The City Council’s decision to relocate a controversial “comfort women” memorial to Blackburn Park is being made without public input, despite it not being part of a parks master plan approved last year.

City officials say the parks master plan, that included months of public meetings with consultant GreenbergFarrow before it was approved by the council in February 2016, is a “guiding document” and the city can add features later.

The “comfort women” memorial shortly after its unveiling June 30 in Blackburn Park II. (Dyana Bagby)

“The master plans are a guiding document; however, the city has an obligation to remain flexible and add amenities as warranted,” Burke Brennan, city spokesperson, said. “Furthermore, the placement of the statue should not interfere with any future long-term park plans.”

The city announced July 5 it was relocating the “comfort women” memorial from the 3-acre Blackburn Park II on Blair Circle to the 45-acre Blackburn Park on Ashford-Dunwoody Road, just days after the statue’s June 30 unveiling. Hundreds of cheering people and national and international media attended the unveiling.

The statue, depicting a girl seated next to an empty chair, is intended to honor the so-called comfort women who were sexually trafficked by the Japanese military during World War II. It is identical to several similar statues installed around the world as part of a cultural and political dispute between South Korea and Japan over “comfort women” history and responsibility.

The city has not stated when the memorial will be moved other than “within the next few weeks,” according to the release.

Brian Borden, director of Parks and Recreation, included three photographs in a July 5 email to City Manager Christian Sigman, obtained through an open records request, of sites he is recommending in Blackburn Park for the statue. Borden stated the best choice to him is a site between Ashford-Dunwoody Road and the ballfields, near the playground, where there is shade and access to parking.

The council voted May 23 to accept the memorial from the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force and Sigman said at the meeting that a site for the statue had not been chosen then.

But emails between city officials also show the Blackburn Park II site was selected as far back as April when council members were meeting with members of the task force, which commissioned the statue.

“There were several discussions prior to the acceptance of the memorial, but nothing was finalized prior to the City Council vote,” Brennan said when asked about the apparent discrepancy.

When some residents living near Blackburn Park II learned in May that the statue would be installed in the park they paid to maintain, they threatened to sue the city. The residents, members of The Reserve at Brookleigh Community Association, had been paying about $20,000 a year for the park’s maintenance for the past several years, something city officials did not realize. The city is taking over maintenance of the park, Brennan said.

City officials already had decided to move the memorial before its June 30 unveiling. A June 27 email from Mayor John Ernst to Brad Sapir, board member for The Reserve at Brookleigh association, which represents 95 homeowners along Blair Circle, said the announcement would be made after the Fourth of July holiday and asked Sapir to keep the information private.

“If the relocation is announced prior to the unveiling it will mute the impact of the city’s message that human and sex trafficking is a serious issue. It will also embolden the detractors at the international level to eliminate the statute entirely,” Ernst said.

The city paid for the cement base the statue sits on in Blackburn Park II and estimates it will cost less than $2,000 to relocate the statue, including $1,100 for the cement base, Brennan said. The task force will cover costs associated with landscaping around the memorial, he said.

While there appears to be no specific policy in place for accepting public art, Brennan said the city charter outlines how the city is to conduct business.

“A resolution was placed on a public agenda in advance, and voted on in an advertised public meeting. Public comment on the topic preceded the council vote, which was covered extensively by the news media, and the Reporter Newspapers was first to report,” Brennan said.

The agenda item did not, however, specify the kind of public art that was being accepted and from whom. Most of those who spoke during public comment were members of the memorial’s task force.

An Atlanta version of the memorial began in controversy earlier this year, when the National Center for Civil and Human Rights backed out of a previous acceptance of the statue, which was to be placed on its grounds near Centennial Olympic Park.

Brookhaven then agreed to take the statue, citing its relationship to the city’s battle against contemporary sex trafficking. The city also has a significant Korean American population and City Councilmember John Park, an advocate of the memorial, was born in South Korea.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.

7 replies on “‘Comfort women’ memorial to be relocated to Brookhaven’s Blackburn Park”

  1. If you really want to rise awareness of human and sex trafficking, don’t need to pull out an incidence from all the way back from WWⅡ.
    It is happening right now, right in your backyard, or anywhere in the US.

    Check this out.

    Police: High-end drug and prostitution ring busted on Super Bowl week

    A quote from the article above

    “the ring involved thousands of clients and hundreds of prostitutes, primarily women from Korea brought by ring members to the United States.”

    Who is making the same mistake from back then, Japan or Korea?
    Go figure.

  2. Kudos to Dyana Bagby for her great job!
    The Blackburn Park is a treasure for Brookhaven.
    If the city wants this statue in Blackburn Park, public input is ABSOLUTELY NEEDED!
    What do the neighbors think?

