Image via Comfort Women Justice Coalition

Hirofumi Yoshimura, the mayor of Osaka, Japan, has officially announced that it has severed ties with sister city San Francisco following a dispute over the latter’s controversial ‘Comfort Women’ statues, unveiled in 2017.

The Column of Strength sculptures feature three women, carved in bronze, holding hands in a circle and peering into the distance. An elderly lady stands to their side.

The figures pay tribute to the thousands of women and girls who were sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army throughout World War II. These “comfort women” were subjugated into serving men at brothels located near the front lines.

Many Japanese officials argue, however, that the statistics of these approximately 200,000 “comfort women” and the harshness of their treatment during the war are exaggerated.

According to Osaka Mayor Yoshimura, the statues’ inscriptions “present uncertain and one-sided claims as historical facts,” and took to calling this information as an “interpretation.” He added that it was unfair singling out Japan for its wartime monstrosities given many other countries have also engaged in horrendous acts of war.

In a 10-page letter by Yoshimura to Mayor London Breed of San Francisco dated 2 October 2018, the Mayor of Osaka announced the “Termination of [the] Sister City Relationship.”

Yoshimura explained that in spite of multiple attempts to reach out to San Francisco’s former mayor Ed Lee, who passed away in 2017, as well as current Mayor Breed to remove Column of Strength, all efforts have appeared futile.

“[T]he very relationship of trust between our cities, which was constructed over years of friendly exchanges, has ended up declining significantly…” wrote Yoshimura, “… I have arrived at the conclusion that the continuation of sister city relations is no longer possible.”

Ex-San Francisco Superior Court judge Lillian Sing, who helped organize the installation of Column of Strength, denounced Yoshimura’s decision, saying that she was “very sadden by his actions” and that it offered “no leadership and no vision for the future “ save for his “continued denial of history.”

Jeff Cretan, spokesman for Mayor Breed, responded in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, explaining that the city’s leader was disappointed by the news. He added, however, that it was committed to the “sister city relationship that will continue between [the] San Francisco and Osaka sister city committees.”

“We want them to continue to maintain that relationship,” said Cretan, who assures that the Column of Strength statue isn’t going anywhere.

Japanese city snubs SF over 'comfort women' statue

— SFGate (@SFGate) October 3, 2018

Japan city snubs San Francisco over 'comfort women' statue

— Venezuelan in USA (@enriquito1964) October 4, 2018

Wow didn't even know about the statue of the comfort women until the news today.

— Damie Pak (@pakdamie) October 4, 2018

[via NPR and San Francisco Chronicle, main image via Comfort Women Justice Coalition]

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