BY GRACE J. YOO, EUNICE H. HIM, AND SOOJIN JEONG
Asian American activists have been key to remembering the “comfort women” in the U.S. and globally. The act of remembering is often done through creating memorials, exhibits, films, conferences, and educational efforts. This paper examines Asian American activists’ remembrance work in building a memorial in the city of San Francisco. This paper utilizes a content analysis of the September 17, 2015 San Francisco Board of Supervisors hearing to identify key frames that Asian Americans have used to advocate for the building of a “comfort women” memorial. A key theme is that the act of remembering is often done with “care.” Additional key themes of the care work to build this memorial highlighted the role of breaking silences and speaking personal truths and stories; demonstrating pan-ethnic compassion and solidarity; and building to remember and teach the next generation. Understanding remembrance work as care work across generations has implications for voice and empowerment, solidarity, and healing for “comfort women” and all who are connected and exposed to this work.
Approximately 400,000 young women and girls from Korea, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia (then Dutch East Indies) were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese soldiers during World War II.[i] In 1991, former “comfort woman” Kim Hak-Sun of South Korea broke over fifty years of silence to tell her story.[ii] Her public disclosure started a global campaign demanding justice and reparations for former “comfort women.” The need for acknowledgement of the Japanese military system of sexual slavery has been a transnational movement.
Although generations removed, the “comfort women” experience of World War II is a historical trauma that has impacted many Asian Americans including those of Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Filipino descent.[iii]Stories from WWII of the fear and trauma faced by women and girls fleeing Japanese soldiers have been part of many Asian American intergenerational family histories.[iv] Asian Americans have been key to bringing voice and remembrance of “comfort women” locally, nationally, and globally. Emerging in the mid 1990s, the stories of the “comfort women” inspired diverse Asian American generations to bring voice to the “comfort women” issue through writing, film, exhibits, and the creation of various organizations and campaigns for reparations and remembrances. They include fiction and nonfiction such as Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Women and Evelina Galang’s oral histories of Filipina comfort women Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War, as well as her children’s books Angel De La Luna and the Fifth Glorious Mystery. They also include films such as Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women, The Apology, and Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue,.[v]Campaigns in the U.S. have included those spearheaded by the Gabriela Network (a Filipina/o network against sex-trafficking of Filipinas) and the work of the “Comfort Women” Justice Coalition.[vi]
Asian American activists have been working in solidarity with former “comfort women” to confront the Japanese government’s denial and coercion of hundreds of thousands of women and girls into the largest known sexual slavery system of the twentieth century.[vii] There have also been various campaigns for apologies, reparations, and remembrances such as the U.S. House Resolution 121 in 2007, introduced by third generation Japanese American Congressman Michael Honda, which urged the Government of Japan to bring closure to the issue by way of formal apology and reparations to the victims of those crimes. YouTube videos created by filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler mobilized the international movement via the internet.[viii] Additional campaigns for remembrances/memorials and inclusion in public school curriculum have all been spearheaded by Asian Americans who have come together to bring voice to “comfort women.”[iv]
Remembrance Work: Remembering “Comfort Women” through Public Memorials
More recently, there has been activism to remember the “comfort women” through the building of memorials. To date, there are sixteen memorials that have been built in the United States.[x] In 2010 the first “comfort women” memorial in the U.S. was erected in Palisades Park, New Jersey. It was followed by locations in Westbury, New York; Eisenhower Park, New York; Glendale, California; Fairfax, Virginia; Union City, New Jersey; Southfield, Michigan; Fullerton, California; and San Francisco, California. Outside South Korea, the U.S. is home to the largest number of memorials with a total of sixteen as of April 2020.[xi] Indeed, hosting such a number of memorials on U.S. public lands is the result of three decades of organizing and consciousness-raising by Asian Americans, especially Korean Americans. Korean Americans’ involvement in erecting “comfort women” memorials is a prime example of how diaspora can play out homeland issues in their adopted home in ways that take advantage of the institutional features and distinctive environment of that adopted home.[xii]