  3. “comfort women who were sexually trafficked by the Japanese military during World War II”
    This is totally wrong. They were trafficked by Korean mafia and sold to Korean householder of brothel, then forced to work for Japanese military. (assulted by Korean householder not to escape from brothels)

    But most of them were normal prostitutes.
    (US military report (1944) states Comfort Women are nothing more than prostitutes)

    Even in the latest evidence of comfort women video from Korean government.
    This video’s document (left side) describes “they were recuited through advertisements”

    It is true that military prostitution in ww2 was not good. But why do you still say “trafficked by Japan military”? Why do you ignore historical evidence and rewrite history?

  4. Here I must say that the Resolution RES-2017-05-03 of the City of Brookhaven could be invalid because of its improper execution of the Public Comment prior to the approval of the resolution.
    At the Public Comment on 23 May, 2017, only five persons (one person who supported the resolution didn’t speak) spoke on this resolution including Mr. John Park, the Council member of the City of Brookhaven. Out of five, two persons were the members of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force. All these five persons spoke on behalf of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force and supported the resolution to accept the “art work”. This is quite unfair and unjust procedure. Followings are the excerpts from the Public Comment, 23 May, 2017.
    Kelly Ahn, resident in the metro Atlanta area, spoke on behalf of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force….
    Jon Park expressed his support of the City of Brookhaven to host the memorial in memory of hundreds of thousands of young girls and women that were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during World War II….
    Heather Fenton spoke on behalf of those supporting the art work….
    Helen Kim Ho noted she was one of the members of Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force….
    Soon Mee Kim was long time resident of Georgia and was a member of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force….
    Satyam Barkoh was in support but did not speak.

  5. It really doesn’t matter if the monument gets moved to another public area or settles on private property, because the damage has already been done:
    These Korean-Americans involved in the comfort women movement in this country are being used as pawns, and the Communist Chinese cannot stop laughing. America must remain the land of opportunity, a melting pot for all people, not where particular prejudices directed toward one ethnicity trumps the collective interests and well-being of a truly diverse population.

  6. You must remember what Tom Taylor, Dunwoody state representative, said on June 27 on this Reporter Newspaper. He said, “activists donating the memorial to the city are wanting to drive a wedge between Japan and Korea.”

    His opinion is understandable because of the following reasons:

    The current S. Korean government led by President Moon Jae-in is apparently a pro-N. Korea and pro-China government. As secretary and a right-hand man of ex-president Roh Moo-hyun, he pushed forward “Sun-shine” appeasement policies toward N. Korea. As soon as elected as president, he obstructed installations of the THAARD missile bases in S. Korea and insisted to hold a peace talks meeting between N. Korea and the U.S. He openly declared that S. Korea would re-open the Kaesong Industrial Park, the main financial supply-source for N. Korea, while rest of the free democracies are about to impose suctions.

    Although persistent launch of missiles by N. Korea and death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier as well as Trump administration’s strong pressure made him change the attitude for now, he tried to revoke 2015 Japan – S. Korea deal on Comfort Women.

    China and its barking dog North Korea must be desperate in driving a wedge into the Triangle Coalition of the US, Japan and S. Korea, because Japan will operate as the jumping point and powerful logistics base for military operations in the Korean Peninsula should a war occur. Isolating Japan from S. Korea and the U.S. must be their top priority.

    Japanese specialists on the Korean Peninsula consider that S. Korea is in the state of a silent civil war, where no shots are fired but covert faction fights are everywhere. This means that North Korean agents and its sympathizers are everywhere in S. Korea, Japan and the United States.

    I suspect that the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force is one branch of Chong Dae Hyup, a North Korean spy organization working in South Korea.

    During 1990s, its female agent 徐玉子 (Soh Ok-cha) used her charm as honey-trap to approach US Rep. Lane Evans of Illinois, who was eager to push the Comfort Women Resolution through the US Congress. After his deteriorating health and eventual death, the effort was succeeded by Mike Honda, who successfully pushed it through the US House of Representatives in 2007.

    Mike Honda was photographed at the front center of the picture of the members of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force. Behind Mike Honda was John Park.

    What a farce! Brookhaven city council-members are working as flying moneys of another group of flying monkeys who are a bunch of blind followers of the ultimate narcissist: North Korean/Chinese Dictatorship.

    In Japan, to any man who lacks insight to see the truth, we say “Omae-no-me-ha, Fushiana-ka? お前の目は節穴か” (literally “Are your eyes tree knotholes”) In English, I think you say the same as “Where are your eyes?”

    See this:

Comments are closed.