• Commentary: Hypocrisy on Display in Brookhaven, Georgia

    Who would think that Brookhaven, Georgia would be the center of a diplomatic dispute between Japan and South Korea?  But they are.

    Brookhaven has decided to take a stand against the sexual exploitation of women by erecting a statue to honor “comfort women” who were exploited during World War II.  This town is the venue for the statue, because the town has a large Korean population and they wanted to use the city’s agreement to erect a statue to embarrass the Japanese government and Japanese people living in the area.  This issue has caused great diplomatic problems between South Korea and Japan.

    The facts of the exploitation are in dispute. According to a New York Times report from earlier this year “The issue of the women has been one of the most emotional disputes between South Korea and Japan. Historians say that at least tens of thousands of women, many of them Korean, were in the brothels from the early 1930s until 1945. A total of 238 women have come forward in South Korea, but fewer than 40 are still living, all of them in their 80s and 90s.”  This seems like an unnecessary monument for a town in Georgia.

    When you think about the exploitation of women as a national issue, it is a very important issue.  Exploitation happens with sex trafficking here in the United States today.  Yet, this statue seems like a special interest push by Korean people living in Georgia who want to use this exhibit to educate Americans about a World War II era problem.  Most Georgians would rather see a statue that hits more close to home.

    Brookhaven is the home to many Korean-Americans, yet the city seems like the wrong venue for this type of memorial because of this city’s history.  The city does not come to this controversy with clean hands.

    A town near Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, was home to a man who was arrested for allegedly engaging in human trafficking.  The man was tried and accused of recruiting women from a strip club called the Pink Pony, a strip club right in Brookhaven, then imprisoning them and forcing them into the sex trade.  The defendant argued that the women were working for him under their own free will.  No matter who you believe, many would consider the strip club and the possibility of sex for hire workers in the area to be exploitation that hits closer to home than “comfort women” from WWII.

    The town of Brookhaven sees fit to put up a statue to honor women who were sexually abused and exploited in Korea, yet they have cut a special deal with this club to operate in Brookhaven. Ironically, the city has a ban on strip clubs, yet they have made an exception for this club. Brookhaven is trying to erect statues focusing on historical issues relating to women, at the same time what about the human rights of the women in the local community?

    Korean interests in the city pressured the city to become “the first city in the Deep South to memorialize the ‘comfort women’ —  women and girls who were enslaved and sexually trafficked by the Japanese Army during World War II.”  Where is the monument to Brookhaven’s comfort women?  The hypocrisy is thick.

    Between the diplomatic problems this may cause, the conflict between individual Korean and Japanese citizens and the fact that the monument does not speak to exploitation that has happened in the city of Brookhaven – this seems like a bad idea.


    Cloakroom Confidential

    Cloakroom Confidential was a longtime Capitol Hill staffer and insider who has contacts in the House and Senate at the highest levels.

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