Active opposition groups to “comfort women” memorials in the U.S. have included ultranationalist individuals from the Japanese government, Japanese Americans, and Japanese immigrants who have created an alliance to regularly oppose “comfort women” memorials in the U.S. and operate in a politically similar fashion as right wing groups in the U.S.[xiii] Opposition groups have long denied justice for comfort women. For instance, an opposition group filed a lawsuit in 2014 seeking the removal of a “comfort women” memorial in Glendale, California.[xiv] After a three-year legal battle, the Supreme Court decision concluded by declining the lawsuit filed against the City of Glendale in Los Angeles County by the Global Alliance for Historical Truth-US Corporation (GAHT-US). In addition, upon the erection of a “comfort women” memorial in San Francisco, Osaka cut “sister city” ties with the city. Osaka mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura said the monument “destroyed the two sides’ relationship of trust.”[xv]
Despite opposition groups’ efforts, public memorialization of “comfort women” has brought together a decentralized social movement involving diaspora politics, coalition building, and gender rights.[xvi] The movement has achieved the erection of “comfort women” memorials or statues and the passage of the U.S. House of Representative Resolution 121, which called for Japan to acknowledge and apologize for the use of sexual slavery during the 1930s and 1940s. These efforts in the U.S. occurred simultaneously with lobbying for the inclusion of “comfort women” in United Nations reports on sexual violence and the UNESCO Memory of the World register.[xvii]
In San Francisco, the “comfort women” memorial building was spearheaded by the “Comfort Women” Justice Coalition (CWJC), a multi-ethnic and multi-national organization of people guided by the surviving grandmothers of the “comfort women” experience. CWJC played a pivotal role in unveiling the memorial in San Francisco. The organization’s co-chairs, Lillian Sing and Julie Tang, led a movement to recognize the importance of educating the war atrocity so it is never repeated. CWJC asserts “few memorials speak of women, even less of their suffering, courage, endurance and determination to achieve justice.”[xviii]With their efforts, in 2015, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to build a memorial for the “comfort women” in the city.
In policy hearings, framing has traditionally been a key way in which policy is moved forward.[xix] Framing is about the construction of meaning.[xx]Although the movement to build “comfort women” memorials has been reported on in different ways by various organizations and in locations outside the U.S. such as South Korea, Japan, and Australia, there have been no in-depth studies of local policy hearings. Rather, the study of framing of “comfort women” has been limited to new stories and media depictions.”[xxi] This paper examines the framing used by Asian Americans advocating for a “comfort women” memorial at a San Francisco Board of Supervisors public hearing.
This paper utilizes a content analysis of the transcript and video of the 2015 San Francisco Board of Supervisors public hearing on “Urging the Establishment of a Memorial for ‘Comfort Women.’” The purpose of this approach is to identify key frames that Asian Americans have used to advocate for the building of the San Francisco “comfort women” memorial. Analyzing the framing of Asian American remembrance work in building the “comfort women” memorial in the City of San Francisco is important since public hearings in the U.S. have included Japanese nationalists using the public comment to voice opposition to any sort of remembrance.[xxii] In this content analysis, we focus on Asian Americans who were in favor of the memorial in San Francisco, including public officials, guests, and the public.
Past studies examining policy issues have used a content analysis of policy hearings to understand how issues have become framed.[xxiii] The transcript and video from the City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting of September 17, 2015, were obtained through the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting archives.[xxiv]This hearing was selected as it included the statements of politicians as well as guests and public comment from the community. The transcript was read in its entirety by all three authors and analyzed using standard coding analysis procedures.[xxv] In reviewing this transcript, the authors focused on statements made by Asian Americans in favor of the memorial. These statements were then thematically analyzed, from which the authors developed frames of how Asian American politicians, activists, and members of the public advocated for and supported the building of this memorial.
The findings of this content analysis highlight frames that Asian Americans used to support the San Francisco memorial including the following: breaking silences across generations, speaking personal truths and stories, demonstrating pan-ethnic compassion and solidarity, and building to remember and teach about “comfort women” to the next generation.
Breaking Silences Across Generations: Speaking personal truths and stories
“Comfort women” remembrances have been important symbols for breaking silences. A model for this has always been the public testimonial by Grandmother Kim Hak-sun in August 1991 that was soon followed by the first class action suit against Japan by a Korean “comfort women” survivor.[xxvi] Moreover, in 1992, survivors in South Korea protested every Wednesday in front of the Japanese Embassy, requesting that the Japanese government formally apologize.[xxvii] In 1993, eighteen Filipina former “comfort women” filed lawsuits against Japan.28 These events broke decades of silence. Such courageous and resilient actions have been models for Asian Americans in speaking, teaching, and creating actions for remembrances.
