Ac­tivists: re­move link in “com­fort women” lessons

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Ac­tivists in Cal­i­for­nia are de­mand­ing that the Cal­i­for­nia Board of Ed­u­ca­tion re­move a “mis­lead­ing” link in its re­cently ap­proved cur­ricu­lum that in­cludes teach­ing about “com­fort women” of World War II.

Cal­i­for­nia, after New Jersey in 2004, is the sec­ond state in the US to in­clude the topic of “com­fort women” in the his­tory-so­cial sci­ence frame­work for pub­lic schools, which pro­vides guid­ance to teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors and pub­lish­ers.

“Even though we thank the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion for in­clud­ing the cur­ricu­lum, we think it’s very, very wrong to sneak in the link,” said Lil­lian Sing, a re­tired San Fran­cisco Su­pe­rior Court judge and cochair of the Com­fort Women Jus­tice Coali­tion, a San Fran­cisco-based ad­vo­cacy group for “com­fort women”.

The link she re­ferred to is to an agree­ment be­tween Ja­pan and South Korean in De­cem­ber last year, un­der which Ja­pan pledged to pay 1 bil­lion yen (about $8.3 mil­lion) from its state funds to build a “com­fort women” foun­da­tion in South Korea, and Seoul, in re­turn, agreed on a “fi­nal and ir­re­versible” res­o­lu­tion on the war­time sex slav­ery is­sue.

The ac­tivists ob­jected to the in­clu­sion of the deal, ar­gu­ing that the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion vi­o­lated due process and trans­parency by “sneak­ing some­thing in” at the last minute after the pe­riod of pub­lic com­ments was over.

“They sneaked in a link that they claimed was an agree­ment be­tween Ja­pan and South Korea as if the is­sue was re­solved,” said Sing, adding that the “com­fort women” is­sue in­volves not only South Korea but other coun­tries such as China, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines.

Julie Tang, an­other re­tired judge and co-chair of the Com­fort Women Jus­tice Coali­tion, told re­porters on Sept 16 in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, that the prob­lem was “lack of no­tice”, which is a vi­o­la­tion of the US Con­sti­tu­tion and “se­cret be­hind closed-door cham­bers”.

“By that time, the pub­lic had no chance to protest or give in­for­ma­tion to con­vince the com­mis­sion­ers to vote against that,” she said. “So with­out the in­for­ma­tion, the com­mis­sion­ers voted unan­i­mously on the cur­ricu­lum frame­work along with this link.”

The ac­tivists said that they were told the for­eign govern­ments con­tacted Tom Adams, deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of the In­struc­tion and Learn­ing Sup­port Branch at the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, to put the agree­ment in the cur­ricu­lum. Adams couldn’t be reached for com­ment.

“I think the judges are right. There’s a vi­o­la­tion of process,” said Con­gress­man Mike Honda, who joined the ac­tivists at the press con­fer­ence. “(If) The Ja­panese govern­ment wants to con­tinue the is­sue, then they should stand in the line and fol­low our process here, but not do it un­der a cloak of se­crecy.”

He en­cour­aged the pub­lic to write to the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion and state Su­per­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic In­struc­tion Tom Tor­lak­son to re­view the sit­u­a­tion and re­move the link from the books.

The Ja­panese-South Korean deal im­me­di­ately sparked de­bate after it was an­nounced last year, as ac­tivists called it “nar­row” and “lim­ited” and crit­i­cized the two govern­ments for fail­ing to con­sult the vic­tims.

Among the ac­tivists is Yong-Soo Lee, 89, a South Korean “com­fort woman” sur­vivor. She joined Honda and the ac­tivists to protest the board, in­clud­ing the agree­ment in the new cur­ricu­lum.

“I am the liv­ing proof of his­tory. I’m tes­ti­fy­ing what I ex­pe­ri­enced and what I saw my­self,” Lee said through a trans­la­tor.

LIA ZHU / CHINA DAILY

From left: Phyl­lis Kim, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Korean Amer­i­can Fo­rum of Cal­i­for­nia; Julie Tang, re­tired judge and co-chair, Com­fort Women Jus­tice Coali­tion; Yong-Soo Lee, Korean “com­fort woman” sur­vivor; Lil­lian Sing, re­tired Judge and co-chair, Com­fort Women Jus­tice Coali­tion, and US Con­gress­man Mike Honda, chair emer­i­tus, Con­gres­sional Asian Pa­cific Amer­i­can Cau­cus, at a press con­fer­ence on Sept 16 in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia.

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