Civic group in South Korea to erect statue representing victims of forced labor

Andrew Park, Aug. 4, 2017, 9:24 a.m.

A South Korean civic group said Friday it will erect a statue in a park in the city of Incheon, west of Seoul, next week to commemorate Korean victims of forced labor under Japan's colonial rule. The group is scheduled to unveil the bronze statue at the park across from what used to be an arsenal belonging to the Japanese Imperial Army on Friday next week.

It will sit next to a statue of a girl representing the victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery.

Created by sculptor Cho Won-suk, the "Hunch of Liberation" has a width of 4 meters and a height of 3 meters. It depicts two laborers -- a father and his daughter -- during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. Citizens donated 100 million won (US$89,000) to the construction of the statue.

The statue is modeled after Ji Young-rye, a survivor of forced work at an arms factory, the group said.

Representative of South Korea's two umbrella labor groups -- the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, set up a similar statue at the Tanba Manganese Memorial Hall, which is dedicated to Korean forced workers, in the Japanese city of Tanba, northern Kyoto Prefecture, in 2016. But such a statue has yet to be installed in South Korea.

The planned installation comes after South Korean civic activists moved earlier this year to erect statues symbolizing Korean victims of forced labor near Japanese diplomatic missions, which will likely be a development to irk Tokyo.

In April this year, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the civic group's move to install a statue for forced labor a "big problem," saying Tokyo has expressed a strong objection. He called on Seoul to take necessary action through diplomatic channels.

Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 during which historians say that millions of Koreans were coerced into labor. They also estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese troops during World War II.

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