Breaking silences and speaking truths were key themes in the San Francisco hearings. In the September 17, 2015 hearing, San Francisco City and County Board of Supervisor Jane Kim discussed how the present moment is about breaking silences, and shared her memories hearing stories about the occupation, the war, and women and young girls taken from their homes to serve as sexual slaves for the Japanese military. These were stories that she grew up hearing from so many women in her family who were fearful that they could have been taken as “comfort women.” She stated:
The greatest revolution that you can give is not just to survive but survive and tell the stories. The experience and the story are humiliating and challenging to hear… It is so important we not only know our history but we remember the story so they won’t happen again.
Supervisor Eric Mar also described the San Francisco hearings acts of breaking silences. He stated:
Today’s hearing is about a history of breaking silences. It’s about a fight for empathy, for hundreds of thousands of women and girls. It’s a fight for justice, and my hope is that we focus on the stories that are told today. I wanted to say that, as a member of this board of supervisors, we pass lots of laws and policies, but I think there are times where something in our chambers within us and with visitors transforms us. It changes us to be more human. As Detroit’s Grace Lee Boggs shows, how we’ve become more human with more compassion and empathy for others is a way to move our city forward.
Mar further shared that as a Chinese American and a father of a 15-year-old daughter who is Chinese and Japanese American, he wants youth and future generations to know these stories. He further broke his family’s silence by telling a personal truth of domestic violence in his grandparents’ family. He stated:
Allow those stories and that spirit to transform them as well as we move forward with a history and with a passion for peace and justice…Grandma Lee brings us together, unifies our communities for a future without oppression of women and girls, a few of peace and justice for all…I wanted to say that grandma lee helps to bring together many of our communities.
Breaking silence over generations is one common theme we saw in the Board of Supervisors meeting. Mar, then Supervisor of District One, introduced Grandma Lee as “an example of courage and a story of breaking silence over generations.”
Former “comfort woman” Grandma Yong Soo Lee (Halmoni Lee) traveled from South Korea and spoke at the hearing, presenting herself as living history of the hate crimes against her and many other women by the Imperial Japanese Army. For the sake of future generations, she was committed to speaking out and sharing her truth before she and only forty seven other survivors were not able to do so. She stated:
I am the living evidence of history…For the sake of our next generation and children and grandchildren I think we need to teach them accurate history. I want to tell you the truth will come out no matter what. I want to tell the leaders of Japan to change your mind…We are nearly at the end of our lives. We are old people. In Korea, there are only 47 survivors…These grandmothers are so sick.. They cannot get up… they cannot talk clearly.. So before they all pass away I want to urge you to resolve this clearly as soon as possible in a peaceful manner.
Several speakers during the open public comment reiterated the need to break silences.
They spoke about the importance of personal experiences. Jihi Yoo, a mother and activist, spoke to the audience about the importance of seeking justice for the victims and acknowledging these hate crimes as not just a political issue but a human rights issue. Yoo spoke on the importance of breaking silences and teaching future generations about justice and truth. She stated:
This is not a Japan/Korea issue. It is a human rights issue. It’s a women’s issue. it’s a justice issue.. It’s [about] doing the right thing for our children so they understand the history [and] they understand what is truthful.. They understand that when we hurt somebody that we make it right.
She stated that she personally got involved because she wanted to educate the next generation — her 17-year-old daughter – who had been asking about the “comfort women” after learning about a resolution introduced in Congress six times that has still not passed. Her daughter’s questions and concern became a catalyst to her own awakening of the importance of speaking up on this issue.
Coming together: Pan-ethnic Asian American compassion and solidarity
During the September 17, 2015 hearing, “comfort woman” survivor Halmoni Yongsoo Lee came to support San Francisco’s effort to build a memorial. These meetings entailed hours of public comment primarily by supportive Asian Americans but also denialists to the comfort women experience. The movement to memorialize was marked by sharp divisions and tensions between Japanese Americans and Japanese nationalists who deny the existence of comfort women for fear of backlash directed towards Japanese Americans reminiscent of WWII. Despite divisions and tensions in the Japanese community made clear during the San Francisco hearing, Japanese Americans advocating for the memorial prevailed and joined other Asian Americans in solidarity. Pan-ethnic Asian American solidarity emerged as a compassionate and empathetic response to support and build a “comfort women” memorial in San Francisco. Such pan-ethnic Asian American solidarity first emerged in the 1968 San Francisco State University (SFSU) student strike in which students of various Asian backgrounds came together alongside other students of color to demand the first college of Ethnic Studies at SFSU.[xxix] After the 1968 student strike, many other social movements would emerge encouraging Asian Americans to organize across ethnic backgrounds around their shared experience.[xxx] During the San Francisco hearing, Asian American pan-ethnicity focused on solidarity and finding a shared historical experience. Japanese Americans were key in leading efforts in remembering “comfort women.” During the public comment, Judy Hamaguchi of the San Francisco chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) spoke on record that the San Francisco chapter did not oppose a memorial to honor the “comfort women” and that the members of their board unanimously voted in support. She stated that her organization was made up of volunteer activists who believe in education and human rights for all. She also paralleled the “comfort women” experience to the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. She remarked how in her son’s class at UC Santa Cruz how like the “comfort women,” the Japanese American incarceration was challenged and questioned:
In a class discussion about the concentration camp, several students challenged the idea that such a thing occurred here in America. “It never happened,” they said. On the other side of the other world, the people, the civilians, my stepfather, my uncle, and my mother saw destruction and death in a flash. It creates a world of nightmares – we cannot minimize the horrors that “comfort women” suffered. We cannot deny their unimaginable pain and suffering. We have stories to share as caution to the rest of the world. We are compelled to educate so future generations will read about the gruesomeness of war rather than experience it.
