Park Statue Politics: World War II Comfort Women Memorials in the United States

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Numerous academics have researched Japan’s dehumanizing comfort women system that, for decades, forced innocents into sexual slavery. Since 2010 a campaign has been in place to proliferate comfort women memorials in the United States. These memorials now span from New York to California and from Texas to Michigan. They recount only the Korean version of this history, which this text finds incomplete. They do not mention that, immediately following World War II, American soldiers also frequented Japan’s comfort women stations. They say nothing of how, to the present day, GIs continue to patronize Asian women and girls organized in brothels near their barracks. The Korean narrative also ignores the significant role that Koreans played in recruiting women and girls into the system. Intentionally or not, comfort women memorials in the United States promote a political agenda rather than transparency, accountability and reconciliation. This book explains, critiques, and expands on the competing state and civil society narratives regarding the dozen memorials erected in the United States since 2010 to honor female victims of the comfort women system established and maintained by the Japanese military from 1937 to 1945.

About the authors

Thomas J. Ward is Distinguished Dean Emeritus of the University of Bridgeport’s College of Public and International Affairs. An honors graduate of the Sorbonne and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Notre Dame, he did his doctoral studies in Political Economy and International Education at the Catholic Institute of Paris and De La Salle University in the Philippines. He teaches graduate courses in International Conflict and Negotiation and Political and Economic Integration. A former Fulbright scholar, he has lectured at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and has been a Visiting Research Fellow at Academic Sinica in Taipei. His research on the comfort women issue has been published in East Asia and Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

William D. Lay is Director of the School of Public and International Affairs, and Chair, at the University of Bridgeport. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in international public law, international humanitarian law, US constitutional and criminal law, and human security. Born in Tokyo, he has traveled extensively in Asia and the Asia Pacific region. He was a Kent Scholar throughout his years at Columbia Law School, and was Senior Editor of the Columbia Law Review. He clerked at the New York Court of Appeals for Judge Joseph Bellacosa, a recognized authority on New York criminal procedure, and practiced law for 12 years with the Fried Frank and Skadden Arps firms in New York City before joining the UB faculty. His articles on East Asia have appeared in East Asia and the Harvard Asia Quarterly.


Table of contents

INTRODUCTION

1. LOCAL POLITICS: THE PROS AND CONS OF PARK STATUES
2. THE ORIGINS AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMFORT WOMEN SYSTEM
3. STEPS TOWARD REDRESS FOR THE COMFORT WOMEN
4. KEY MILEPOSTS AND ACTORS IN EFFORTS TO SETTLE THE ONGOING COMFORT WOMEN IMPASSE
5. KOREAN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS: ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND EXPECTATIONS
6. OPPOSITION TO COMFORT WOMEN MEMORIALS IN THE UNITED STATES
7. THE UNUSUAL CASE OF TAIWAN
8. STATUE POLITICS VS. EAST ASIAN SECURITY: THE GROWING ROLE OF CHINA AND CHINESE-AMERICAN CIVIL SOCIETY
9. INCONSISTENCIES IN THE KOREAN NARRATIVE
10. THE COMFORT WOMEN CONTROVERSY IN THE AMERICAN PUBLIC SQUARE
11. THE IMPLICATIONS OF ESTABLISHING A COMFORT WOMEN MEMORIAL IN THE UNITED STATES OR EUROPE

CLOSING THOUGHTS

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