Two members of the “Japanese Women for Justice and Peace” organization showed up at the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival on Sunday, March 25, to pass out pamphlets and denounce the city’s decision to erect a controversial “comfort women” monument in the city.

Yumiko Yamamoto, the executive director of the group, flew from Japan to attend the festival. She has been tied to Zaitokukai, named by Japanese police as an anti-Korean extremist group, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. Yamamoto said she has not been affiliated with the Zaitokukai organization since 2011.

With her was Shizuko Culpepper of Duluth, also a member of the Japanese Women for Justice and Peace. Japanese Women for Justice and Peace is a nonprofit organization of Japanese women from around the world.

Yumiko Yamamoto of Japan takes video of the memorial in Blackburn Park on March 25. She is the director of a Japan-based organization that denies ‘comfort women’ were sexually trafficked by the Japanese military during World War II. (Dyana Bagby)

The statue, depicting a girl seated next to an empty chair, is intended to honor the so-called comfort women, who were sexually trafficked by the Japanese military during World War II. It is identical to several similar statues installed around the world as part of a cultural and political dispute between South Korea and Japan over “comfort women” history and responsibility.

The women reiterated an argument backed by the Japanese government that comfort women were not sex slaves trafficked by the Japanese military during World War II but rather well-paid prostitutes who worked to support their families. They said the monument is “Japan-bashing.” They did not stay long at the festival because of the cold temperatures on March 25 and only handed out a few pamphlets titled “What is ‘Comfort Women’ Basic Facts.”

Yamamoto said they intend to continue putting pressure on the city to remove the statue but did not describe any serious strategy to do so.

Yamamoto has said in the past she is responsible for email campaigns that bombard elected officials who erect memorials in their communities.

Yamamoto said she asked to speak to members of the City Council during her visit but did not hear any response.

There is no indication from city officials the city plans to remove the statue.

Yamamoto also said she planned to meet with a staff member of the Japanese consul general’s staff during her stay. Consul Tomoko Ohyama said the office does not disclose its activities and declined to comment if there was a meeting with Yamamoto.

Councilmember John Park, who initiated bringing the memorial to Brookhaven after the Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta backed out of an agreement to place it on its property, declined to comment. Helen Kim Ho, spokesperson for the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force, which commissioned the monument, also declined comment.

Correction and clarification: Yumiko Yamamoto says she has not been affiliated with the Zaitokukai organization since 2011. Shizuko Culpepper of Duluth has no affiliation with Zaitokukai and is only a member of the Japanese Women for Justice and Peace.

The Reporter apologizes for the error.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.

5 replies on “Protestors denounce ‘comfort women’ memorial during Brookhaven festival”

  1. Yamamoto is not just merely “tied” to an anti-Korean extremist group: she was the Vice President and Secretary General of Zaitokukai when its members showed up outside a Korean elementary school in Kyoto, banging on its gate, demanding entry while shouting at grade school children “you are children of North Korean spies,” “humans and Koreans can’t negotiate because only humans can negotiate with each other,” among other things.

    In 2012 Yamamoto resigned from her positions in Zaitokukai to focus on her current group, but not out of disagreement with the ideology or tactic of Zaitokukai. In her 2014 book, she explains that Zaitokukai had grown so much that she felt comfortable leaving it to others while she focuses on her new endeavor–promoting extremist revisionist views on the “comfort women” issue.

    In fact, her new group continues to spread anti-Korean extremist rhetoric, for example by submitting a letter to the United Nations Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) titled “Hate speech masquerading as Anti-Hate speech by privileged Korean Residents in Japan,” which alleges that Koreans living in Japan enjoy special privileges over Japanese nationals, which is the core (and unfounded) talking point of Zaitokukai.

  2. If the Center for Civil and Human Rights turned it down it probably doesn’t belong anywhere. I don’t care for the statue. I think it should probably go!

  3. The article reads the claim the Comfort Women were well-paid prostitutes is backed by the Japanese government. The article failed to mention it is also backed up by the United States Army during World War Two. In 1944 the U.S. Army captured, not rescued some of these Comfort Women. In the Army’s report number 49 detailing the interrogation of these women wrote they were “well-paid prostitutes. So when one writes backed by the Japanese government backed by the U.S. Army should also be included.

    1. It is inappropriate to say that this monument “is intended to honor the so-called comfort women.” The phrasing implies that these women were not prisoners of war forced to engage in non-consensual sex. The only people who deny that the comfort women were prisoners are right-wing nationalists and hate groups.

      The good people of Japan have recognized the wrongs done by the Japanese Army and Navy during World War II. In addition to Korea, other women who were imprisoned and forced into sexual servitude were from China, the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, East Timor, the Netherlands, and Australia.

      Unfortunately people like Tony Marano frequently comment on Brookhaven’s comfort women memorial even though he is not from Brookhaven and does not represent the views of the people who live here. Marano (his not-at-all-creepy nickname is “Texas Daddy” in Japan) is supported by Japanese right-wing nationalists in an effort to deny the reality of these war crime victims.

      He has given false testimony at city council meetings, railing against Obama’s “plot to turn America in to a Muslim nation” and insulting Koreans who “eat dogs off the street.”

      To be clear: a prisoner, by definition, cannot consent to sex with their captors. It is embarrassing that Brookhaven has not loudly and strongly stopped these rape-deniers from gaining traction with their dishonesty.

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