In this example, compassion and connection are key examples of solidarity as expressed by Professor Wesley Ueunten, a scholar of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University who teaches the Japanese American experience. After witnessing several Japanese nationalists in the public comment speak to defame, shame, and minimize the “comfort women” experience, he said:
Throughout these hearings, I’ve heard people call them [comfort women] liars and prostitutes and agents of propaganda. It seems as though people aren’t seeing them. We have a comfort woman here, but we’re not seeing her as a human, equal human. … I’ve worked in the Japanese American community for twenty years trying to bring people together, but this is an opportune time. I’ve never seen opportunities like this to bridge the gaps between Japanese Americans from mainland and Hawaii, Shin Issei, and Nisei… This is a great time for us to open our hearts.
Professor Ueunten challenged those who chose to deny the “comfort women” experience to show compassion. Other Japanese Americans echoed similar support for the “comfort women.” Grace Shimizu, a Japanese American community activist, spoke up about her support for the “comfort women” memorial by reflecting on the experiences of her family members in Peru being kidnapped and imprisoned in an incarceration camp. She discussed how some individuals in the Japanese American community have voiced opposition to any attention to this history, and to the idea of a “comfort women” memorial itself. Although in the minority, some Japanese Americans expressed concern that a memorial could inflame Japan bashing and racist attacks on Japanese Americans by guilt of association. Shimizu urged in her speech to move past this fear and find courage in remembering these wartime tragedies so the next generation can learn.
Cathy Matsuoka of Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress stressed the importance of acknowledging and advocating for the truth of the “comfort women” experience just as the Japanese American community has spoken out for redress for those interned in camps during World War II, and others have advocated to stop the scapegoating of Arab and Muslim Americans in the aftermath of 9/11. She explained that Japanese Americans shared parallel experiences of inhumane treatment during World War II when they were incarcerated in camps and that their histories were denied until they spoke up after years of being silenced. She stated:
I am extremely proud of our community because we spoke up about the pain of the camps after forty years of silence. Similar to the “comfort women” who bravely broke their silence after 70 years, I am proud of how our community stood… The “comfort women” continued to speak the truth to those that say they were willing participants in this [and that] this never happened … As Japanese Americans we can educate others about our history and bring communities together by supporting the “comfort women”…
A key component of the care work that operated during the hearings to build the “comfort women” memorial is a sense of solidarity and a compassionate and empathetic understanding of historical context and experience. Throughout the hearings, Japanese denialists who opposed the building of the memorial suggested that by building this site, San Francisco would incite a negative image of Japanese people worldwide. Individuals who spoke against the building suggested that it divided the community and could create “Japan bashing.” They proposed that the installation of a memorial of the “comfort women” was an act of hate. Those Asian Americans who testified in favor of building the memorial worked to move the discussion from fear and hate directed at Japanese people to an inclusive compassionate solidarity about remembering the “comfort women” in order to promote healing.
Building to Remember and Teach the Next Generation
The Asian American movement to build the San Francisco memorial worked beyond just breaking silences around this historical trauma. A final theme that emerged in the transcript was the importance of remembrance for the history of “comfort women,” especially during a time when denialists were starting to encroach on efforts to memorialize and recognize “comfort women” in the U.S.[xxxi] Acknowledging that this happened is important as there has been a history of denying and silencing the voices of the “comfort women.” Phyllis Kim of the Korean American Forum brought up the importance of acknowledging the trauma and violence that “comfort women” experienced and putting an end to the struggle between victims and the “deniers,” She further emphasized that these deniers are “not the Japanese Americans who live in America, [but] the [Japanese] Prime Minister and the ultra-Nationalist who have been financed to fight the effort to remember.”
