Glendale to dedicate controversial "comfort women" statue Tuesday

Comfort Women statue

Glendale officials today will dedicate a statue (above) commemorating the suffering of Asian women and girls who served as sex slaves to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. (City of Glendale / July 30, 2013)

Despite a last-minute protest lobby that involved thousands of emails, Glendale at noon today will become the first West Coast city to dedicate a public memorial to sex slaves who served the Japanese army during World War II.

The 1,100-pound statue of a woman in Korean dress sitting next to an empty chair was installed in Central Park despite a last minute attempt by opponents -- based mostly in Japan -- who contend the so-called "comfort women" from Korea, China, Indonesia and other occupied countries during the war willingly worked as prostitutes.

Glendale has two "sister city" relationship in South Korea, and according to the latest U.S. Census data, 5% of its population is of Korean descent. Supporters of comfort women monument say it's an important memorial to the wartime suffering of between 100,000 and 200,000 Asian women and girls who were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army.

Opposition to the project had been muted until just weeks before the dedication, but by then the statue was already en route and the City Council had all but finalized the deal.

The $30,000 for the statue was raised by Korean community groups, which have vowed to erect similar monuments in other cities. An effort to install a replica statue in Buena Park, though, recently stalled after the City Council there was also pummeled with form letter emails opposing the proposal.

Staff writer Brittany Levine contributed reporting, as did Carol J. Williams at the L.A. Times.

- Jason Wells, jason.wells@latimes.com

Follow on FacebookGoogle+ and on Twitter:@JasonBretWells.

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