WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 (Korea Bizwire) — Three years ago, a statue of a girl was brought from South Korea to Washington to raise awareness of Japan’s enslavement of Korean women in military brothels during World War II.
Despite persistent efforts by South Korean activists to get it installed, that statue has remained in a warehouse in the outskirts of the U.S. capital with no place to go.
The reason, according to the activists, is Japan’s behind-the-scenes pressure on organizations once willing to host the effigy to reject it.
But the group is determined to find the sculpture a home before the end of the year, and as a foretaste, it will show the “girl” to the public on Thursday, the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.
“Installing the girl statue is an implementation of the ‘comfort women’ resolution that passed through the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007,” said Lee Jeong-sil, head of the Washington council for “comfort women,” a euphemistic term for the sex slaves.
“The symbolism of installing it in Washington is especially large and important,” she said, adding that she can’t bear to see the statue in the warehouse any longer.
Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were mobilized to work in frontline brothels for Japanese soldiers during the war.
The comfort women issue remains a thorn in South Korea-Japan relations, and an agreement to settle it through Japan’s monetary compensation was effectively annuled by Seoul last year.
Adding to the tensions, a South Korean Supreme Court ruling ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of wartime forced labor, and led in part to the recent tit-for-tat trade war between the neighboring nations.
The council, joined by other activists, has formed a committee tasked with installing the effigy in Washington this year, although if that fails, its members are also looking at other locations near the U.S. capital.
The council would not reveal the possible locations in order to fend off any Japanese attempts to thwart the plan.
If it succeeds, there will be five girl statues symbolizing the sex slaves across the U.S., including in Glendale, California; Brookhaven, Georgia; Southfield, Michigan; and Manhattan, New York City.
In the meantime, the council will host a photo-taking event with the sculpture outside the Japanese Embassy in Washington on Thursday.
It then plans to hold the same event outside the Old Korean Legation building in Washington before moving the statue to a second warehouse, where it will remain until the council finds an installation ground.
The group added that Salisbury University in Maryland offered to host the statue in 2017. But a month before its unveiling date, the school informed the council that it was indefinitely postponing the plan.