5/20/15 - Korean American Forum of California Amicus Brief

Korean American Forum of California Amicus Brief

On May 20, 2013, the Korean American Forum of California filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a brief supporting the City of Glendale's right to put up memorials honoring victims of human rights abuses. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Michiko Gingery, Koichi Mera, and the Global Alliance for Historical Truth, challenged Glendale's ability to place a memorial to survivors of sexual slavery during World War II in Glendale's Central Park, saying that memorials referencing events abroad impermissibly infringed on the federal government's power over foreign affairs. Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their case in the district court. The amicus brief filed by the Korean American Forum of California points out that local governments have the traditional authority to commemorate atrocities and express their views about human rights.

This lawsuit would affect not just Glendale but other cities with memorials or statues that could arguably concern foreign policy. For example, Montebello has a memorial to survivors of the Armenian Genocide. And Los Angeles has a statue called the "Friendship Knot" that symbolizes friendship with Japan. The Plaintiffs' challenge in this case would keep cities from putting up any such statue that arguably expresses any view about foreign policy. Such an argument would greatly restrict the current scope of authority of local governments.

As the Korean American Forum of California points out in their brief, federal foreign policy does not conflict with this memorial. In fact, as the district court found below when dismissing the case, the memorial echoes the words of House Resolution 121, which passed in 2007. That resolution condemned the atrocities suffered by the so-called "comfort women"-- Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch women who were kidnapped and held in captivity by the Japanese military, and subjected to rape, assault, torture, and other abuses in "comfort stations". It also called on Japan and its prime minister not to undermine 1993 statements by Chief Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledging these atrocities but instead to formally apologize for what happened to these women.