Statement from the International Association of Korean Lawyers on Glendale Memorial


Glendale Memorial Honoring Victims of World War II Should Not Be Removed

Washington, DC and Seoul – May 5, 2014

The International Association of Korean Lawyers (IAKL) respectfully supports the memorial statue in Glendale, California, to honor those victims of mass sexual servitude during World War II. From 1932 to 1945, greater than 200,000 girls and women were coerced by the Japanese Imperial Army or their agents, forcibly removed from their homes in Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Russia, and Italy, and systematically raped. Recently, however, two individuals and a non-profit corporation filed a lawsuit seeking a court order to remove the memorial. See Gingery v. City of Glendale, No. 2:14CV01291 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 20, 2014).

The officers and directors of IAKL Overseas and IAKL Korea believe that the factual assertions in the complaint will not withstand scrutiny. The plaintiffs allege that the victims’ status and the role played by the Japanese government are open questions that “remain an active topic of political debate.” The allegations imply that the victims were in fact voluntary sexual partners, or common prostitutes. It is a well-documented fact that the women were raped and involuntarily detained for use by Japanese soldiers. They were known as “comfort women” in “comfort stations.” In 1948, the Dutch tried twelve Japanese for the forced prostitution of women held in internment camps in the Dutch East Indies. One Japanese official was executed; others received prison terms. In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives described what occurred in its preamble to House Resolution 121: the system “included gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation, and sexual violence resulting in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide in one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono’s official statement in 1993 explained that the women lived “under a coercive atmosphere” and that the military’s conduct “severely injured the honor and dignity” of the women. The lawsuit irresponsibly mischaracterizes historical facts.

From a legal standpoint, the lawsuit is misguided also. The complaint alleges that one plaintiff feels “alienation due to” the memorial and that the memorial “infringes upon the federal government’s power to exclusively conduct the foreign affairs of the United States.” Ethnic groups commonly erect monuments to remember past injustices. For example, there are 45 memorials to the Jewish Holocaust in the United States alone, sixteen to the Irish famine, and six to the Ottoman Turks’ genocide of Armenians. While the IAKL bears no ill will towards individuals in Japan or of Japanese descent, the allegations amount to no actual legal claim. The City of Glendale’s conduct is purely expressive, and there can be no basis for foreign affairs “preemption” under these circumstances. 

The memorial in Glendale bears inscriptions describing a “resolve for a deliverance of justice” and “a bond between us and the deceased victims.” Given the common Korean blood and the daughters and mothers who suffered, the IAKL respectfully supports the City of Glendale in honoring the memory of these victims. 

Founded in 1988, the IAKL is a professional association that brings together Korean legal professionals from around the world. For more information, contact Lisa J. Yang, IAKL Overseas Vice President, 213-955-9500[email protected], 1055 West Seventh Street, Suite 2800, Los Angeles, CA 90017.