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  • Memorial Statue for Comfort Women Erected on Namsan Mountain, Seoul, a Place that Still Holds Painful Memories of the Japanese Occupation

  • SMG 1987

    To commemorate the pain, struggle and courage of the women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese forces, a memorial statue was erected near the former site of a Japanese imperial shrine on Namsan Mountain (beside the Namsan Library, 100-266, Hoehyeon-dong 1-ga), a place where the pain of Japan’s atrocities can be felt to this day.

    This memorial for comfort women is a 160-centimeter-tall life-size statue of three girls (each from Korea, China, and the Philippines) facing forward and holding hands next to a statue of the late Kim Hak-sun, who in 1991 became the first woman to publicly testify about sex slavery during the Japanese Occupation, portrayed looking at the three girls with calm eyes.

    At the inauguration ceremony, held on August 14, a day before the National Liberation Day, the memorial statue for victims of the Japanese sexual slavery was unveiled to the public. The Japanese Military Comfort Women Memorial Day (August 14) was designated as a national memorial day to commemorate the date on which the late Kim Hak-sun (1924-1997) first denounced the brutalities suffered by comfort women on August 14, 1991.

    What makes the memorial statue installed on Namsan Mountain more meaningful is that it was donated by the Korean residents in San Francisco, the first metropolitan city in the US to erect a memorial statue for comfort women, in 2017, to raise awareness on the issue of comfort women around the world.

    Steven Whyte, the American sculptor who created the memorial statue established in San Francisco, was also behind the memorial statue installed in Seoul.

    The memorial statues in San Francisco and Seoul are similar in that they embody “participation and communication” and “solidarity between the past and the present,” transcending the borders of nationalities and generations. However, the one in Seoul is different in that the circle formed by the girls is open, leaving room for visitors to join hands with them to complete the work. In addition, to help visitors feel closer to and better remember the issue of comfort women, the one in Seoul was installed without a base, to match the eye level of the citizens.

    The vicinity of the former site of the Japanese imperial shrine was chosen as the location because Namsan Mountain is a historic place that holds the painful memory of the Japanese occupation and is frequented by citizens, making it suitable to invite citizens to remember the pain suffered by the victims of Japanese sexual slavery.