BY JOE MARVILLI
A bill meant to educate youth on atrocities committed during World War II passed the State Senate last month.
State Sen. Tony Avella’s (D-Bayside) legislation to requireeducational instruction on thesevictims of the eastern theater ofWorld War II passed on June 18 by a vote of 41-18-2.
Although the State Legislature session is over for the year, Avella joined members of Korean American organizations on July 10 to press for his bill’s passage.
The legislation, numbered S7759A, would amend the State Education Law to include curriculum on violence against women during periods of armed conflict, such as the “Comfort Women.”
The Japanese Imperial Army forced these women, mostly from Korea, China and the Philippines, into sexual slavery during its occupation of those territories during World War II.
There is not an exact count of how many women were affected, with numbers ranging from the tens to hundreds of thousands.
The “Comfort Women” issue has garnered controversy due to efforts from right-wing revisionists in Japan, who argue that the women taken by the Japanese army were far fewer in number or were willing participants.
Avella said this pushback furthers the need for a factual account to students on what happened.
“It is now just as important, if not more so, to mandate an unbiased teaching of these events to our students as part of the State Education curriculum,” Avella said.
“I am now calling on the State Assembly to follow suit, whether during a special session before the year ends or in January once the new legislative session resumes.”
David Lee, president of the Korean American Public Affairs Committee, was happy to see the legislation move forward.
“This is a big milestone. There a lot of conflicts going on throughout the world but the basic foundation of protecting historic facts is to recognize and teach events of history to our students,” he said.
“This is a human life issue and we must prevent it from happening in the future.”
Korean American Parents Association member Christine Colligan added that children should understand that what happened is a violation of human rights and that the revelation of this event should not harm the relationship between South Korea and Japan.
“This issue is very important because it is a human rights violation issue.
We must teach our children about these events and allow them to understand what happened,” she said.
“Both parties should acknowledge these events so that we can learn from past mistakes made in history.”
Students also argued for the bill’s passage, with recent Francis Lewis High School graduate and President of the Korean American Young Leadership, Jae Yeong Kim, stating that history is as important a subject as math or science.
“We need to learn from our past mistakes so we do not make them again in the future.
If we only teach the positive aspects of history, and not the negative, then the students are not really learning,” he said.
The bill passed in the State Senate with all six of Avella’s fellow Queens State Senators voting in approval.
“We need to recognize these historic events for what they are – human rights violations against women,” Avella said.
“If we do not learn from our past mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them in the future.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718)357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @JoeMarvilli.