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Just a week after Japan’s Consul to New York met with Mayor Rotundo of Palisades Park to bring down the comfort women memorial, four members of the National Diet (Liberal Democratic Party/LDP) visited Palisades Park on Sunday, May 6th. The four legislators visited the memorial first, then met with Palisades Park legislators.

Several members of the Palisades Park city government were in attendance. Mayor James Rotundo, Council Speaker Jong Chul Lee, Councilman Jason Kim, City Clerk, Director of the Palisades Park Library, and artist Steve Cavallo was present as well as Korean American Civic Empowerment’s Steering Committee Chair, Dong Suk Kim. A consul and a staff member came from the Consulate General of Japan in New York to assist the four politicians.

Interpretation (on Japan’s part) was rudimentary at best, so matters were not discussed in their entirety. However, the LDP Diet members contested that: 1. The memorial’s inscriptions are incorrect; 2. The NGO that deals with this issue in Korea has connections with DPRK, and DPRK refuses to acknowledge that it kidnapped Japanese citizens; 3. The Japanese government did not establish nor recruited comfort women, and the women signed up with privateers by their own will; 4. the comfort women problem is a roadblock in Japan-US relations; and 5. The memorial’s inscriptions say that the number of comfort women was 200,000, but it is wrong.


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In response, Mayor Rotundo stated that the memorial was built with taxpayer funds, and the city council researched and confirmed the findings before actually dedicating the memorial. To say that the comfort women affair is not true, one needs to provide the data or the evidence with credible sources. In the middle of the conversation, the city clerk went on the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, pointed to Japan’s official admission of the comfort women affair, and asked if the four politicians are stating an argument that is different from that of their government. Keiji Furuya, the director general of the Parliamentarian League for Early Repatriation of Japanese Citizens Kidnapped by North Korea stated that Ministry’s stance is outdated, and outright denied Foreign Minister Kono’s statement in 1993. A female member of LDP, Eriko Yamatani stated that most of the comfort women were of Japanese origin, and foreign women were of the minority. Designer of the memorial, Steve Cavallo, rebutted by saying that he has researched the comfort women issue for over a decade and found the claims to be true to the fullest extent. He has directly interviewed comfort women survivors, and believes that what each and every one of them told him is true to the very last word. He shot back with the question, “Do you know that Japanese students and citizens visit the House of Sharing to meet the comfort women in Korea?.” He also stated that Americans apologized to Japanese Americans for trying to exterminate them during World War II, and Japan cannot hide the truth.

KACE’s Dong Suk Kim commented that, the Japanese government and high-ranking members of LDP are trying to take the memorial down to increase conflict between Japan and Korea in the US. He urged the importance of viewing this issue objectively, and consider it has a human rights violation, not as a Korean issue. This appears to be a high-level strategy to disrupt Korean American political empowermnet after the Korean American community successfully convinced legislators to support the “East Sea” proposal. They seem to be conspiring to skew this issue from human rights, and reconciliation of history to Korea-Japan conflicts.

 

Visitors from the National Diet of Japan

Keiji Furuya
Chairman, Special Committee on North Korea Abductions of LDP
Director General, Parliamentarian League for Early Repatriation of Japanese Citizens Kidnapped by North Korea
Member, House of Representatives

Ichiro Tsukada
Member of the House of Councillors (Liberal Democratic Party)

Eriko Yamatani
Member of the House of Councillors (LDP)

Naokazu Takemoto
Member of the House of Representatives
Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission (LDP Shadow Cabinet)

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