Memorial honoring Korean ‘comfort women’ unanimously defeated by Aurora City Council

A proposal of a “comfort women” memorial was unanimously defeated by Aurora City Council Monday. Such memorials have becoming increasingly controversial across the country, as they symbolize seven decades of tension between Japan and South Korea. Image via City of Aurora

AURORA | David Oh has a clear vision for a “Statue of Peace” memorial on Aurora city grounds, but it won’t likely ever materialize.

He envisions a girl dressed in a hanbok, a traditional Korean dress, sits on a chair with a bird perched on her shoulder. Her hair is cropped short and she has a look of determination in her forward gaze. Her fists are clenched and there’s an empty chair beside her. 

Oh, who represents the recently-established So Nyeo Sang Foundation in Colorado, submitted the proposal for the memorial to the city, hoping it would find a place somewhere in the shadow of the Aurora Municipal Center. The statue is nearly identical to  memorials in in Berlin and Atlanta that honor Korean women who were sex slaves to the Japanese military in World War II. 

The Aurora City Council, which is tasked with approving such memorials in the city, defeated the “Statue of Peace” during a Monday study session, saying little about the issue or the reasoning for voting the proposal down, but comfort women memorials have become controversial across the country in recent years.

The statues are increasingly a symbol of dispute between South Korea and Japan, which haven’t been able to come to an agreement on the details regarding sex slaves during the war. 

In 2017, Japan filed a brief supporting the removal of a comfort women statue in Glendale, California, and the mayor of Osaka, Japan cut sister cities ties with San Francisco after the city decided to allow a statue there.

“The memorials have attracted a wide-range of community response including peaceful and antagonistic free speech events, vandalism, Asian hate, and legal action requesting removal,” city staff wrote to city council members about the local proposal.  “The City of Aurora is the most culturally diverse community in Colorado with many Asian citizens. The memorial represents an unresolved dispute between South Korea and Japan. Based on this information the Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Department believes the memorial placement on city-owned property is not a compatible use.”

The city has taken extra steps to prevent Asian hate over the course of the pandemic. Most recently, the council agreed to use city funds to supply Asian residents with safety kits and provide AAPI training to police. Councilmember Crystal Murillo, who spearheaded those efforts, said during the Monday meeting that while the memorial proposal has been struck down, Oh should continue to educate the community about comfort women.

Mayor Mike Coffman, who by charter could not vote on the matter, said there’s “no question that an extraordinary atrocity occurred during the second world war” when women were forced to “serve Japanese soldiers.”

He didn’t say whether he supported the proposal, but noted that Oh could look elsewhere for land for the tribute. Putting the statue on private land is still an option, he said.

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Joe Felice
Joe Felice
8 days ago

I’m sorry to have to say this, but I hope that Mr. Oh realizes we have MANY people and causes that need to be memorialized, but this one doesn’t rise to the top. Something needs to be installed in that vast wasteland of grass that is west of the the City building that is already itself a monument to the Tauer family, and that something is a parking lot, which used to be there. We, the citizens, paid to have the parking lot removed and then another built on the other side of the street. When we are discussing the wasteful spending by the City, this is a perfect example.

Also, we must understand that this space wouldn’t be able to hold the clutter that would result if everyone’s idea of a monument were allowed to be put there, and that the citizens of Aurora shouldn’t be asked to pay for them.

Karen Smith
Karen Smith
8 days ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

I mean, you don’t have to say it, because it’s not going to happen.

7 days ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

The memorial would’ve been paid by the So Nyeo Sang Foundation. The issue isn’t money. The issue is that Japan denies its war atrocities unlike Germany. Imagine if Germany went around sending diplomats to Holocaust or WWII memorials around the world claiming it’s “controversial”. That’s what Japan is doing. No one would put up with that kind of neo Nazi craziness in 2021 but apparently Aurora, Co doesn’t have the moral fortitude to stand up to even the possibility of offending Japanese neo-fascist types who in 2021 still think the Japanese Emperor being worshipped as a divine being and the Japanese Empire modeling itself after Nazi Germany and thinking itself a divine race destined to rule the world including the US during WWII was a great idea. Why does Aurora, CO have to accommodate Japanese war atrocity deniers?? Japanese cabinet members have been caught wearing swatstikas, the Nazi kind and not the Buddhist kind. Colorado has memorials to Christopher Columbus who discovered the Caribbeans as an Italian sailing for Spain and a memorial to Armenian Genocide. Italian Americans and Armenian Americans live in Colorado. Korean Americans live here too.

Last edited 7 days ago by John