Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) officially submitted his street renaming request last Thursday for comfort women.
If approved sometime next year, the location will be on the southwest corner of Northern Boulevard and Union Street.
Comfort women is the name given to young Asian females who were forcefully taken to be used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Koo decided he wanted to pay tribute to these women after attending a symposium last December at the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives on the Bayside campus of Queensborough Community College. He was touched by their story and wanted to honor them so that future generations can learn from it.
“Although we cannot go back in time to change history and stop the barbaric acts against innocent women perpetrated by Japanese soldiers, we can honor the bravery exhibited by these women,” Koo stated in his legislative request.
One of his supporters is Arthur Flug, director of the Holocaust Research Center at QCC, who will be initiating a new internship program in September for students who wish to study in depth the events that took place during World War II and the Holocaust.
“Many of these victims are dying off; within another few years they will be gone and so will their stories,” Flug said about the few remaining comfort women.
“Many Japanese deny these events ever happened, just as the Holocaust,” Flug said. “In this way the students can study and learn while documenting their stories for the future to keep it alive.”
Flug considers the street renaming “proper” in paying respect to what the women had to endure.
Although many Korean Americans support the measure, not all are in agreement. Sunny Hahn, who is running for Assemblywoman Grace Meng’s seat as a Republican, strongly disagrees with the proposal.
“I am disturbed by the movement,” Hahn said. “Our future is to build unity in Flushing, not to bring up old dirt.”
Those issues “happened between the Koreans and Japanese years ago,” she said. “We should embrace one another now, forgive and forget our ugly pasts.”
But Koo differs. “Let us show the world that New Yorkers remember history and that we will not condemn future generations to repeat past atrocities,” he stated in his legislation request.