I am a scholar in Washington, D.C., who advises members of Congress and others about World War II history.

In my 2014 New York Times op-ed “The Comfort Women and Japan’s War on Truth,” I tried to make clear that the comfort women (and boys) used as sex slaves for Imperial Japan were emblematic of the larger crime of sex trafficking and sexual violence in warfare.

The memorial unveiled in Brookhaven is a timeless symbol of this unending wartime tragedy. The fact is that Imperial Japan during WWII had a unique state-sanctioned and -managed system of sexual slavery in wartime maintained outside of legal prostitution.

Nearly all the opposition you hear is from people coordinated by Japanese right-wing, anti-Korean groups. They are fueled by a toxic combination of racism and delusions of Japan’s wartime glory. These groups and their funders are also the political base of Japan’s prime minister and his party.

This is why you have Japanese diplomats humiliating themselves by denying history as cravenly as Holocaust deniers. And this is why the focus is only on Korea and not on the Dutch mothers, the German missionaries, the Filipino farm girls, the Taiwanese Aboriginals, the Indonesian villagers, the Vietnamese schoolgirls, the wives of Tamil laborers, the Australian shipwreck survivors, and even the French and British prostitutes in brothels requisitioned in Shanghai.

No one knows how many people were swept up in the comfort women system. None were willing, whether they were handed over by a village elder for protection, were trading their body to feed their children or grabbed off the street. The number, if you count the thousands of “opportunities” through the Pacific Islands, China and the internment camps for Westerners, is far in excess of 200,000.

The majority of the women “trafficked” to war zones were likely Korean. But the basic fact remains that young officers in the Japan’s Imperial Navy and Army were trained to establish “comfort stations” and requisition “supplies.”

It should be with pride that Brookhaven is willing to host a memorial to WWII crimes that not only happened in Asia (and not just to Asians), but also mostly to girls and women. This is rare. And the community should not succumb to the racism of Japanese right-wing groups any more than it would to an organization objecting to a Holocaust memorial.

This is not racist; it is American to honor and learn from the past of all its citizens.

Mindy Kotler

Director of Asia Policy Point

Washington, D.C.

25 replies on “Letter: Brookhaven should be proud of ‘comfort women’ memorial”

    1. 【Articles on society during the annexation era:How Japan treated Korean Women】
      This is the life of the Korean women who received “the most cruel rule in human history by Japan” (Official historical view of South Korea).
      Under the Japan’s ” most cruel rule”, Koreans became rich and woke up to fashion this much!

      【Photographs Taken Under Japan’s “Hursh” Rule】

      【The Video Evidence to Deny Korean Lies】

      【Origin of Anti-Japanese Sentiment in Korea】
      Most Westerners seem to believe by Korean propaganda that Japan “enslaved” Korean citizens during the annexation era(1910-1945),and that is the beginning of their anti-Japan sentiment.
      However,the reality is Koreans have been lying about Japan for hundreds of years from the time before Japan merged the Korean Peninsula to the present time.
      The persistent resentment and hatred of Koreans against Japan was formed in conjunction with the Sinocentrism and distorted Confucian doctrine in its earlier history.Therefore, the Japan’s annexation of Korea is not the original cause of the anti-Japan sentiment.

    2. The Comfort Women propaganda was firstly created by the Japanese left wing newspaper company “Asahi Shimbun”,then it got radicalized and much more fabricated by Koreans,and now China is actively using it to break the collaboration among the United States, Japan and South Korea(it is going very well so far).
      Mindy Kotler is one of the main activists in the States who keeps bashing Japan for Communist China.

      【China’s article:”American good friend Mindy Kotler is welcome in China”】

  1. The following is the letter sent to the city of Glendale, CA from Max von Schuler-Kobayashi, an American historian specialized in WWII, before the city erected the same comfort women memorial in its park.


    You can replace “Glendale, CA” to “Brookhaven, GA” and read the letter to fit the current situation.

    We can do nothing about your decision. It is up to you to decide your pride, dignity and reputation in the world.

  2. How about having several Memorials of victims raped by the US military in France after Invasion of Normandy, in Japan after V J day and in Korean Peninsula during Korean war?
    Oh, don’t forget making one memorial of Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse.

