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(LEAD) 'Comfort women' statues erected in China

All Headlines 15:35 October 22, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 6-7, 10-16; CHANGES dateline, photo)

SHANGHAI/HWASEONG, South Korea, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- Two statues of a Korean and Chinese girl were unveiled in China on Saturday, the first monument in China to honor the victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery, officials said.

The statues were erected inside Shanghai Normal University in the Chinese city with the help of donations from citizens of Hwaseong, a city located south of Seoul, according to the Hwaseong municipal authorities.

It is the fifth monument to be built outside of South Korea in honor of the hundreds of thousands of women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II. Most of the women were from Korea as the country was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910-45, but some of them were also brought from China, Taiwan and other nations.

The other statues have been erected in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Lee Yong-soo (C), a former "comfort woman," wipes the face of a statue representing the victims, which was unveiled at Shanghai Normal University on Oct. 22, 2016. (Yonhap)

The monument in Shanghai was unveiled during a ceremony attended by representatives from both countries, including Hwaseong Mayor Chae In-seok and the president of Shanghai Normal University.

Amid heavy rain, one South Korean and one Chinese "comfort woman" also attended the event. "Comfort women" is a euphemistic term for the victims.

"You won't be lonely anymore," said 88-year-old Lee Yong-soo from South Korea as she wiped away the rain from the statues' faces.

The statues are of a Korean and Chinese girl sitting side by side in their traditional attires. With their fists clenched, both look into the distance with no expression on their faces.

The Korean girl statue was made by a Korean artist couple, while the Chinese girl statue was made by a Chinese art professor. The same monument was built inside a park in Seoul last October.

Meanwhile, the university also opened a museum dedicated to Chinese comfort women, with displays of various historical records, photos and other items related to the atrocity. It is the first such museum to be built in China.

Shin Hye-soo, who works for an international civic group campaigning for the listing of comfort women records as UNESCO world heritage, said the museum's opening indicates China's growing interest in the issue.

"Until now, China has focused on the Nanjing massacre" by Japanese forces in 1937, she said.

A similar museum is scheduled to open in Taipei, Taiwan, next month, Shin added, expressing hope that China will also build more such museums throughout the country.

The comfort women issue has yet to be fully resolved as many of the victims demand a formal apology and proper compensation from Japan.

Seoul and Tokyo reached a deal last December under which the Japanese government apologized and acknowledged responsibility for the crime and offered to pay 1 billion yen (US$9.6 million) into a Seoul-based foundation for the Korean victims.

While the governments hailed it as a landmark agreement, many of the victims and their supporters accused Seoul of "diplomatic collusion" and demanded their grievances be properly addressed through an acknowledgment of legal responsibility and other means.


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