U.S. top court dismisses appeal over ‘comfort women’ statue in Calif

U.S. House of Representatives member Mike Honda (far L, front) raises his voice against moves to remove a statue symbolizing women procured for the Japanese military’s wartime brothels, in Glendale, near Los Angeles, on March 7, 2017. (Kyodo)

LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) — The U.S. Supreme Court on March 27 rejected an appeal filed by Japanese Americans seeking removal of a statue in California symbolizing women who were forced to work in wartime Japanese brothels.

The decision came despite the Japanese government’s opinion presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in February asking it to hold hearings on the suit seeking the removal of the so-called “comfort women” statue.

The Japanese government’s top spokesman said March 28 in Tokyo that the movement to install the statue “conflicts with Japan’s position and is highly regrettable.”

“We have been appropriately explaining (the “comfort women” issue) to those involved and seeking their understanding about the Japanese government’s basic stance and its efforts, and we want to continue with this approach,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

The statue depicting a young woman in traditional Korean dress was erected in a park in Glendale by a group of Korean Americans and others in 2013.

The erection prompted the Japanese Americans to file a lawsuit, claiming that the installation of the monument infringes the U.S. federal government’s power to set foreign policy. After losing the first and second trials, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court in January.

The plaintiffs had also filed a similar suit at a California county court but saw their claim dismissed at the first and second trials on the grounds that removal of the statue would hurt freedom of expression.

“We will strive to realize the removal (of the statue) in a different way hereafter,” said Koichi Mera, the head of the plaintiffs, in a statement after the Supreme Court’s dismissal.

The U.S. top court’s decision came at a time when Tokyo and Seoul are embroiled in a diplomatic spat over similar statues in South Korea.

The erection of a “comfort women” statue near the Japan Consulate General in South Korea’s Busan prompted Tokyo to recall its envoy to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine in January.


  1. It should be noted that Koichi Mera is a right wing leader from Japan who claims that the “Comfort Women” were voluntary prostitutes and were not forced into sex slavery. He denies the vast volume of evidence from multiple sources including from Japanese military documents, Western observers, and the testimony of women from a dozen countries. About this lawsuit, see: https://www.forbes.com/sites/eamonnfingleton/2014/04/13/disgusting-cry-some-legal-experts-is-this-the-lowest-a-prominent-u-s-law-firm-has-ever-stooped/#3cc1690868b3 .

  2. From a purely legal standpoint, that case had no chance in court. U.S. Case law about this kind of thing is abundant and explicit, and always comes down on a broad interpretation of the 1st Amendment, which this sculpture clearly falls under.

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