SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, August 13, 2019 — The memorial for the sexual slavery victims will be built near the old site of Joseon Singung, which is the symbol of the Japanese colonial rule, located next to Namsan Library in Mt. Namsan in Seoul It is to commemorate the pain, struggles and bravery of the victims.
The life-sized memorial embodies three girls (Korea, China, the Philippines) with the height of 160cm looking straight with confidence and holding hands together, and the late former sexual slavery Haksoon Kim, who was the first to testify the sex slavery in 1991, giving them a peaceful gaze.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, and the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (“Korean Council” hereinafter) announced that they will hold an unveiling ceremony of the memorial to the public at 3pm on August 14, the memorial day for the Japanese military sexual slavery victims and the day before the National Liberation Day. The Memorial Day (August 14) is to commemorate the day (August 14, 1991) when the former late sexual slavery victim Haksoon Kim (1924~1997) first testified her experience as a sexual slavery for the Japanese army. The Memorial Day was officially designated as the national commemoration day.
The bronze statue is particularly meaningful because Korean people living in San Francisco voluntarily pulled the efforts to build it up and donated it to the Seoul Metropolitan Government. San Francisco is the first metropolitan city in the US where the memorial for sexual slavery for the Japanese army was established in 2017, letting the world know about the issue of sexual slavery during the Japanese colonial rule.
The Jin Duck & Kyung Sik Kim Foundation, a non-profit organization in California in the US in October 2012, played a significant role in establishing the memorial statue in San Francisco. The Foundation proposed donating a statue to Seoul. As such, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has worked on this project as one of its Memorial Affairs to Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of March 1st Independence Movement. With the fund raised by Koreans living in San Francisco, the bronze statue had been manufactured from last year to this June in the city, and it was shipped to Seoul via Busan port this July. The Foundation paid all the cost for manufacturing and delivery. It had played an important role in building up this memorial together with Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC). Currently, the Foundation promotes the petition campaign to make the records about the sexual slavery registered as the UNESCO Memory of the World. The organization also promoted the Dok-do Island campaign and petitioned the White House on the island issue.
The artist of the statues both in Seoul and San Francisco is Steven Whyte, an American sculptor.
The two memorials are similar in that the themes are “participation and communication” and “connection between the past and the present,” but the Seoul’s memorial has a distinctive feature. The space next to the statues of the three girls is left open. Once anyone holds the hands together, the artwork becomes fulfilled and completed. Also, it has no platform to step up so citizens can feel much closer to the issue at their eye level.
The memorial’s location itself has the meaning that visitors can remember the painful history and also can easily visit it in their daily lives. It is to help them feel closer to the issue and prevent them from forgetting the history. Around the memorial, there are Ahn Junggeun Memorial Museum and Seoul City Wall’s on-site remains museum (under construction). As such, this area is expected to a destination for history education for elementary, middle and high school students.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government finally confirmed the location of the memorial statue after going through the relevant processes including the two phases of the advisory from Seoul City Wall Committee and the deliberation of the Public Arts Committee and Urban Park Committee based on the cooperation of the Seoul Education Office, which owns the site.
For the unveiling ceremony, around 100 participants will attend it. The list includes Seoul Mayor Won-Soon Park, victims of sexual slavery for the Japanese army including Yongsoo Lee, Representative Hanil Kim and Chairman of the Board Soonran Kim of the Jin Duck & Kyung Sik Kim Foundation, former U.S. Representative Mike Honda, Co-chairs Lillian Sing and Julie Tang of the Com fort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC), Superintendent Heeyeon Cho of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, Chairman of the Board Mihyang Yoon of the CWJC, Chairman Wonchul Shin of the Seoul Metropolitan Council, Chief Director Haesung Suh, and Congressman Jonggeol Lee who first planned this project and also the grandson of Udang Heoyeong Lee, a Korean independence activist.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the CWJC will open up the online visitors’ book and attach the QR code which guide visitors with detailed information about the memorial via mobile. In addition, the city government will run a citizen-based participatory history program in combination with the Space for Memory (the site of Resident-General Office in Namsan Park), which was established as a reminder of the suffering history of sexual slavery for the Japanese army.
Korean, US, and Japanese experts about the sexual slavery victims will get together at the 2019 International Symposium of Sexual Slavery Victims for the Japanese Army on 13th August
Meanwhile, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will hold the 2019 International Symposium of Sexual Slavery Victims for the Japanese Army with the experts from Korea, US, and Japan about the sexual slavery in the grand meeting room (3F) of the main building of Seoul City Hall from 1pm to 6pm on Tuesday, August 13, a day prior to the commemoration day for the sexual slavery for the Japanese army.
In this symposium, about 150 experts, activists and researchers together with former U.S. Representative Mike Honda will share the performances and seek the ways for cooperation. Mike Honda took the lead in passing the resolution of sexual slavery issue through the House. The other 150-ish participants have made effort in recording and remembering the issue of the sexual slavery during the Japanese colonial rule and in spreading and handing it down. Under the theme of “Representation of the survivors of the sexual slavery victims for the Japanese army and spread of their testimonies: How to remember and to commemorate,” there will be two sessions and discussions. Anyone with interest can participate in the conference.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is the first local government in Korea that established an “ordinance of support for victims of sexual slavery for the Japanese army during the Japanese colonial rule.” Under this ordinance, Seoul provides the life funds for the victims. The city government also initiated the record management project about the sexual slavery and found the video clip showing the sexual slavery for the Japanese army for the first time in Korea, and discovered the fact for the first time in the world that there was Korean sexual slavery also in the Chuuk Islands of the South Pacific. As such, the city government has provided varied support for remembering and recording the suffering history of sexual slavery for the Japanese army.
Seoul Mayor Won-Soon Park said, “there is no future for the people who forget the history. The memorial statue of the victims of the sexual slavery for the Japanese army in Korea was established thanks to the voluntary funding effort and true heart of Koreans living in San Francisco. I am confident that the statues in Seoul and San Francisco will be the destination for history education. Seoul will continue its effort to remember the painful history of the sexual slavery for the Japanese army.” He added, “In addition, the connection made between the statues in San Francisco and Namsan is expected to not only promote remembering the painful history of the colonial rule, but also to signify the meaning as the channel of solidarity among citizens worldwide.”