Thursday, May 21, just a day shy of Memorial Day weekend, marked the one-year anniversary of the Comfort Women Memorial Peace Garden (CWMPG) located at the Fairfax County Government Center. The CWMPG acknowledges the thousands of women who were victims of sex trafficking during World War II. The Garden’s creation was a collaborative effort between the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, Inc. (WCCW) and Fairfax County, under the leadership of Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, “to promote human rights and more specifically to mourn and commemorate the female victims who have been traumatized by the wartime military sex slavery system during WWII.”
“Human trafficking is a serious issue on all corners of the globe, including right here in the United States and in Fairfax County,” said Chairman Bulova. “The purpose of this memorial is to commemorate the Comfort Women of World War II and draw attention to the broader issue of human trafficking occurring all over the world.”
Mike Collins, representing the office of U.S. Rep Gerry Connolly (D-11), read a letter from Connolly expressing concerns with Prime Minister Abe’s attempts to rewrite history by not directly acknowledging Japan’s involvement, despite many personal stories. For example Insook Chung, who attended the event, shared one story about a classmate that she never heard from again.
“I was in the fifth grade during the Japanese occupation, and the teacher came to class and said one person was needed to work in a factory in Japan,” she said. “We were told we would receive some form of compensation. One girl volunteered, she was 12 or 13, and never came back.”
“At the end of the day this issue is about human rights,” said Virginia Delegate, Mark Keam (D-35). “The importance of this to Fairfax County is that we’ll no longer accept history for what it was, but will stand for something righteous. Women’s rights are human rights.”
This one-year anniversary of the CWMPG celebrated the accomplishments of the WCCW in terms of establishing a place to recognize those women whose lives were forever altered. While the memorial specifically recognizes women who were victims during World War II, it is hoped that the memorial’s presence in Fairfax County will remind everyone that human trafficking cannot be ignored.
“We’re dedicated to being a place in Fairfax County where rights are honored,” said Bulova.