Back in February, we covered a lawsuit filed by Mayer Brown that some critics called “disgusting” and “despicable.” The case challenges the placement of a memorial for World War II “comfort women” in a public park in Glendale, California — partly on administrative procedure grounds, and partly because the memorial allegedly “presents an unfairly one-sided portrayal of the historical and political debate surrounding comfort women.”
Filing a lawsuit that effectively seeks to deny the historical phenomenon of the comfort women — women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II — didn’t go over too well in many quarters. And now the case is back in the news, surely to Mayer Brown’s chagrin….
Several readers drew our attention to this Forbes article by Eamonn Fingleton, an Asia expert who lived in Tokyo for some 27 years. Much of what Fingleton discusses appeared in our February story — a long and detailed post, which you should read if you haven’t done so already — but his piece does contain some additional material.
First, Fingleton does a nice job of describing the historical background surrounding the comfort-women controversy. Second, he spoke with one of the plaintiffs:
I reached Michiko Shiota Gingery by phone and asked her whether she really believes the comfort women are lying. In avoiding the question, she argued that the memorial had no place in America and should be located instead in Korea or Japan. This echoed an opinion voiced by other opponents of the memorial but it seems a bit selective. The fact is that ethnic Koreans constitute a significant minority in Glendale and it is not unusual for other ethnic groups to erect monuments remembering past injustices. If Wikipedia is to be relied on, there are 45 memorials to the Jewish Holocaust alone in the United States, sixteen to the Irish famine, and six to the Ottoman Turks’ genocide of Armenians.
Fingleton also sought comment from Mayer Brown, but firm did not respond to him (just as the firm did not respond to us).
Why did Mayer Brown take the case? As I noted in my earlier write-up, it’s not the kind of case that a firm like Mayer would typically handle. Fingleton quotes with approval from a Popehat commenter: “Mayer Brown has a heavy practice in Asia…. They are probably either doing this as a favor to a large client, or trying to expand their Asia presence to Japan.”
We’d love to get to the bottom of this mystery. If you have information about why Mayer is messing with this matter, feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477). Domo arigato.