  3. The comfort women memorial is a finger to all of the Americans who sacrificed their lives for this country and yet to be remembered in Brookhaven. An absolute disgrace.

  4. No valid information is provided other than just a verbal baseless argument.

    Those Koreans are still selling them in the United States.

    90% of the illegal prostitutes arrested in LA is Koreans.
    How those thick skin Korean can say that they were victimized.

  5. The writer of this comment is a shrill for the phony, hypocritical ‘human rights’ activists. A serial Japan-basher, she attacks Japan every chance she gets, and she has proven herself to be at most a third-rate propagandist for the Leftists who have so much to hide themselves. A cursory research on the comfort women system will quickly reveal that there were many Japanese comfort women, and a casual reading of Asian history of that era would make one realize that a great number of ethnic Korean and Taiwanese men served in the Japanese military. That being the case, the false narrative of an institutionalized taking away of only non-Japanese women by a military that also comprised of non-Japanese men is not only illogical, but simply borders on utter lunacy. But even if the systematic forced prostitution was somehow possible, the ‘human rights’ activists have conveniently ignored the existence of Japanese comfort women all these years. This is nothing more than a blatant exercise of racism and ethnic discrimination – in a number of ways. Sooner or later, this false narrative will be categorically rejected by the vast majority of Americans and the propagandists will be exposed for what they really are.

  6. Ms. Kotler levels serious charges in her letter, but provides neither details nor proof.

    Apart from the historical falsehoods and tired invocations of Holocaust denial–troubling, but now customary among Ms. Kotler’s associates–Ms. Kotler alleges, “Nearly all the opposition you hear is from people coordinated by Japanese right-wing, anti-Korean groups.”

    Who, exactly, does she mean? Can she provide some names, and some evidence of coordination by “Japanese right-wing, anti-Korean groups”?

    No, she cannot. But let us bear in mind that Ms. Kotler’s milieu is American academia, which has recently demonstrated its commitment to free and open inquiry by evicting dissenting opinion from campus in places such as Mizzou, Yale, Berkeley, and Evergreen State. In the academic monoculture, Ms. Kotler can make wild accusations without backing them up. Outside of the faculty lounge and the New York Times, however, unsubstantiated arguments are not taken very seriously by those who put facts above ideology.

    Jason Morgan
    Reitaku University, Japan
    PhD, East Asian History, University of Wisconsin

  7. Wake up Americans! You are playing the role of “Flying Monkeys” by narcissistic personality disordered Koreans. Notice that you are manipulated by them and stop being a zombie!

  8. Following is the extract from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/03/09/commentary/japan-commentary/challenging-20-american-historians/#.WXc8kIgng9A

    I hope you can regain your honor in your heart after reading it, not make yourself eat Korean dirt.
    Upon its commencement in October 1998, the research objective of the IWG Report was limited to Nazi war crimes. Thereafter, though, Japanese Imperial government records were added to the objectives of the IWG Report in December 2000 in response to a request from the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of World War II in Asia, a group led by people of Chinese descent based in San Francisco. After very extensive research lasting seven years, the IWG could not find any documentation to show that the Japanese government committed war crimes with respect to the comfort women. In the IWG Final Report to the U.S. Congress, a document stretching 155 pages, there is no language clearly indicating that any record of Japanese war crimes vis-a-vis comfort women had been uncovered. Instead, the report contains reams of unimportant passages, presumably with the aim of camouflaging an inconvenient truth.

    But despite no evidence of war crimes by the Japanese government in the IWG Report to the U.S. Congress, on July 30, 2007, the U.S. Congress still passed House Resolution 121 on the comfort women, demanding that the Japanese government apologize for “crimes” for which no evidence had been produced. The whole process in the U.S. Congress at that time was extremely unfair — or worse — to Japan.

    Today, American fairness is in serious question almost everywhere in the world, although most Americans may not know this or do not wish to know. This broad lack of trust in American fairness is one of the major factors in the failure of American foreign policy on so many fronts in the past decades. Under such circumstances, is it wise for the U.S. to show apparent unfairness to the Japanese public, too, especially given that Japan is one of the closest American allies in the world? If the U.S. wishes to see its foreign policy succeed, it should begin with a reassessment of its fundamental fairness. The safety of Americans and of the rest of the world depends on it.