Miho Kim Lee, then CWJC Coordinator, condemned nationalism stirred by a Japanese government that sought to deny the “comfort women” experience. She shared:
It’s important to recognize the anti-memorial movement in the U.S. actually emboldened this historical revisionism. Whatever your reasons, if you don’t support this memorial, make no mistake it will be touted as a victory for the denialists up and down the political food chain…We’re advocating for [the] “comfort women” memorial as a vehicle for understanding and change that can unite all people for women’s human rights
Throughout the San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting, many speakers advocated for women’s rights and the need to continually recognize and address the violence that the Imperial Japanese Army committed against women during World War II.
A large part of acknowledging this history is to honor the survival of “comfort women.” The memorial in San Francisco was also described by Asian American activists as a tool to teach the next generation about this injustice. In the hearing, members of the Jewish American community illustrated associations between “comfort women” memorials and Holocaust memorials. They recognized these memorials serve as a monument for reconciliation and “shine a light on unspeakable crimes against humanity, so that lessons could be learned for the future.” Kei Fischer, a Jewish Asian American and at the time Lecturer in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, used personal examples to express the importance of breaking the silence of war. She was inspired by narratives of survivors and dedicated over a decade of her life to this work. Fischer continued on to note the importance of breaking silence and erecting this memorial to start the necessary work towards justice and peace as well as make an impact on younger generations by teaching the atrocities of war and never letting history repeat itself. Fischer said:
I was also inspired by the narratives of the courageous survivors of this atrocity… It sparked my interest in the anti-war and anti-oppression peace work that I’ve dedicated the last 15 years of my life to. This memorial is a symbol of this necessary work towards peace and justice that must happen both here locally in San Francisco and globally as well… I know firsthand the power these memorials have on the younger generation. This memorial commemorates the mass sexual enslavement of women from more than 10 different nationalities… teach our coming generations about the horrors of war so such atrocities cannot be repeated.
Asian American intergenerational care work has connected “comfort women” trauma to present day issues ranging from the #MeToo movement to human trafficking. The issue of “comfort women” brings up painful emotions regarding sexual violence that women in current generation have experienced. In part, the “comfort women” movement for Asian Americans in the twenty first century is fueled by the past but also serves as an example of breaking the silences of Asian American women in this current generation. The building of a “comfort women” memorial in San Francisco offered an opportunity to bring together Asian Americans to remember not only the past but also connect it today and to women’s issues. In the hearings, various Asian American speakers discussed the importance of connecting the past historical experiences of “comfort women” with issues of the current day. Grace Shimizu shared:
The comfort women memorial is an important opportunity to make connections with and among communities. Engaging in dialogue, deepening our understanding of our past and drawing lessons for the challenges we face today especially human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children during times of war. We can open our minds, soften our hearts, be compassionate and hear and understand each other for the sake of all of our children. We can stand strong together.
A remembrance of “comfort women” in the city of San Francisco can also mean the recognition of ongoing issues of human trafficking and sexual violence. Finally, remembering the “comfort women” is a collective responsibility to make sure these horrors are not forgotten or repeated.
Discussion and Conclusion
The findings of this content analysis of the September 17, 2015 San Francisco Board of Supervisors public hearing on “Urging the Establishment of a Memorial for ‘Comfort Women’” illustrate that remembrance work is done with care to the past, present, and future. Key themes of this care work to build the memorial highlighted the role of breaking silences and speaking personal truths and stories, demonstrating pan-ethnic compassion and solidarity, and building to remember and teach the next generation about “comfort women.” As seen in this analysis, Asian Americans from a wide range of backgrounds successfully advocated for the memorial to be built despite resistance by Japanese denialists. As demonstrated in this analysis, the voices of Asian Americans have been critical in the building of “comfort women” memorials in the United States.
Today, the “comfort women” memorial is situated in St. Mary’s Park in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown community. The bronze statue is made up of three young women representing Korea, China, and the Philippines holding hands back-to-back in solidarity. Another statue gazing up at the young woman memorializes Halmoni Kim Hak Sun, the first “comfort women” survivor to speak up about her experience. With a grand view of the city, the park is a safe place for communities to gather and remember the brave women. The memorial is not only a monument, but an activator of safety and justice for women and girls.[xxxii] This monument also shines a light on the processes in which Asian American pan-ethnic solidarity was sustained in this movement to remember.
