“Peace Monument” for former ‘comfort women’ established in front of Japanese embassy

Posted on : 2011-12-15 09:54 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The statute’s establishment was a victory for comfort women as the Japanese government continues to lobby for its removal
Peace Monument
Peace Monument

By Park Hyun-jung

A 130-cm bronze sculpture of a young girl was erected Wednesday on the road in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul's Jongno District.

The “Peace Monument” was designed to give shape to the spirit of the “comfort women” who have come to the area every Wednesday for the past twenty years to call for an apology from the Japanese government.

Dressed in a hanbok, traditional Korean outfit, the girl sits on a chair with her fists on her knees, looking quietly toward the embassy. The shadow hanging to the ground beneath the sculpture forms the shape of an elderly woman. A bird sits on the girl's left shoulder, and a butterfly is positioned on the shadow's chest. In addition to representing freedom and peace, the bird is also a spiritual bridge linking the women who have passed away with those who are still alive. The butterfly symbolizes rebirth.

Below the statute is a history of the Wednesday Demonstrations engraved in Korean, English, and Japanese. The empty chair to the girl’s right is a contribution from citizens to offer comfort to the survivors. The peace memorial was likewise made through the actions of citizens. A fundraising drive was launched on Oct. 13 of last year, at the scene of the 939rd demonstration, with over 1,400 people making donations totaling 30 million won ($25,867).

The memorial was sculpted by the husband-and-wife pair of Kim Un-seong, 47, and Kim Seo-gyeong, 46. Kim Un-seong, who had a longstanding interest in the comfort women issue, visited the offices of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery last spring and ended up taking on the project.

The couple said the four-month sculpting process was a painful one.

“I kept recalling the image of young girls being dragged away and feeling enraged,” said Kim Un-seong.

“The look in the girl’s eyes ended up being more intense than we had originally planned, but we had to suppress a lot of emotion to give her a serene feeling,” he explained.

Kim also said, “It is a tragedy that this peace memorial had to be made.”

“I hope Japanese people visiting the embassy see this memorial and think about their past history,” he added.

Despite Kim’s wishes, the Japanese government has made repeated calls for the memorial’s removal. At a press conference Wednesday morning, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Osamu Fujimura said it was “truly dismaying” that the installation was carried out and indicated that continued calls for its removal would be made to Seoul through diplomatic channels.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

Most viewed articles