Koo presses for Queens comfort women memorial

Leaders in the Flushing community stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance at a presentation on the plight of comfort women. Photo by Joe Anuta
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City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) is moving forward with plans to rename a Flushing street after the comfort women from World War II, much to the chagrin of the Japanese community.

Koo began the process of renaming the street last Thursday, when he officially submitted a request to post a sign at the southwest corner of Northern Boulevard and Union Street that reads Comfort Women Memorial Way.

The sign refers to women from many countries in Asia, but mainly China and Korea, who were forced into prostitution to serve the Japanese military during the war.

“The purpose of the street renaming is to pay tribute, honor and remember women who were victimized during World War II,” Koo said in a statement.

The decision was hailed by the Korean community

“It’s a big deal,” said Ikhwan Rim, of the Union Street Merchants Association.

Not only does the modest memorial to the ordeals of the women serve as an honor to their memory, it acts as a physical marker of history, ensuring future generations do not forget, according to Rim.

And the proposed location of the sign is symbolic as well, Rim said, since some of the first Korean businesses in the downtown area were along Union Street, a place where many remain.

“We still have a lot of Korean business owners on the street, so it’s a great thing that we could have it here,” he said.

But members of the Japanese community were not as thrilled.

When Koo first began talking about the comfort women and a possible memorial earlier this spring, his colleagues in the Council began receiving letters, purportedly from Japanese citizens, accusing Koo of pandering to his Korean constituency. And Japanese officials flew all the way from the island nation to request that a monument already erected in New Jersey be taken down.

The Japanese consulate in New York did not respond to a request for comment.

But Koo said the monument is not meant to upset anyone. Rather it is designed to remember a dark chapter in history that should never be repeated, he said.

“Although we cannot go back in time to change history and stop the barbaric acts against innocent women perpetrated by Japanese soldiers, we can honor the bravery exhibited by these women,” Koo said. “We can also document their hardships, acknowledge their sacrifices and never forget their anguish.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 1:50 am, August 2, 2012
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Reader feedback

Pak from USA says:
Koo believes propaganda from North/South Korea. Pathetic.

History will prove that Comfort Women were prostitutes. US/UN forces used the exactly same prostitution system during wars.

Koo! Work for real Americans, not for Koreans. What you have been doing is nothing beneficial to the USA.

Excerpt from a US Military report:
"A "comfort girl" is nothing more than a prostitute or "professional camp follower" "
Aug. 3, 2012, 8:58 pm
Pak from USA says:
Here is a message from a very brave, clever Korean professor to Koreans.

나는 88세입니다. 이제 사실을 말하고 싶습니다." [최기호 가야대학 객원교수]

최기호 가야대학 객원교수나는 1923년생입니다. 이제 한국을 위해도, 일본을 위해도 사실을 말하고 싶습니다. 그것은 상당한 각오가 필요합니다. 생명의 위험도 각오 하고 있습니다. 그러나, 이것은 나의 사명인 것입니다.

나는 서울에 살고 있었습니다. 그리고, 가끔 평양이나 토쿄에 갔습니다. 그 당시의 한국인은 일본인 이상의 일본인입니다. 극장에 가면 영화의 전에 전쟁의 뉴스가 있었습니다. 예를 들면 뉴기니에서 일본이 이긴 영상이 흐르자, 박수와 만세의 폭풍우입니다. 나는 영화를 좋아해, 토쿄에서도 갔습니다만, 일본인은 냉정했습니다. 그러나, 한국인은 전원이 미친 것처럼 기뻐하고 있었습니다. 그것이 보통 모습이었습니다. 그러니까 친일파라고 하는 말은 사용할 수 없습니다. 그 사용할 수 없는 말을 사용해, 선조까지 비판하고 있습니다. 친절하고 상냥한 일본인이라고 하는 인상을, 필사적으로 지우기 위해 반일을 지도자는 꼬드김은 왔습니다.
한국과 일본의 역사 교육을 비교하면, 일본이 10%왜곡이라고 하면, 한국은 90%왜곡입니다. 조선말기의 비정상인 정치 부패를 가르치지 않고, 일본이 관여하지 않으면 독립을 할 수 있던 것처럼 쓰여져 있습니다.

