Europe’s first comfort woman statue set up in Germany

Former sex slave victim Ahn Jeom-soon, 90, holds the hand of a statue symbolizing women such as herself who were mobilized for the Japanese military before and during World War II, at the unveiling ceremony for the statue in the German municipality of Wiesen, Wednesday. / Yonhap

By Kim Bo-eun

A statue symbolizing victims of sexual slavery by the Japanese military during WWII was installed in Germany’s municipality of Wiesent, Wednesday, marking International Women’s Day.

While similar statues have been established in the United States, Canada, Australia and China, this is the first one to be set up in Europe ― as a means to promote global awareness of comfort women.

Around 100 people gathered for the ceremony marking the statue’s opening at Nepal-Himalaya Pavilion Park in Wiesent in the Resenburg District, including Ahn Jeom-soon, a 90-year-old victim from Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.

Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young pushed for the statue to be set up in the southwestern city of Freiburg, but obstruction from Japan prompted the change in location.

Last September, the committee for the statue was launched with members of women’s, religious and civic groups. The committee raised funds for the statue and other activities promoting awareness.

The statue was taken to Germany in November after the committee received approval from the municipality of Wiesent with support from local residents and civic and religious groups.

The statue commemorates victims of war atrocities and symbolizes victims of sexual assault and human rights abuses.

Despite opposition from Japan, around 60 statues have either been set up or are in the making here and abroad, in protest of the deal reached between Seoul and Tokyo on the issue in December 2015. Japan provided 1 billion yen for victims but did not acknowledge legal responsibility for its atrocity.

The Japanese government last month submitted a request to the U.S. Supreme Court for the statue in Glendale in Los Angeles to be removed. It is also attempting to prevent another statue from being put up in Atlanta, Georgia.

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