Takashi Shinozuka, the Japanese consul general in Atlanta has provoked a backlash from Korean-American groups after referring to the comfort women as “paid prostitutes” during an interview with the local media.
In an interview that ran in the Reporter Newspapers, a Georgia newspaper, on June 23, Takashi said that was “no evidence” that the Japanese army treated most of the comfort women from Korea as “sex slaves” during World War II and argued that the women were prostitutes who were paid.
“This is not a simple art object,” Takashi said during the interview. “This is a symbol of hatred and resentment against Japan.”
The Atlanta Comfort Woman Memorial Task Force and the local Korean-American community have set up a comfort woman statue in a private park in Brookhaven, a town in Georgia (the first such statue in the American South), and are planning to unveil it on June 30. Takashi has reportedly continued to lobby the Brookhaven mayor and the city council to block the installation of the comfort woman statue.
the Japanese consul general in Atlanta (from the website of Reporter Newspapers)
In a June 26 statement, the committee said, “The Japanese general consul Atlanta’s refusal to acknowledge the comfort women and his characterization of sexually enslaved women as ’paid prostitutes‘ is the kind of thing that has only recently emerged among Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.”
“Not only does this contradict the Japanese government’s own past statements recognizing and apologizing for the comfort women’s suffering and sacrifice, but it raises questions as to whether Tokyo still believes in the existence of comfort women,” the committee said.
Describing itself as “extremely disappointed with these attempts to deny history,” the committee said the Japanese government was “behaving incomprehensibly in adopting aggressive tactics to force Georgia politicians and institutions to withdraw their comfort women history support.”
The Brookhaven comfort woman statue is the third to be set up in the US, after statues at a municipal park in Glendale, California, and at the Korean American Cultural Center in Southfield, Michigan. The Atlanta task force had originally planned to put up the statue at the city’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, only to have the center abruptly cancel its contract for the site.
89-year-old former comfort woman Kang In-chul, the real-life inspiration for the protagonist in the film “Spirits’ Homecoming,” recounted the horrors of the experience at the unveiling ceremony in Brookhaven. In an Aug. 2015 testimony meeting in Atlanta, Kang entreated the local Korean-American community to “lead the way in setting up a statue.”
By Yi Yong-in, Washington correspondent
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