Bronze statues of two young girls, representing Chinese and Korean women, have been erected in Seoul to solemnly memorialize the tragic history of “comfort women” during World War II.
A studio in Gyeonggi, South Korea deliberately depicted the girls to be around 14 years old to illustrate the tender age at which many of the women were forced into military brothels established by the Imperial Japanese Army. Each girl wears the traditional clothing of their respective countries. The life-sized statues will be placed in a park near Seoul National University.
The artists behind the statue of the Korean girl are a Korean couple named Kim Un Seng and Kim Suk Jeong . Likewise the Chinese work is made by a Chinese professor, Pan Yiqun of China’s Tsinghua University, in collaboration with project’s founder, filmmaker Shi Yong.
Shi Yong explained that his inspiration for the project came from the moment that he saw a similar statue of a girl that currently stands symbolically in front the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
“I was touched by the way that the Korean artists reflected on the brutal history,” he said, adding how moved he was by the incredible amount of horror that the statue represented.
On returning to China, he approached his friend Pan to discuss the possibility of undertaking the project. With Pan on board, the two went back to South Korea and managed to enlist the help of Kim Un Seng and Kim Suk Jeong to sculpt the statue of the Korean girl. Together the artists decided to have the works placed in Seoul.
The use of “comfort women” affected the lives of thousands of women across China and Korea. The statues’ creation comes just after UNESCO declined to add “comfort women” documents to the Memory of the World register while agreeing to add documents dealing with the Nanjing Massacre. Japan has protested vehemently against the Nanjing Massacre documents being included, even threatening to cut its funding of UNESCO.
Two years ago, Japanese politician and mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, publicly claimed that “comfort women” were “necessary” for Japanese soldiers during WWII. These were his words:
In the circumstances in which bullets are flying like rain and wind, the soldiers are running around at the risk of losing their lives. If you want them to have a rest in such a situation, a comfort women system is necessary. Anyone can understand that.
By Daniel Paul