Asian Americans remembering the “comfort women” have also illustrated how movements can work across generations for voice, empowerment, and remembrance. In the Asian American community, care work across generations happens through empathy, connection, and the willingness to be a voice, a phenomenon which has been documented in movements such as the Japanese American redress movement.[xxxiii] Intergenerational pan-Asian American movements, such as building the “comfort women” memorial in San Francisco, pave the way for future generations to break barriers and continue breaking silences across multiple issues. Like remembrance work to memorialize the “comfort women,” the #StopAAPIHate movement is an example of present-day pan-Asian American intergenerational community organizing in which the advocates and voices are those of the next generation. For example, Mina Fedor, a 12 year-old San Francisco Bay Area resident, organized an anti-hate rally in March of 2021 as an empathetic response to elderly Asian Americans who have faced the brunt of anti-Asian verbal harassment, shunning, and physical assault during the Covid-19 pandemic.[xxxiv]
Asian Americans remembering the “comfort women” has become an opportunity to extend the possibilities of pan-ethnicity beyond U.S.-based racialized boundaries and identities to include transnational and gender rights issues. Asian Americans remembering the “comfort women” has allowed for discussion of sexual assault and violence that continues to be silenced in Asian American community. For Asian Americans, shame and stigma around sexual violence are rooted in misogyny and lead to underreporting.[xxxv]Indeed, remembering the “comfort women” offers healing for those affected by sexual violence today as the “comfort women” models encourage speaking about the violence done to them.
In the September 17, 2015 San Francisco Board of Supervisors public hearing, Halmoni Lee bravely spoke her truths. The bravery demonstrated by her and other “comfort women” in speaking up despite the stigma and shame has paved a way for future generations to speak up and seek justice and healing. As scholars and activists have demonstrated, the aim in truth telling is not only in disclosing historical facts, “but also to publicly acknowledge responsibility.”[xxxvi]Thanks to Halmoni Lee’s act, future generations as well as the Asian American community can claim space that fosters healing. Memorializing the “comfort women” is a way for future generations to resist and break silences around sexual violence and demand responsibility for injustices from the past. The message to future generations is that we no longer have to conceal our pain, abuse, and trauma. We will continue to take space, speak out, and advocate for one another.
GRACE J. YOO Ph.D., MPH is a Professor and former Chair of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. She is the co-editor of Encyclopedia of Asian Americans Today, and Koreans in America: History, Identity and Community and co-author of Caring across Generations: The Linked Lives of Korean American Families.
EUNICE KIM, M.P.A. is a program manager at Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that addresses anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Asian American Studies and Master of Public Administration from San Francisco State University. Ms. Kim also has been a Lecturer in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University.
SOOJIN JEONG, M.A. is a doctoral student in East Asian Studies at University of California Irvine. She received a Master degree from San Francisco State University in Asian American Studies. Her research is in social reproduction, political economy, Asian American literature and Korean Studies.
1 Phyllis Kim, “Looking Back at 10 Years of the “Comfort Women” Movement in the US,” In The Transnational Redress Movement for the Victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, eds Pyong Gap Mi , Thomas R. Chung and Sejung Sage Yim (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2020), p. 196.
2 Laura Hyun Yi Kang, Traffic in Asian Women, (Duke University Press, 2020).
3 Laurence J. Kirmayer, Joseph P. Gone, and Joshua Moses, “Rethinking historical trauma,” Transcultural psychiatry 51, no. 3 (2014): 299-319, Grace Yoo, Teaching about “Comfort Women,” (Paper presented at the Association of Asian American Studies, San Francisco, April 2018).
4 Kirmayer et al “Rethinking historical trauma;” Yoo, Teaching about “Comfort Women.”
5 Nora Okja Keller, Comfort Women, (Penguin, 1998); Evelina M. Galang, Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War, (Northwestern University Press, 2017); Evelina M. Galang, Angel De La Luna and the Fifth Glorious Mystery (Coffee House Press, 2013); Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, Silence Broken : Korean Comfort Women , written, directed, produced by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, (San Francisco, CA: National Asian American Telecommunications Association, 2000); Tiffany Hsiung, The Apology, DVD, directed by Tiffany Hsiung (2016, Toronto: National Film Board of Canada, 2018); M. Dezaki, Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of Comfort Women Issue, (No Man Productions LLC, Amerika Serikat, 2018).
7 “Comfort women” is in quotes as it is a euphemism for militarized sexual slavery.
