US groups condemn Osaka mayor for cutting sistrubber bracelet bandser city ties with San Francisco

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A view of the "Comfort Women" Column of Strength statue on October 3, 2018 in San Francisco, California. [Photo/VCG]

SAN FRANCISCO - Representatives from diverse communities in San Francisco on Wednesday gathered in front of a "comfort women" memorial, criticizing Japanese Osaka mayor"s decision to sever the 61-year-old sister city relationship with the city.

The memorial statue has sparked protest from the Japanese right-wing groups even before it was installed at St. Mary Square in San Francisco last September.

The most pronounced opposition came from Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura, who had written numerous letters to San Francisco mayor, requesting to have the memorial removed.

In August, he threatened to cut the ties if San Francisco"s new Mayor London Breed didn"t respond by the end of September.

The Japanese city on Tuesday announced that it had terminated the sister city relationship with San Francisco in protest of the statue in honor of "comfort women".

"It is unfortunate that Mayor Yoshimura no longer wishes to maintain ties between the governments of San Francisco and Osaka," said Mason Lee, a communications officer of Breed"s office.

"We will remain sister cities via the people-to-people ties maintained by our San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Committee and their counterparts in Osaka," he said.

The statue, called "Column of Strength", depicts a grandmother looking up at three Asian girls standing on a pedestal and holding hands together. They represent hundreds of thousands of girls and women who were kidnapped and forced into prostitution by the Japanese imperial military during World War II.

Judith Mirkinson, president of Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC), a San Francisco-based grass-roots organization, said the Osaka mayor"s action was "outrageous". Her organization, composed of more than 30 groups, is responsible for the installment of the statue.

"What is the basis of this? The basis is that he doesn"t like the statue," said Mirkinson. "He is re-victimizing these women by saying their experiences don"t count. We want to tell the mayor of Osaka that we will never stop fighting for justice".

Since the Osaka City announced the severance of the sister city relationship, the CWJC has received a great deal of responses from their international friends, especially citizen friends from Osaka, said Lillian Sing, co-chair the CWJC and a retired judge of San Francisco Superior Court.

The Forum of Osaka, which consists of 19 separate organizations in Osaka, wrote in an email sent to the CWJC, "The mayor who engages internationally in such a shameful manner lacks the required baseline qualification to host the world expo," an international event to be held in 2025, and Osaka is among three candidate cities hoping to host the grand gathering.

The action of Osaka mayor was exactly the opposite to the concept of the World Expo which is supposed to generate support and cooperation as well as mending problems and challenges, said Julie Tang, co-chair of the CWJC and also a retired judge of the San Francisco Superior Court.

"This capricious act by 42-year-old Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura will not hurt nation brand Korea or nation brand America, but he is hurting city brand Osaka," said an article on The Japan Times, a well-read newspaper in Japan, in November last year.

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