She looks impassively forward, her expression unsmiling and determined. Her feet are bare, and on her shoulder sits a small bird.
This statue has sparked international incidents, threatened trade deals, and exposed deep and bitter rifts between Japan and South Korea that go back more than seven decades.
The first iteration of the statue was unveiled in 2011, outside Japan’s embassy in Seoul, sparking objections and demands that it be removed from the Japanese.
Japan also halted talks on a planned currency swap and delayed high-level economic dialogue as part of an “initial” response to the statue, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
The statue was erected by a civil group in December to remember “comfort women,” women and girls forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Its inspiration, artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung told CNN, dates to previous Japanese criticism of a planned memorial.
Initially, they had intended to create a memorial stone for the 1000th Wednesday Demonstration — weekly protests that have been held by surviving “comfort women” outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul since 1992.
“But we heard that the Japanese government was against the memorial stone being built, and this offended us as artists,” Kim Seo-kyung said
The memorial stone plan was replaced by a “statue of peace,” the first of which was erected opposite the Seoul embassy, staring at its doors.
“If the Japanese government didn’t react so excessively, it would probably have just been a small memorial stone,” she said.
There are now dozens of the statues in Korea, and six in other countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, according to the artists.
To this end, the report said, the Japanese army began recruiting women, by deception, coercion and force, for its brothels.
“A large number of the women victims speak of violence used on family members who tried to prevent the abduction of their daughters and, in some cases, of being raped by soldiers in front of their parents before being forcibly taken off.”
Compensation and apology
Following Japan’s surrender in 1945 and the end of World War II, the complaints of “comfort women” victims went largely unheard.
In addition, the two governments would “refrain from criticizing and blaming each other in the international society, including the United Nations,” officials said.
For his part, Kim Eun-sung is stunned by what he regards as Japanese overreaction.
“Which part of a statue of a girl is harming Japan? It’s a statue with a message of peace and for the rights of women,” he said.
He never expected the statue, which was commissioned by a local Busan civic group and paid for with donations, to cause a diplomatic incident.
“It’s something unprecedented, where the Japanese government is interfering so much with (Korean) people setting up a statue in our own country,” Kim said.
In a statement, the group which commissioned the statue said it was installed “in order to request an official apology and legal compensation for Japan’s colonial rule and war crimes, and also to discard the (2015) ‘comfort women’ agreement.”
NewsCO World & Australian News, Sport, MMA & More