Cumbo Remembers Comfort Women For International Women’s Day


City Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) gathered with the Coalition for Comfort Women today to welcome comfort woman survivor Yong Soo Lee to City Hall for International Women’s Day.

Lee is one of the last living survivors of female sex trafficking by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. During the war, Japan’s Imperial Government forced some 200,000 girls as young as age 13 from 36 countries across Asia into prostitution specifically at “comfort stations” for military use.

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Yong Soo Lee

Cumbo along with the Coalition for Comfort Women, composed of the Center for Asian Pacific Affairs, Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women, Korean American Association of Queens, Korean American Civic Empowerment and Pilipino American Unity for Progress, gathered to bring awareness to the issue and honor both the comfort women who are still alive, and those who have passed.

Survivors of sex trafficking by the Japanese Imperial Army are still demanding a formal apology from the Japanese government, especially from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and protesting the erasure of comfort women from Japanese history.

“Here I am at 88, still traveling the world because I will not rest until the Japanese government apologizes to me and my sisters. I am here as living proof and a witness to history. I am here to tell you because I never want to see the same thing happen to other women and our children,” said Lee.

Cumbo and the Coalition for Comfort Women are seeking justice for the survivors of sex trafficking during WWII. They feel New York City must band together with other parts of the world and urge the Japanese government to take responsibility for their actions toward the women they trafficked.

“I feel very strongly that when we don’t speak up, we give permission for greater atrocities to happen

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo talks about the plight of comfort women.
City Council Member Laurie Cumbo talks about the plight of comfort women.

. That’s why it’s important for us to be here today. That’s why it’s important that we selected International Women’s Day to be here because this is an issue that continues to impact our communities globally but also particularly women in the continent of Asia who are often trafficked right here into New York City with Queens being one of the major places where that is happening,” commented Cumbo, adding, “Our work to bring greater awareness and justice to survivors of human trafficking must continue until our global community respects and protects our mothers, daughters and sisters.”

She then went on to say, “…We’re here today really to discover new ways and other ways, more creative ways to raise our voices and to elevate this issue. So today is certainly an important day for us to begin the process of elevating this issue, and there is many more to come.”

Lee tearfully finished her speech, urging the City and other parts of the world to never forget how the Japanese government mistreated thousands of comfort women during WWII. “Japan is still denying its responsibility and saying we were not sex slaves. That’s why we still have the same tragedies happening around the world. We must never forget.”