Group pushes defector statue at Chinese Mission
A civic group working for North Korean defectors’ human rights is at odds with the South Korean government over a statue honoring a young female North Korean defector to be erected in front of the Chinese Embassy in Jongno, central Seoul.
Controversy began between the two bodies when the civic group, Christians for Social Responsibility, which includes defectors who have settled in the South, officially expressed intentions to erect the statue as a means to protest against China’s policy of forced repatriation of North Korean refugees.
“There were many opinions that we [the civic group] should install a statue representing North Korean defectors to commemorate the 200th weekly protest [in front of the Chinese Embassy], just like how the Peace Monument was installed in front of the Japanese Embassy [in Seoul] commemorating the 1,000th protest [against Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women],” said Kim Kyu-ho, the group’s secretary general, on Wednesday.
The Peace Monument is a sculpture of a teenage Korean girl representing former “comfort women,” a euphemism for Korean women forced into sexual slavery during World War II.
“Immediately after we announced the plan [in September], the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the National Intelligence Service and the National Police Agency requested that we reconsider it,” Kim said.
Kim, who had proposed the idea in September, plans to erect the statue at this year’s last weekly protest, to be held on Dec. 26 in front of the Chinese Embassy.
The girl, named Kim Han-mi, was forcibly dragged out from a Japanese consulate in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang with her mother by local border guards after they fled from the dictatorial regime.
In order for the group to erect the statue, it needs to collect 8 million won ($7,323). So far, it has gathered 700,000 won, according to Kim.
Seoul’s foreign ministry is expressing concern that erecting the statue in front of the Chinese Embassy could ignite a diplomatic rift in Korea-China relations, which celebrated 20 years of ties in August.
“Chinese ambassador to South Korea Zhang Xinsen has expressed concerns multiple times after hearing about the plan that it will become a symbol that destroys friendly Korea-China ties,” said a government official.
Another high-level government official in Seoul said, “The primary contributor to the defector problem is North Korea. The issue should be handled differently from the issue related to Japan [and the erection of the Peace Monument],” the official said.
By Lee Won-jean, Lee Eun-joo [email@example.com]