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Glendale’s comfort-women statue vandalized with unknown brown substance

Glendale resident Jean Kuyng Lee, 80, cleans the Korean Comfort Women Peace Monument in Central Park after it was allegedly vandalized with an unknown brown substance on Thursday.
Glendale resident Jean Kuyng Lee, 80, cleans the Korean Comfort Women Peace Monument in Central Park after it was allegedly vandalized with an unknown brown substance on Thursday, July 25, 2019.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

A statue in Glendale’s Central Park honoring women who were held as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II was vandalized on Thursday after someone smeared an unknown substance on the memorial.

The statue depicts a young woman in traditional Korean dress sitting next to an empty chair. A brown, sticky substance was smeared on the face of the statue sometime before 10:30 a.m., according to Glendale police.

Tahn Lightfoot, a police spokeswoman, couldn’t say what the substance was because the statue had already been cleaned up by the time police arrived. Additionally, several flower pots around the memorial were shattered.

Flower pots that were placed around the Comfort Women Peace Monument in Glendale’s Central Park were shattered on Thursday in addition to an unknown brown substance being smeared onto the memorial.
Flower pots that were placed around the Comfort Women Peace Monument in Glendale’s Central Park were shattered on Thursday in addition to an unknown brown substance being smeared onto the memorial.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

It’s unknown who vandalized the statue, and police are currently looking at ways to better safeguard it from future defacement, according to Lightfoot.

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She said it’s not the first time the statue has been targeted by vandals, although a specific number of incidents was unavailable.

Installed in 2013, the 1,100-pound metal statue represents an estimated 200,000 women from Korea, China, Indonesia and other countries occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army who were forced into sex slavery during World War II.

The Korean Sister City Assn. designed and paid for the memorial.

Glendale is sister cities with two South Korean towns, Goseong and Gimpo.

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The statue has faced opposition from Japanese nationalists who insist “comfort women” were not slaves but willing prostitutes.

In 2014, a Glendale resident named Michiko Gingery and GAHT-US Corp., a group that opposes recognition of comfort women, filed a lawsuit that sought the removal of the statue, arguing, in part, that Glendale overstepped its bounds and infringed on the United States’ ability to conduct foreign affairs.

The suit was subsequently rejected by a U.S. District Court, with a judge saying the city broke no laws and the plaintiffs had no standing. The decision was upheld again in 2016 at the appellate level and, in 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

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