National / Politics

Statues honoring Korean, Chinese 'comfort women' erected in Seoul

Kyodo

Civic organizations from South Korea and China have erected two statues in a park in northern Seoul to memorialize Korean and Chinese “comfort women” recruited to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

A representative of the South Korean group said similar statues will be set up in Shanghai and San Francisco.

“Diplomatic relations (with Japan) have been considered, but we concluded (the erection of such statues) are from entirely humanitarian grounds, not from political,” an official from the Seongbuk District Office said Wednesday.

The Chinese side came up with the idea to erect the statues of Korean and Chinese girls after a statue of a Korean girl was set up by a group of the women and their supporters in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in 2011.

The original plan worked out by the two sides was to set up the statues in South Korea’s second-largest city of Busan, but they failed to find an appropriate place for them.

The same South Korean sculptor who made the statue in front of the Japanese Embassy made the new Korean girl statue, while a Chinese professor from China’s Tsinghua University sculptured the Chinese girl. Both are dressed up in traditional costumes and are seated side-by-side.

“If all victims gather all together, it will be a lot bigger force,” a representative of the Chinese side said at the unveiling ceremony.

South Korea has been cautious in response to China’s call to take a joint stand on resolving matters arising from Japan’s misdeeds in the first half of the 20th century when it colonized the Korean Peninsula and invaded China.

Protestors have rallied since the early 1990s outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to demand that Japan apologize and provide compensation acceptable to the now-elderly victims.

Japan maintains that all issues of compensation involving South Korea were settled in a 1965 treaty under which the two countries’ relations were normalized.