The following letter was sent to the Buena Park City Council following a July 23 meeting in which a proposal to erect a monument to the Korean “comfort women” of World War II was discussed.
My name is Robert M. Wada, a resident of Buena Park for 30 years preceded by living in the adjacent city of La Mirada, formerly known as Blue Hills, for 23 years. I am a second-generation American of Japanese ancestry born, raised and educated in Redlands, California. As a young boy, I was a victim of the mass World War II incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States.
In 1950 during the Korean War, in spite of my incarceration in WWII, I volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps to serve, fight and defend a country and a people I did not even know. I lost two very, very close friends in the Korean War, one of whom I first met in kindergarten, and to this day still feel responsible for his death.
I write to you after reading the article in The Orange County Register regarding the controversial Korean comfort women memorial proposed to be built in the City of Buena Park. I am requesting the date and time of your next scheduled open-to-the-public hearing so I can attend and voice my opposition to such a memorial.
Objecting to this memorial monument in the City of Buena Park in no way means I condone or am defending the actions of Japan. I am merely defending the Americans of Japanese ancestry community. An apology is due from Japan, not the City of Buena Park. This is an issue between two foreign countries.
After watching and hearing the speakers at the last hearing on TV, I heard many very young Koreans telling their stories of the atrocities with figures and statistics. In my opinion, they are comparable to younger Japanese Americans who speak of the horrible conditions in the internment camps and often exaggerate stories to get their point across to viewers or an audience. Those who experienced it know the difference.
I also recommend the council members be more attentive to residents of Buena Park, rather than interested parties from outside the city.
May I remind you, long before World War II, this entire region of Orange County, all the way to Huntington Beach, was predominantly farms owned and operated by first- and second-generation Japanese Americans. They were farming long before any Korean people, or even in some cases your ancestors, set foot in the area.
It is not fair to blame our first-generation parents for atrocities committed by Japan. There is a farming industry museum on the grounds of the California State University in Fullerton. It is not a monument in any city of Orange County.
In my opinion, I do not feel that a memorial for such a controversial issue is in the best interest of the city or anywhere else in the United States of America. It is a problem between two completely foreign countries and such a monument only intensifies the divisive issue and only benefits one segment of our very diverse city.
Does that mean we could open the door to additional monuments in the city to commemorate the slavery of the blacks, the immigration of the Hispanics, the mass execution of the Jewish people during WWII, and the temporary stripping of the constitutional rights of the Japanese American citizens during their internment?
This proposed memorial is to commemorate a foreign issue and is not what I nor thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry and the 254 Japanese Americans who gave their lives served and died for. We fought and they died for the love of our country and the freedom of the people of the Republic of Korea, not so ultimately they could bring shame to our heritage here in the United States of America.
I hope your City Council will remain opened-minded and realize there are many Buena Park residents who are not able to express their opposition and, like myself, remain adamantly against it.
It is known throughout the Japanese American community there is a hatred for the Japanese in Japan, and this hatred has been exercised here in the United States against the Japanese Americans as well.
Years ago I received an email from a non-Korean professor at a university in or near Seoul, Korea. He was questioning me why the university was still teaching hatred for the Japanese and included the Japanese Americans. Of course I responded with, “I have no idea why they include Japanese Americans.” The Japanese Americans certainly do not deserve this. I cannot attest to the validity of the professor’s comments, because in my opinion it is hearsay and I do not believe in hearsay information.
I helped organize in 1997 and was the president the first four years of the Japanese American Korean War Veterans. To try and help bridge that gap between the Korean people and the Japanese Americans, our organization obtained the permission of the Republic of Korea government to build a memorial at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea listing the individual names of the 254 Japanese Americans killed in the Korean War, and that memorial is located at Imjin Gak, Paju City, Republic of Korea.
To allow the Korean comfort women’s memorial monument for atrocities committed by a foreign country will not bring a solution. It will only destroy any benefit gained as a result of our veterans’ memorial in Paju City.
My final comment is if this memorial monument is built in the City of Buena Park, it will not serve with any positive purpose and will only add to the pain of the Japanese Americans.
If you will please advise me when this subject will appear on your next agenda, I will make a strong effort to attend, barring any serious unforeseen occurrences from my current health problem.
Robert M. Wada, Sgt. USMC, D Co., 1st Tank Bn., 1st Mar. Div., Korea 1951-52, Buena Park