GLENDALE — Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver recently told a Japanese television station that the city “opened a beehive, a hornet’s nest” when it installed a controversial monument honoring Korean “comfort women” earlier this year in the city’s Central Park, The Glendale News-Press reports.
“We just shouldn’t have done it,” he said.
The memorial, honoring over 200,000 Korean women who were taken into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during World War II, has been at the center of a storm of controversy since its installation earlier this year. It has been opposed by Japanese nationalists who insist comfort women were acting of their own accord as prostitutes.
Weaver told Channel Sakura, what The News-Press described as a “far-right-wing channel,” that he was opposed to the memorial since it was first brought up by lobbyists. His reasoning “on television” was that he had wanted that section of the park to be constructed into an underground parking lot before any development took place. Still, Glendale, a “quiet little bedroom community,” had no business in involving itself in international issues, he said.
The comfort women memorial is the first of its kind on the West Coast on public land. In a city with about 10,400 people of Korean descent compared to 1,150 of Japanese descent, Weaver said it’s not hard to see who would have the louder voice. Still, Japanese responses have come from all over the world.
“I have received over 1,000 emails from both Koreans and Japanese,” Weaver said, “Koreans thanking me, even though I didn’t vote for it, and Japanese saying, ‘How dare you?’”
Weaver told lobbyists earlier this year that he would not vote in support of the monument. The four other council members, however, voted in support. The mayor, Weaver explained, has no more power than the other council members, since the mayoral office changes hands every year and is appointed by the council.
The mayor is planning to discuss the issue with the Japanese consul general in Los Angeles. The mayor of Higashiosaka, with which Glendale has a 50-year-old cultural and exchange relationship, sent an angry letter to Weaver in July about the monument. Weaver said he has yet to respond, saying he may wait until after his meeting with the consul general.
Glendale city officials stood firm by their decision in July to install the statue at Central Park. It also found support in Congress. Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), who sponsored a congressional resolution honoring comfort women, also supported the monument. The City of Buena Park, however, turned down a proposal for a similar statue.
— KoreAm Journal via New America Media