The ‘comfort women’ sculptors aren’t done

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The ‘comfort women’ sculptors aren’t done

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Visitors place ear muffs and a wool hat on the Peace Monument across from the Japanese Embassy in Junghak-dong, central Seoul. By Kim Do-hoon


When 47-year-old Japanese right-wing activist Nobuyuki Suzuki placed a white wooden stake that read “Takeshima [Dokdo] is Japanese territory” in front of the Peace Monument near the Japanese Embassy in Junghak-dong, central Seoul, Koreans were outraged.

And when a police officer placed an umbrella on the statue of a young girl, which symbolizes Korean “comfort women” - a euphemism for women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese military - it touched Koreans’ hearts.

As a bone-chilling cold spell grips the capital, citizens have voluntarily put ear muffs and wool hats on the statue.

The Peace Monument was erected in December of last year to commemorate the 1,000th comfort women rally that has been regularly held every Wednesday. It is the work of sculptors Kim Woon-seong, 48, and Kim Seo-gyeong, 47.

The Kims, who began dating at Chung-Ang University in 1984, have been participating in many social activities with their artistic works, including the statue of Hyosun and Miseon, two girls who were run over by a U.S. tank in 2002. Woon-seong is vice chairman of the Korean People’s Artists Association.

Kim decided to create the comfort women statue after he visited the office of the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan in May of last year. The council at the time was trying to build a memorial stone to commemorate the 1,000th rally.

“I always felt sorry that I could not help them as a Korean,” the couple told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Creating the statue wasn’t easy. They said it didn’t cause any physical pain, but their hearts were torn with anguish as they concentrated on the project.

“As we focused more, the pains of those victims, some of whom were young teenagers, came into our heads,” he said. “We sometimes uttered curses as we got so angry at Japanese soldiers at the time.”

The emotions of the sculptors are reflected in the creation. Their initial design was to have the young girl’s hands folded in her lap but later changed it to clenching fists.

“We got so angry after we heard that the Japanese were opposed to the installation of the statue,” Kim Seo-gyeong told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We changed the shape of the girl’s hands after that.”

The couple plans to create additional comfort women statues next year to place overseas, including in the United States, Germany and Singapore.

They will also host an exhibition on “comfort women” at the Seoul Museum of Art in Jung District, central Seoul.

“While Korean victims are talking about peace, the Japanese who are responsible for those wrongly victimized during World War II are totally distorting history,” the couple said.

By Lee Jeong-bong [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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