By Ted AYALA
The city was slapped with a pair of lawsuits recently filed, one over the transfer of monies from Glendale Water & Power, the other about the continuing controversy over the statue of a “comfort women” in Central Park.
The former lawsuit, filed by members of the Glendale Coalition for Better Government, regards what the plaintiffs see as an illegal transfer of monies from the GWP into the city’s general fund.
“[These] concerned people reluctantly filed a lawsuit for the illegal transfer of millions of dollars for non-GWP usage,” reads a press statement issued by Mike Mohill, a supporter of the lawsuit.
According to City Atty. Michael J. Garcia, the transfer of funds was in no way illegal.
“The transfer is authorized and even mandated by the city’s charter,” he said. “It doesn’t violate Prop. 26 and it certainly doesn’t violate our charter.”
Also filed at the end of February was a lawsuit against the city’s controversial “comfort women” memorial unveiled last summer.
Comfort women or ianfu was a euphemism employed by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) denoting women who had been coerced to work at military brothels across Japan’s former empire.
Filed by Koichi Mera, Glendale resident Michiko Shiota Gingery, and GAHT-US Corp., the lawsuit claims that the installation of the memorial exceeded the city’s power, infringing on the federal government’s power to exclusively conduct the nation’s foreign relations.
“The monument threatens to negatively affect U.S. relations with Japan, one of this nation’s most important allies, and is inconsistent with the foreign policies of the U.S.,” it reads.
Plaintiff Shiota Gingery, who lives in the vicinity of Central Park, said that the monument has caused her to “suffer feelings of exclusion, discomfort, and anger because of the position espoused by the city of her residence.”
The lawsuit also made mention of Shiota Gingery’s contribution as a founding member of Glendale’s sister cities program. She also helped Glendale in establishing relations with the city of Hiraoka, Japan, the first of Glendale’s sister cities. The city has subsequently been renamed Higashiosaka after merging with the surrounding cities of Kawachi and Fuse in 1967. Representatives from the city have visited Glendale in the past year criticizing the monument.
Japan has expressed repeated apologies over the atrocities committed by its former Imperial Army, beginning with an apology addressed by then Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa to South Korea’s National Assembly.
“We Japanese should first and foremost recall the truth of that tragic period when Japanese actions inflicted suffering and sorrow upon your people,” he said in a speech. “As Prime Minister of Japan, I would like to declare anew my remorse at these deeds and tender my apology to the people of the Republic of Korea.”
Japan later issued what is now known as the “Kono Statement” that acknowledged and again apologized for its coercion of women into prostitution. It later set up the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) in 1994, which sent out compensation and a letter personally signed by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizing for the “painful experiences and incurable physical and psychological wounds” that victims coerced into prostitution by the IJA were forced to suffer.
AWF funds were dispersed largely without incident in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Burma. The South Korean government, however, has claimed that its compensation has fallen short of formal state redress.
The comfort women issue, along with a territorial row over a pair of islets that Japan refers to as Takeshima and South Korea as Dokdo, as well as the naming of the Sea of Japan, has polarized opinions in Japan and South Korea in recent years, poisoning their bilateral relations. Summit level meetings have yet to be held between both countries since the elections of Shinzo Abe and Geun-hye Park, both catering to their respective nations’ right wings, in late 2012 and early 2013.
Fringe right-wing nationalists in Japan have denied that women were ever forced by the IJA into military brothels, arguing instead that they became prostitutes of their own volition.
Opinion by mainstream Japanese is sympathetic to the comfort women and recognizes the severity of the issue, but frustration has grown over its eastern neighbor’s demands.
In an interview with the Associated Press last month Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Hawaii, stated that “the Japanese seem to be of the view that whatever they do will not be enough to satisfy the Koreans, so why bother?”
Japanese have also accused South Korea of hewing to a double standard, chastising Japan for its wartime crimes on the one hand, while ignoring its own atrocities committed against Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War.
A contingent of former comfort women from South Korea has recently called upon their government to acknowledge its own excesses during wartime.
“The [South Korean] government should resolve the wrongdoing its countrymen committed. It cannot ignore these acts,” said a comfort woman survivor at a press conference held in Seoul.
South Korea has expressed “regret” for its atrocities committed in Vietnam, but has yet to issue a formal apology.