Less than a week after the city of Brookhaven unveiled a statue memorializing the Comfort Women of World War II, it has announced it will move the one-ton statue to a new location.
On Wednesday Brookhaven City Council said it will move the memorial to Blackburn Park, one of the city’s main recreation areas, from a smaller nearby park known as Blackburn II.
“We want to better accommodate those who wish to visit the statue,” Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst said, in a statement. “Blackburn Park will offer more space, more parking and a more accessible location for what is surely to become a landmark in our city.”
The city received complaints from neighbors of the three-acre Blackburn II, which is surrounded by residences and has limited parking. The 51-acre Blackburn Park includes ball-fields and tennis courts and has designated parking. It is also a well-known destination in the area.
Around 300 people attended the unveiling of the statue on a rainy June 30, including Il-Chul Kang, a survivor of the “comfort women” era, who flew from Korea to be part of the ceremony.
The statue is a memorial to the thousands of women and girls from Korea and other Asian countries who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army, and were euphemistically called “comfort women.”
There are about nine similar memorials in cities around the United States. This statue was originally intended for the area outside downtown’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, but those plans were changed at the last minute. Some members of the Atlanta Comfort Women Memorial Task Force suggested that pressure from the Japanese consulate might have triggered that change of heart.
Members of the consulate spoke against the statue, and members of a neighborhood association around Blackburn II told Reporter Newspapers that they might sue to stop the statue.
Brookhaven city councilman John Park acknowledged there were some complaints from neighbors of Blackburn II about the additional traffic.
“I think this was an eye-opener for them,” Helen Kim Ho, a consultant to the task force, said of the city. “We told them how a big a deal this was,” she added. “I don’t think they anticipated how much that would be the case… For us the move is a positive.”
The statue shows a seated woman, her face set in an expression of calm defiance. Next to her is an empty chair.
Park said the exact location in Blackburn Park hasn’t been chosen yet. He said the statue should be moved in the next several weeks. The cost of the move will “probably be less than $1,000.”
Why wasn’t the statue placed in the larger park to begin with? The smaller park is a more secluded location, said Park, and was considered an appropriate spot for quiet reflection.