8 Kim, “Looking Back at 10 Years of the ‘Comfort Women’ Movement in the US.”
10 Lin Li, “Comfort Women” Memorials at the Crossroads of Ultranationalist, Feminist, and Decolonial Critiques: Triangulating Japan, South Korea, and the United States,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 43, no. 3 (2022): 89–116., https://doi.org/10.1353/fro.2022.0025.
11 “Map of ‘Comfort Women’ Memorials in the U.S.,” Education for Social Justice Foundation, accessed January 1, 2023, https://www.e4sjf.org/map-of-comfort-women-memorials-in-the-united-states.html
12 Mary M. McCarthy and Linda C. Hasunuma, “Coalition Building and Mobilization: Case Studies of the Comfort Women Memorials in the United States” Politics, Groups, and Identities 6, no. 3, (2018): 411–434, https://doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2018.1491865.
13 Judith Mirkinson, “Building the San Francisco Memorial: Why Is the Issue of the ‘ Comfort Women ’ Still Relevant Today?,” In The Transnational Redress Movement for the Victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, eds Pyong Gap Min, Thomas R. Chung and Sejung Sage Yim (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2020): 149-178; Lin Li, “Comfort Women” Memorials at the Crossroads of Ultranationalist, Feminist, and Decolonial Critiques: Triangulating Japan, South Korea, and the United States,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 43, no. 3 (2022):. 89–116., Phyllis Kim, “Looking Back at 10 Years of the “Comfort Women” Movement in the US,” In The Transnational Redress Movement for the Victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, eds Pyong Gap Min, Thomas R. Chung and Sejung Sage Yim (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2020): 179-200; Rin Ushiyama, “‘ Comfort Women must fall’? Japanese governmental responses to ‘ “Comfort Women” ’statues around the world,” Memory Studies 14, no. 6 (2021): 1255-1271; Tomomi Kinukawa, ““De-national” Coalition Against Japan’s Gendered Necropolitics: The “Comfort Women” Justice Movement in San Francisco and Geography of Resistance,” Feminist Formations 33, Issue 3, (Winter 2021): 140-174.
14 Agnes Constante, “Supreme Court Declines Case over Lawsuit to Remove ‘Comfort Women’ Memorial,” NBC News, 31 Mar. 2017, www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/supreme-court-declines-case-over-lawsuit-remove-comfort-women-memorial-n740996
15 Casey Quackenbush, “Osaka Ends San Francisco Ties over ‘Comfort Women’ Statue,” Time, 5 Oct. 2018, http://time.com/5416425/japan-osaka-san-francisco-comfort-women-statue
16 Lin Li, “Comfort Women” Memorials at the Crossroads of Ultranationalist, Feminist, and Decolonial Critiques: Triangulating Japan, South Korea, and the United States.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 43, no. 3 (2022): 89–116, https://doi.org/10.1353/fro.2022.0025.
17 Mary M McCarthy and Linda C. Hasunuma, “Coalition Building and Mobilization: Case Studies of the Comfort Women Memorials in the United States,” Politics, Groups, and Identities 6, no. 3 (2018): 411–434.
18 “SF Memorial,” “Comfort Women” Justice Coalition,” 9 Aug. 2021, https://remembercomfortwomen.org/sf-memorial/.
19 Anne L. Schneider and Helen M. Ingram, eds., Deserving and entitled: Social constructions and public policy, (SUNY Press, 2005). Grace J. Yoo, “Immigrants and welfare: Policy constructions of deservingness,” Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies 6, no. 4 (2008): 490-507. Jonathan J. Pierce, Saba Siddiki, Michael D. Jones, Kristin Schumacher, Andrew Pattison, and Holly Peterson,”Social construction and policy design: A review of past applications, ” Policy Studies Journal 42, no. 1 (2014): 1-29.
21 Hyeong-Jun Pak, “News reporting on comfort women: Framing, frame difference, and frame changing in four South Korean and Japanese newspapers, 1998-2013.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 93, no. 4 (2016): 1006-1025; Majia Nadesan and Linda Kim. “The Geopolitics of Public Memory: The Challenge and Promise of Transnational Comfort Women Activism,” Women’s Studies in Communication 45, no. 2 (2022): 123-142.
