During World War II, thousands of women, mostly Korean, were kidnapped and held as sex slaves by the Japanese army. Euphemistically referred to as "comfort women," their story was mostly untold until 1991, when one survivor finally shared what happened to her.Since then, advocates across the world, including in Atlanta, have been working to commemorate this history. Despite some controversy from earlier this year, the memorial, featuring a young girl sitting next to an empty seat, will be unveiled in Brookhaven on June 30. Kang Il-chul, one of the last surviving comfort women, is expected to speak at the ceremony.Local advocates had planned to install the memorial outside the Center for Civil and Human Rights. But in March, the Center released a statement, saying that "permanent exterior fixtures were not part of the original design or any new strategic plan for the future" of the museum and therefore had to back out of the agreement. Members of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force, however, believe the Center bailed because of pressures from business and international leaders. According to an email obtained by WABE, the Japanese Consulate General actively opposed the statue's installation.Helen Ho, a member of the task force, says one of the reasons why remembering this history is so important is because it's still relevant today. "Metro Atlanta is a hub for sex and human trafficking," she says. "The whole purpose of us wanting to memorialize the comfort women is yes, honoring the brave souls of these women who were trafficked and sexually enslaved, but also
use that as a springboard to talk about local issues, as well as other global issues of sexual violence against women.?She adds that it's also fitting to draw attention to the plight of comfort women here because not only does Atlanta have one of the largest and fastest-growing Asian populations in the region, but it's also the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. "This is a human rights issue," she says. "Understanding history and never forgetting even the dark moments of our collective past is important. It's a time to learn and a time to say never again.?
The statue unveiling ceremony takes place June 30 at 10 a.m. at Blackburn Park II, 3509 Blair Circle N.E.