    It is often said that we cannot acquire a clear picture of any given era of history until at least a century has elapsed. Since we are now 71 years past the end of World War II, it is natural that new evidence or interpretations will emerge in the years to come. Not only newly found historical facts but also new historical interpretations should be respected and subjected to academic discussion and debate. Incidentally, this year marks the 102nd anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, but we still lack a coherent historical evaluation of even that conflict.

    And yet, these same Americans who have striven to fashion a consensus regardless of where the evidence leads them are quick to call us revisionists. But isn’t it always important for open-minded scholars to seek revisions when they are appropriate? Those who cry “revisionism” are unscientific; they do not behave like intellectuals. Perhaps it is time for us to return the favor and label them the “bigoted old guard.”

    1. Those who pitch the systematic sexual slavery allegation are the true ‘revisionists.’ Not only did certain Japanese literature touch upon comfort women long before political groups like Chongdaehyop was formed, even war movies included scenes of the women interacting with the soldiers. The comfort women system provided the only means for the soldiers to maintain any sense of humanity in the time of war, and that is why some fell in love with the women and even marriages too place (see C. Sarah Soh’s The Comfort Women). These revisionist activists started pushing the propaganda of institutionalized abduction, rape, brutalization, and slaughtering of women half a century after the war, and by manipulating misinformed city officials in America today who should be representing their constituents with far more important issues of their own… the revisionists have simply gone too far.

  9. Ms. Kotler plays fast and loose with the facts, and her appeal to emotion isn’t very convincing.

    It was not her that broadened the appeal to a general human sex traficking narrative, but Ms. Park as part of the 121 Campaign back in 2007. Mindy was so focused on her anti Japanese campaign that she was getting no where as lead of Mike Honda’s scheme.

    Ms. Park was the one who understood that hiding the Comfort Women lie behind a genuine need to stop human sex traficking and wartime rape would get traction in the US and mask the real intent.

    Mindy Kotler just tries to take credit after the fact.

    In addition, Mindy has omitted her deep ties to communist China and support for that brutal regime which is the number one violator of womens rights among the G8. No mention by her of the hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian women kidnapped and forced to sexual service the Chinese men in Bachelor Villages across that nation to satisfy the need of the 30-40 million excess males due to the female genocide (one child policy) that saw forced abortions on females creating todays demographic time bomb.

    Finally, Mindy uses the same tactics that anti-Semites used in the blood libel nonsense this issue parallels so closely. Many anti-Semitic campaigns such as blood libel cloaked the intent in “saving the Christian children’s safety” in order to push a lie through by an emotional appeal.

    Mindy is far from an unbias scholar and is a long term anti-Japananist in the same mold as anti-Semites. I thought the Atlanta area was far beyond falling for this racial based lie.

    And I am as far from a “Right Wing Japanese” as you can get. I am a very progressive Jewish American thank you very much, who hates to see a “lashon hara” or evil tounge that was used against Jews in the last century used against anyone in this century.

  10. I am a retired World History teacher of High School in Japan. My thesis was on the independent movement in Korea, March 1, 1919 against Japanese rule. It was published and even read in S.Korea. I am the opposite of the so-called “right wing nationalist”. But if you sincerely study into the reality of the comfort women, you cannot deny concluding that the Korean comfort women were not the sex slaves. They were mostly recruited by deceptive means or sold by their relatives to the civilian brokers, and brought to the brothels attached to the Japanese army. They were paid, could save money, send money back home, go shopping, go to the movies, participate some sports event, quit job and go back home except in the front line (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diary_of_a_Japanese_Military_Brothel_Manager).
    It should be remarked that Ms.Kotler’s hypocritical condemnation against Japan reveals itself in the complete absence and ignorance of her references to the human rights in China.
    Also on the comfort women issue she never refers to the Asian Women`s Fund, which was established by the Japanese government in 1995 for the surviving ex-comfort women of several countries and provide compensation and afforded medical expenses with apology letters from the prime ministers of Japan for more than 10 years including Netherlands and S. Korea. Even “the follow-up operation” by Japanese civilian workers for the Korean ex-comfort women lasted until 2016. She ignores all these efforts done by Japan and focuses only the claim of the “right wing nationalist” of Japan. This is not only utterly unfair and of injustice but also politically an act of bringing confrontation among the people and countries concerned including the United States.

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