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Osaka Mayor to San Francisco: We're Done

Japanese city outraged at statue depicting 'comfort women' during WWII
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2018 10:20 AM CDT
In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, people move in to take a closer look at the "Women's Column of Strength" monument after it was unveiled in San Francisco.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

(Newser) – San Francisco has nearly 20 "sister cities" worldwide, fostering goodwill through cultural, educational, and economic exchanges. Osaka was its first, but after more than 60 years—and months of the Japanese city threatening to cut ties—it looks like the split is happening. "I have arrived at the conclusion that the continuation of the sister city relations is no longer possible," Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura wrote in a letter to San Francisco Mayor London Breed, per the San Francisco Chronicle. At the heart of the rift: the "Women's Column of Strength" statue in San Francisco's St. Mary's Square, which pays tribute to "comfort women," the hundreds of thousands of women from China, Korea, and other nations who provided sexual services to Japanese service members in WWII.

Since the statue—which shows three young girls standing in a circle, holding hands—went up last year, it's been vandalized a few times, reports the San Francisco Examiner. Yoshimura had made moves in November to start the termination, but then-San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died in December, throwing things off. Yoshimura had asked Lee, as well as Breed, to remove the statue; both said no. Lillian Sing, co-chair of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, tells the Examiner that the cities' breakup is "outrageous" and that "it shows how afraid the Osaka mayor and Japanese prime minister are of truth and are trying to deny history." Yoshimura says he'll consider sister-city status again if the statue is excised, per Al Jazeera. (Read more comfort women stories.)

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