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Series of events held to mark international 'comfort women' day

2017/08/14 11:59

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SEOUL, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) -- Civic organizations and activists held a series of events in honor of victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery, including the display of hundreds of mini statues symbolizing the so-called "comfort women."

   A total of 500 statues of a girl went on display at Cheongye Stream Square in central Seoul to mark the international "comfort women" day, which was created to commemorate the first-ever public testimony in 1991 by a sexual slavery victim, Kim Hak-soon.

It is also the eve of Liberation Day, which marks Korea's independence from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.

Kim's testimony drew international attention and set off outrage about the atrocity.

The display, organized by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, began at 8 a.m. and was scheduled to end eight hours and 14 minutes later, which symbolizes Aug. 14.

On each of the mini statues was inscribed the name of a victim. The 500 statues represented 239 victims in South Korea and an unidentified number of victims in North Korea.

After the display, the council plans to dole out the statues to those who donated 50,000 won (US$44) or more to helping victims.

The council also plans to hold cultural performances and a fundraising event at the square, one of which will feature a signing by surviving victim Kil Won-ok who has recently released a music album.

Earlier in the day, five public buses began service each carrying a girl's statue to commemorate the comfort women day. The traditional Korean folk song, Arirang, is played when the bus passes the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul.

Women's groups also planned to hold a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy to denounce an agreement struck between the two countries on resolving the issue. The deal, reached in late 2015, has been deeply unpopular amid criticism that it failed to reflect the voices of the victims.

The groups also said they will hold a signature-collecting campaign to call for resolving the issue.

Provincial cities also planned to hold ceremonies to unveil more such statues symbolizing comfort women victims, including the southwestern city of Gwangju and the central city of Yongjin.

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, which was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Japan has long attempted to whitewash the atrocity.