한일합방에 의해 ‘교육’ ‘의료’ ‘공업’ ‘사회 인프라’가 정비되었습니다.근대국가의 기초가 쌓아 올려진 일은 분명한 사실입니다. 그 실적을 ‘일본 제국주의의 침략 정책의 산물이다!’라고 규탄하는 한국에는 기가 막힙니다. 더욱 ‘일제가 민족 산업을 정체시켰다!’라고 하는 주장에는 코멘트하는 기분도 없어집니다.

민족 산업을 죽인 것은, 조선왕조입니다. 근대화를 주장하는 선진적인 사상가는 반역자로서 친족까지도 처형되었습니다. 한국인은 ‘일제의 학대! 성 노예!’라고 외치고 있습니다만, 나는 믿을 수 없습니다. 역사의 진실을 알고 있기 때문입니다.
조선말기은 지옥이었습니다. 그것은 대한제국 시대가 되어도 같았습니다. 1904년 , 일본은 조선의 참상을 구하기 때문에, 재정 지원을 결단합니다. 예를 들면 1907년도 , 조선왕조의 세입은 748만엔이었지만 , 세출은 3000만엔 이상이었습니다. 그 차액은 일본이 부담하고 있습니다. 1908년에는 더욱 증가해 , 3100만엔을 지출하고 있습니다.

현재 88세의 노인의 절규입니다. 어떻게 생각합니까?

Aug. 4, 2012, 9:55 pm
Pak from USA says:
A message from another Korean professor.
Aug. 7, 2012, 6:11 pm
yumiko yamamoto from Japan says:
I am writing this message on behalf of many concerned Japanese.

As you may know, comfort women issue has discrepancy of recognition between Korean and Japanese, and now it is hot controversy matter between us. I don’t think Councilman Peter Koo is really understanding about this issue. I doubt if his action is simply for number of votes for next election.

Every street name represents the street’s history, and therefore should have a legitimate reason behind the name. NY is nothing related with comfort women issue. If comfort women street appeared in NY, many Japanese will be disappointed, and feel bad about both countries Korea and America.

You know this bad relationship among USA, Korea and Japan make whom happy? Yes, China and North Korea.

For not damaging NY, USA, Korea and Japan friendship, we, Japanese are strongly against “Comfort Women Street.” We have to see chronologically, and geographically. And those are effecting for politically in the wide view.

We believe that the American people cherish and enthusiastically defend fairness, justice and the truth. We hope that you will make a truthful, fair and objective judgment in regards to this issue.
Aug. 21, 2012, 8:50 pm
tishiaki from haginoya says:
If 200,000 women were truly coerced into sexual slavery as the “historians” say on U.S. newspapers, there would have been a rebellion or at least several more times that number of eyewitnesses and people would have kept the records either in official papers or at least in their diaries. However, the Korean Government and people didn’t mention even a word of it in the negotiation process of 1965 Peace Treaty and brought this issue on table early in 1990s as if they suddenly came out of coma. This fact clearly indicates that the “Comfort Women” issue is just a propaganda campaign of Korean people to defame Japan or obtain money in the form of “compensation.” Therefore, no apologies anymore!!
June 8, 2013, 6:23 pm
toshiaki from tokyo says:
Comfort Women issue is part of Korean defamation campaign against Japan based on conjured up fake stories and lies.
Visit this site to find the truth:
False Accusations of Comfort Women
June 10, 2013, 11:13 am
T. Haginoya from Yokohama says:
Koreans activists remain silent about Korean procurers who played a role of a broker between parents who wished to sell their own daughters and brothel owners who wished to buy girls for prostitution. It was those people, the parents, procurers, brokers, whoremongers, pimps and brothel owners who forced the women and girls into indentured prostitution (the parents got hefty advance payment by selling their daughters).

I believe Korean activists know about the true story, since some of their relatives would have told that story as they grew up, or would have read some old newspaper articles about abduction criminal cases arrested by the police. (I personally have some of them.)

The very fact that the police (80% of policemen were Koreans) made efforts to arrest abduction criminals proves that many girls had become comfort women due to indentured prostitution, not forcibly by Japanese Imperial Army.

Knowing it quite well, those activists launch anti-Japan smear campaign. They are distorting the true story and telling lies to the world.
Oct. 12, 2013, 1:31 am

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