Buena Park reconsiders comfort women statue after Glendale fuss

A memorial in Glendale to sex slaves who served the Japanese army during World War II has aggravated an overseas opposition group that has now turned its attention to a similar proposal in Buena Park.

Members of the opposition group — which contends the so-called “comfort women” from Korea, China, Indonesia and other occupied countries during the war willingly worked as prostitutes — use form emails to pummel their targets, the Glendale News-Press reported.

It’s a strategy that was deployed against Glendale just as it was preparing to receive its comfort-women memorial, an 1,100-pound statue of a woman in Korean dress sitting next to an empty chair. But by then, it was too late. The city had already set aside a plot of land for the monument and the $30,000 statue was already en route from South Korea.

This time, however, the emails hit Buena Park, an Orange County city less than half the size of Glendale, earlier in the review process.

And this time, the strategy appears to be working.

City Councilman Fred Smith said from the dais Tuesday that he was confused by the onslaught of emails denying the sex slavery record and opposing the memorial.


Three out of five Buena Park council members at the meeting said they were against the proposed memorial, expressing concern about bringing in a controversial statue that had no clear connection to the city.

But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10% of Buena Park’s 82,000 people are of Korean descent, compared with just 5% of Glendale, which has a population of 192,000.

“It’s tough to take political heat, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Glendale did the right thing,” said Glendale Councilman Ara Najarian. “I encourage Buena Park and other cities to be brave.”

But Buena Park Councilman Steve Berry said by phone Thursday that he feared the statue could become a target for vandalism.

“We don’t want to put up a statue that people would come and shoot at,” he said.

When Glendale unveils its statue during a ceremony on Tuesday, it will become the first city on the West Coast to install such a public memorial. It comes in the wake of a Japanese delegation last year requesting that a monument to comfort women in New Jersey be removed. That, in turn, mobilized Korean American groups to erect more memorials across the country.


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Levine writes for Times Community News.