Fri, Oct 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Osaka ends 60-year alliance with San Francisco over ‘comfort women’ statue

AP, SAN FRANCISCO

A man places flowers at the comfort women Column of Strength statue in San Francisco, California, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

The mayor of Osaka, Japan, said he is ending a six-decade “sister city” relationship with San Francisco to protest a statue honoring women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura this week sent a letter to San Francisco announcing that he is withdrawing from the largely ceremonial relationship, the San Francisco Examiner reported on Wednesday.

The statue was last year erected on city property by Korean, Chinese and Philippine communities in California.

Yoshimura’s decision was “unfortunate,” said Jeff Cretan, a spokesman for San Francisco Mayor London Breed, adding that the cities would remain connected through “people-to-people ties.”

The Japanese consulate in San Francisco declined to comment.

“Breaking the relationship over a memorial is outrageous and absurd,” Comfort Women Justice Coalition cochair Lillian Sing said. “It shows how afraid the Osaka mayor and Japanese prime minister are of truth and are trying to deny history.”

Historians say tens of thousands of women around Asia were sent to work in Japanese military brothels, often through coercion and deception.

Japan apologized in 1993, but the issue has remained an open rift with its neighbors, particularly South Korea which has strong memories of Japan’s colonization from 1910 to 1945.

After a gradual pullback from the apology, Japan’s government now denies that the women, called “comfort women” in Japanese, were forced into sexual slavery, citing a lack of official documentary proof, saying that the statue in San Francisco and similar statues in other countries wrongfully blame Japan.

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