22 Mirkinson, “Building the San Francisco Memorial: Why Is the Issue of the ‘ Comfort Women ’ Still Relevant Today?,” 149-178; Li, “Comfort Women” Memorials at the Crossroads of Ultranationalist, Feminist, and Decolonial Critiques: Triangulating Japan, South Korea, and the United States,” 89–116, Kim, “Looking Back at 10 Years of the “Comfort Women” Movement in the US,”: 179-200; Ushiyama, “‘Comfort Women must fall’? Japanese governmental responses to ‘Comfort Women,” 1255-1271; Kinukawa, ““De-national” Coalition Against Japan’s Gendered Necropolitics: The “Comfort Women” Justice Movement in San Francisco and Geography of Resistance,” 140-174.
23 Anne L. Schneider and Helen M. Ingram, eds., Deserving and entitled: Social constructions and public policy, (SUNY Press, 2005). Grace J. Yoo, “Immigrants and welfare: Policy constructions of deservingness,” Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies 6, no. 4 (2008): 490-507; Jonathan J. Pierce, Saba Siddiki, Michael D. Jones, Kristin Schumacher, Andrew Pattison, and Holly Peterson, “Social construction and policy design: A review of past applications,” Policy Studies Journal 42, no. 1 (2014): 1-29.
24 City & County of San Francisco Board of Supervisor Hearing, Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee,, Urging the Establishment of a Memorial for “Comfort Women” ( Sep 17, 2015) accessed March 1, 2019 https://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/player/clip/23681?view_id=178&redirect=true&h=36cd6aee662605340073e5fcf3fb7c1c
25 Klaus Krippendorff, Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. (Sage publications, 2018); Robert Philip Weber,. Basic content analysis, (Sage, 1990).
26 Sang Hun Choe, Overlooked No More: Kim Hak-soon, Who Broke the Silence for ‘Comfort Women,” New York Times, October 21, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/21/obituaries/kim-hak-soon-overlooked.html
27 Tae Ik Kim, Former ‘comfort women’ Hold 1000th Protest at Japanese Embassy,” The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition), December 14, 2011, http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2011/12/14/2011121401645.html
28 “Lawsuits in Japanese Courts,” Asian Women’s Fund, Accessed January 1, 2023, https://www.awf.or.jp/e4/lawsuit.html
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30 Grace J Yoo, Mitch Wu, Emily Zimmerman and Leigh Saito, “Twenty-Five Years Later: Lessons Learned from the Free Chol Soo Lee Movement,” Asian American Policy Review 19 (2009/2010): 73-84. Yen Le Espiritu, Asian American panethnicity: Bridging institutions and identities, (Temple University Press, 1992), Frank H. Wu, “Embracing mistaken identity: how the Vincent Chin case unified Asian Americans,” Asian American Policy Review 19 (2009): 17.
31 Mirkinson, “Building the San Francisco Memorial: Why Is the Issue of the ‘ Comfort Women ’ Still Relevant Today?,” 149-178; Li, “Comfort Women” Memorials at the Crossroads of Ultranationalist, Feminist, and Decolonial Critiques: Triangulating Japan, South Korea, and the United States,” 89–116, Kim, “Looking Back at 10 Years of the “Comfort Women” Movement in the US,”: 179-200; Ushiyama, “‘Comfort Women must fall’? Japanese governmental responses to ‘Comfort Women,” 1255-1271; Kinukawa, ““De-national” Coalition Against Japan’s Gendered Necropolitics: The “Comfort Women” Justice Movement in San Francisco and Geography of Resistance,” 140-174.
32 “‘Comfort Women’ Justice Coalition,” accessed January 2, 2023, https://remembercomfortwomen.org/directions/
33 Grace J. Yoo & Barbara W. Kim, Caring across generations: the linked lives of Korean American families, (NYU Press, 2014); Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, (New York: One World publishing, 2020); Mitchell Takeshi Maki, Harry HL Kitano, S. Megan Berthold, and Sarah Megan Berthold, Achieving the impossible dream: How Japanese Americans obtained redress, (University of Illinois Press, 1999).
34 Bay City News “12-Year-Old East Bay Girl Organizes Rally to Stop Anti-Asian Hate.” NBC Bay Area, NBC Bay Area, 28 Mar. 2021, https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/east-bay/12-year-old-east-bay-girl-organizes-rally-to-stop-anti-asian-hate/2504578/.
35 Sumie Okazaki, “Influences of Culture on Asian Americans’ Sexuality,” Journal of Sex Research 39, no. 1 (February 2002): 34–41, https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490209552117
36 Mark R. Amstutz, The Healing of Nations: The Promise and Limits of Political Forgiveness. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005); Elizabeth Rosner, Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory. (Counterpoint, September 2017)