[FOUNTAIN]Statuesque achievementsIf Gwanghwamun is the heart of Seoul, London’s heart is Piccadilly Circus. The junction is a cultural center, with theaters and playhouses.
In Piccadilly Circus, there is a small fountain erected in 1893, topped with a statue of an angel with a bow. Londoners call it “Eros,” and treasure it as a symbol of London. The statue is a landmark that never fails to appear in tour guides. The local daily Evening Standard features Eros in its logo. While the name is after Eros, the god of love in Greek mythology, the statue, in fact, represents Eros’ brother Anteros, the Angel of Christian Charity and the personification of unrequited love.
The fountain and the statue is a memorial for Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, a well-known philanthropist of the Victorian era. Lord Shaftesbury was devoted to the welfare movement for child laborers at factories. When he first became a Tory MP at age 25, children could work for any factory regardless of age, and the Factory Act only ordered that they work no more than 12 hours a day. Thanks to Lord Shaftesbury’s efforts, the labor of children under age 10 was legally banned in the late 19th century, and children between age 10 and 14 were not allowed to work more than half the labor hours of the adults.
According to the “The Worst Jobs in History” by Tony Robinson, 19th century children were mainly employed to crawl under the spinning machines and clean up to prevent moving machine parts from collecting dust. The job was hard and dangerous and was considered the worst working conditions at the time. Lord Shaftesbury was a pioneer in the children’s welfare movement, and deserves to be commemorated with a landmark at the center of the capital.
Koreans also take pride in a man who advocated the rights of children.
In 1923, Bang Jeong-hwan designated Children’s Day. The first international organization to raise the need to protect the children was the League of Nations, which adopted the declaration of the rights of the child in September 1924. Mr. Bang was a year ahead.
In a pamphlet he distributed on the first Children’s Day, he asked the adults “not to look down on the children, but look up on them,” and told the children to “always witness the sun rising and setting.” His requests still warm our hearts with love and respect for children. On the occasion of the 84th Children’s Day, I wonder why there hasn’t yet been any discussion to build his statue in the heart of Seoul, right at the Gwanghwamun junction.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.