Last month, Japanese officials visited Palisades Park, a suburban enclave across the Hudson River from New York City, with a curious request: they wanted the town to remove a small plaque in front of the public library.
In 2010, Palisades Park installed a memorial to the thousands of Korean women and girls that were enslaved by the Japanese during World War II. The town says that it is the first such dedication to the so-called ‘Comfort Women’ and refused the Japanese officials’ request, igniting a decades long quest to raise awareness of the victims’ plight. ‘They’re helping us, actually,’ said Chejin Park, a lawyer at the Korean American Voters’ Council, to the New York Times. ‘We can increase the awareness of this issue.’
The plaque is the first of its kind in the country to commemorate the abuses Korean women suffered in the Japanese ‘comfort stations’ during World War II, according to Bergen News. In Palisades Park, more than half of the 20,000 residents are of Korean descent, according to the Census Bureau. ‘In memory of the more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of imperial Japan,’ the plaque reads. ‘Known as “comfort women,” they endured human rights violations that no peoples should leave unrecognized. Let us never forget the horrors of crimes against humanity.’
After the war, many of the women were brutally slaughtered and their story was first told in 1991.
Two years after the memorial was installed, Japanese officials requested a meeting with Palisades Park Mayor James Rotundo, who helped unveil the monument. The two discussed ‘niceties,’ Mr Rotundo told the paper, before Mr Hiroki pulled out two documents and began to read aloud a formal acknowledgement and apology from the government of Japan to the surviving comfort women. He then requested that the memorial be removed, Mr Rotundo said, and mentioned that the Japanese government would be willing to plant cherry trees and donate books to the library in its…