public pronouncements on matters important to our community."
Women enslaved during Japan's colonization of the Korean peninsula, including young women and teenagers, were forced into brothels where they were prostituted and forced service up to 50 men each day.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized in 1993 for his country's involvement, but the Japanese government has resisted South Korea's calls for an official apology and compensation to the victims.
Korean American Forum of California spokeswoman Phyllis Kim applauded the court's order but said the group would continue to raise awareness about comfort women.
"The decision did not change anything," Kim told the Los Angeles Times. "The root cause of the issue has not been resolved, and the victims are still waiting for an official apology and reparations from the government of Japan."