Brookhaven makes a great step forward in human rights manifestation by approving the installation of a comfort women statue in the city.
By Anna Kim
As night advanced on May 23rd, a growing nervousness filled the air in city hall. When the Brookhaven City Council unanimously voted to accept and place a monument to memorialize the comfort women of WWII, all the shouting from the attendees shook the historic night air. The City of Brookhaven became the first American city in the deep South to meet the challenge of fighting against sex trafficking and violence towards women.
The statue, which will be located in a city park that has yet to be determined, within the next 30 days, honors the 200,000 girls and women, euphemistically known as the comfort women. They were trafficked and sexually enslaved during World War II by the Japanese Imperial Army.
The memorial, which is of a young girl wearing Korean traditional clothing with bob cut seated in a chair next to an empty chair, is meant to raise awareness of the sexual trafficking taking place in today’s society. The Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force has already commissioned the memorial, named “Young Girl ‘s Statue for Peace," for $35,000 and has been keeping it in a member’s warehouse.
The artistic depiction shines a light on the atrocities that young girls and women went through during war time and hopes this global tragedy of human sex trade would never happen again.
“We are grateful for the courage, passion, and commitment of the city officials of Brookhaven," said the Chair of the task force. “It is our hope that this beautiful statue will bring much healing, peace, and hope.”
At first, John Park, City Councilman of Brookhaven who has a Korean heritage, championed the idea of welcoming the statue hearing from the task force. Mayor John Ernst and City Council members fervently agreed to move the item up on the agenda.
The council received a standing ovation after the vote.
“By establishing this memorial, we are raising awareness of the ongoing problems of sexual and human trafficking taking place in metro Atlanta and the world today,” said Mayor Ernst. “We are proud to join the growing list of progressive cities around the world that have already installed memorials in recognition of Comfort Women and their suffering. Brookhaven is now the first city in the state of Georgia to publicly commit to the memorial, and we encourage other cities to join us in a strong, public stand against human trafficking.”
However, to make this happen, many cities might have to work through backlash from the Japanese consulate in the region. Take the Center for Civil and Human Rights for example. Originally, the comfort women memorial was supposed to have been downtown since earlier this year. The Center had initially agreed in February to install the statue on its property. However, in March, the center rescinded the agreement with the task force after allegedly receiving backlash from the Japanese consulate, claiming that they didn’t have a policy in place dealing with public memorials at its site.
The Japanese Consulate in Atlanta stated to the Atlanta Business Chronicle that there was concern about the statue leading to “discrimination, humiliation, or bullying against members of the Japanese community in Atlanta, who wish to live in peace.”
Council members of the City of Brookhaven stress that the comfort women statue establishment is not country bashing.
“We must cast light upon that atrocious history…It is a wake-up call and we learn from it,” said council member Bates Mattison. “But this is not about a nationality feeling they should be ashamed.”
Concil member Joe Gebbia said, “We have to look at what was done in the past and be reminded we cannot repeat the same tragedies in the future. This is a moral issue and we take a major step forward moral promotion. This is a statement to who we are as Brookhaven.”
Meanwhile, Brookhaven is home to a diverse and vibrant community, where approximately 25 percent of residents are foreign born. Brookhaven was also the first city to join “We’re Not Buying It,” a national initiative to develop strategies to end sex trafficking in the U.S. Other U.S. cities that have established Comfort Women memorials include: Palisades Park, New Jersey; Nassau, New York(2 memorials); Bergen City, New Jersey; Glendale, California; Southfield, Michigan; Fairfax, Virginia; Union City, New Jersey; San Francisco, California; and with efforts currently on track in Chicago.
When the Brookhaven City Council unanimously voted to accept and place a monument to memorialize the comfort women of WWII, all the shouting from the attendees shook the historic night air. <photo=Peter Kim>
Young Girl ‘s Statue for Peace will be located in a city park within the next 30 days,
The Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force.