GLENDALE ( — A memorial honoring the more than 200,000 Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during World War II has stirred controversy in Glendale.

The city dedicated a bronze statue to the so-called “comfort women” at the Central Library on East Harvard Street, which makes it the only monument of its kind in the Western United States.

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Although the Japanese government issued a formal apology about the ordeal in 1993, there are those in the government today who downplay what happened.

Councilman Frank Quintero, who spearheaded the monument, said he was stunned by the outpouring of hateful emails he received from some people.

“We took criticism from Japanese nationals that I term ‘nationalist right-wingers in Japan,’ but the bulk of the Japanese-American population supports us,” he said.

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Bok-Dong Kim, 87, was taken by Japanese soldiers from her home in Korea when she was 15. For the next five years, she was forced to live as a sex slave.

Through an interpreter, she said she was honored to be in Glendale and humbled by the fact that a city would recognize what so many women went through so long ago.

“I am so grateful. I am very appreciative,” said Kim.

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KCAL9’s Dave Lopez reported that approximately 91 “comfort women” are still alive.