Opponents of the “comfort women” monument in Glendale are appealing a court’s recent decision rejecting their demand that the monument be removed.
The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 20 by Michiko Shiota Gingery, Koichi Mera and GAHT (Global Alliance for Historical Truth), a California nonprofit corporation, against the City of Glendale. On Aug. 4, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson ruled against the plaintiffs, stating that they lacked standing because they suffered no tangible harm from the statue.
Gingery has said that the statue of a young comfort woman is so upsetting that she can no longer visit the park where it is located.
The judge also took issue with the claim that the monument improperly involves the city in an international dispute and infringes on U.S. foreign policy.
Santa Monica-based GAHT-US, whose goal is “to defend Japan’s honor,” said in a statement on Sept. 3, “We have decided to appeal the first cause of action of the Gingery lawsuit, infringement by the City of Glendale upon the federal government’s exclusive power to conduct the foreign affairs of the United States, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court.
“Further, we have filed a new lawsuit, corresponding to the second cause of action of the Gingery lawsuit, alleging administrative negligence by the City Council and the city manager for not voting on the proposed text to be engraved on the plaque next to the Glendale comfort women statue. The new lawsuit is permitted according to Judge Anderson’s Aug. 4 decision, which directed the matter to the state court.
“GAHT does not seek to interfere with the international relations of Japan with the United States or any other country. To the contrary, GAHT is eager to improve them through a balanced examination of the issue of wartime prostitution and of Japan’s experience in redressing its past in this regard.
“GAHT deplores this issue being used to create a negative image of Japan, Japanese citizens, and Japanese Americans in order to weaken the U.S.-Japan strategic partnership that has flourished for over 60 years and has been the backbone of the U.S. policy in East Asia.
“We are looking forward to continuing support for these lawsuits by many observers in the United States, Japan and elsewhere.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Pasadena-based DeClercq Law Group.
GAHT has also launched an online petition calling on Forbes magazine to apologize for an April 13 article — “‘Disgusting!’ Cry Legal Experts: Is This the Lowest a Top U.S. Law Firm Has Ever Stooped?” — that is critical of Meyer Brown, the law firm that originally represented the plaintiffs.
The group rejected writer Eamonn Fingleton’s premise that “There are no two sides to this issue and no decent Japanese citizen I have ever met questions the validity of the comfort women’s allegations.”
Claiming that more than 120,000 signatures were collected in one month for a petition to the White House to remove the statue, GAHT said that “the considerable signatures indicate that half of the Japanese nation at least doubt the validity of the allegations and that the situation is nationally and internationally quite disputable.”
The monument, placed in Central Park on July 30, 2013, is a replica of one that stands near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The inscription reads, in part:
“In memory of more than 200,000 Asian and Dutch women who were removed from their homes in Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, East Timor and Indonesia, to be coerced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan between 1932 and 1945.
“And in celebration of proclamation of ‘Comfort Women Day’ by the City of Glendale on July 30, 2012, and of passing of House Resolution 121 by the United States Congress on July 30, 2007, urging the Japanese government to accept historical responsibility for these crimes.
“It is our sincere hope that these unconscionable violations of human rights shall never recur.”
Amicus briefs in support of the City of Glendale have been filed by the Korean American Forum of California, which sponsored the monument, and the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WWII in Asia, which focuses on Japanese war crimes.
KAFC said in a statement, “Judge Anderson found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue the city because the alleged offense that plaintiffs took at having the memorial installed was completely unrelated to the alleged foreign affairs violation.
“Judge Anderson further found that installing memorials like the one in Gingery does not actually usurp the federal government’s foreign affairs powers, as the plaintiffs alleged. There was no conflict with the federal government’s foreign policy, because H.Res.121 expressed the same sentiments as the memorial. The memorial was ‘entirely consistent’ with foreign policy.
“Korean American Forum of California condemns the Japanese right-wing politicians inside and outside the Japanese government acting behind these plaintiffs in their continued attempts to deny, whitewash and distort the wartime atrocities committed against more than 200,000 young women in the system of sexual slavery.
“This lawsuit is no more than a frivolous lawsuit in bad faith, designed to scare off any other city, county or local government bodies from recognizing and/or installing a memorial to remember the pain and suffering the victims went through, using a threat of lawsuit. This scheme to silence the victims and to threaten the U.S. city’s freedom of speech will do just the opposite.
“Korean American Forum of California will continue to stand strongly with the City of Glendale and provide whatever assistance we can on behalf of the American citizens who support the freedom of speech and the victims’ human rights.
“Ok-seon Lee, one of the survivors of the sexual slavery who visited the U.S. cities in a press tour in July and August 2014, said, ‘I am the living proof. The Japanese government should come forward and apologize, instead of lying for what they did to us – before we die.’”
Comfort women monuments have also been proposed in Buena Park and Fullerton. The Buena Park City Council declined to take up the issue, with some members saying the city should not get involved in an international dispute. The Fullerton City Council voted to support the House resolution, but left any decision about a monument up to the Fullerton Museum Center.