After a vote by the city council on May 23, the City of Brookhaven will become the first city in the Deep South to memorialize “comfort women” — women and girls who were enslaved and sexually trafficked by the Japanese Army during World War II.
The city council approved a resolution to accept the donation of a “comfort women” statue of a young girl seated in a chair next to an empty chair from the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force. The statue will be located in a city park yet to be determined.
Earlier this year, the Center for Civil and Human Rights had agreed to install the statue on its grounds but then rejected the plan after receiving backlash from the Japanese consulate.
Kelly Ahn, a member of the Task Force, told the Brookhaven council the decision to honor “comfort women” was not about “country bashing” but about honoring the victims of World War II. The memorial is also meant to raise awareness of the sexual trafficking taking place in today’s society, he said.
“Where others in Atlanta have failed to meet the challenge of honoring the ‘comfort women’ and squandered an opportunity to fight against sex trafficking and violence against women, the Task Force hopes the City of Brookhaven will stand proudly for all the world to take notice, that on May 23, 2017 City of Brookhaven became the first American city in the Deep South to approve the installation of a comfort women memorial,” Ahn said.
Councilmember John Park, who is Korean, brought the issue to the council. He was not able to be at the May 23 meeting due to a prior commitment, according to Mayor John Ernst.
In a prepared statement, Park said, “The ‘comfort women’ tragedy is one the largest known cases of human and sexual trafficking in the 20th century. The City of Brookhaven is deeply honored to be the home for the ‘Young Girl’s Statue for Peace.’ As we remember the history of these victims of human trafficking and enslavement, we bear witness to their suffering so that these atrocities never happen again.”
Mayor Ernst noted the historic moment in the city history.
“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,” he said.
Some 200,000 women and girls from several Asian-Pacific nations were trafficked and sexually enslaved during World War II by the Japanese Army. The majority of the women and girls were Korean. Cities in such states as California, New York and New Jersey currently have “comfort women” memorials.
Read an expanded version of this story at Reporter Newspapers.