The newly formed Japan-U.S. Network for Decolonization (FeND), based in Portland, Ore., has expressed “wholehearted support” for efforts in Fullerton to memorialize “comfort women.”
In August, the Fullerton City Council voted to support HR 121, a 2007 congressional resolution calling on the Japanese government to acknowledge and apologize for its military’s “coercion of young women into sexual slavery” in Asia and the Pacific during the 1930s and ’40s.
The council stopped short of approving a comfort women statue like the one erected last year in Glendale, instead leaving that decision to the Fullerton Museum Center. The monument would be donated by the Korean American Forum of California.
Opponents argued before the council that such a monument would stir up anti-Japanese sentiment, and suggested that the women were voluntary prostitutes rather than sex slaves. They also said that because the issue is between Japan and South Korea, local governments in the U.S. should not get involved.
A lawsuit filed by the Global Alliance for Historical Truth, calling on the City of Glendale to remove its statue, was rejected in U.S. District Court. The decision is being appealed.
In an Oct. 19 letter to Mayor Doug Chaffee and the City Council, sent in anticipation of protests at the council’s Oct. 21 meeting, FeND co-founder Emi Koyama wrote:
“FeND is a network of U.S.-based individuals who have roots in Japan, and those who support our goals. We are activists, teachers, researchers, and other community members who came together earlier this year to counteract the rise of antagonistic nationalism and historical revisionism in some corners of Japan and within (mostly first-generation migrant) Japanese communities in the U.S.
“As individuals who have roots in Japan, we want to assure you that these antagonistic nationalists and historical revisionists do not speak for us.
“By publicly memorializing and honoring former ‘comfort women,’ as you are planning to, Fullerton will send a clear message that violation of human rights anywhere, anytime to anybody is unacceptable and that its victims deserve respect and redress.
“If the city were to succumb to the campaign of intimidation and historical revisionism and backtrack its support for former ‘comfort women,’ we fear that it could catalyze a further escalation of antagonistic rhetoric among Japanese right-wing nationalists and their sympathizers in the U.S.
“We appreciate your interest in addressing this very important and timely issue. We are hopeful that the City Council will hold firm to its support for victims and survivors of the ‘comfort women’ system, consistent with our shared belief in peace, justice, and human rights for all.”
Koyama’s group is holding a workshop/seminar titled “Confronting Japanese Right-Wing Organizing in Southern California” at UCLA’s Bunche Hall on Nov. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m.