Seoul Statue Deepens Dispute Over Wartime Sexual Slavery
SEOUL, South Korea — The unsmiling teenage girl in traditional Korean dress sits in a chair, her feet bare, her hands on her lap, her eyes fixed on the Japanese Embassy across a narrow street in central Seoul. Within a day, the life-size bronze statue had become the focal point of a simmering diplomatic dispute as President Lee Myung-bak prepared to visit Tokyo this weekend.
The statue, named the Peace Monument, was financed with citizens’ donations and installed Wednesday, when five women in their 80s and 90s, who were among thousands forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II, protested in front of the embassy, joined by their supporters. Such protests have been held weekly for almost 20 years.
For them and for many other Koreans, the statue — placed so that Japanese diplomats see it as they leave their embassy — carries a clear message: Japan should acknowledge what it did to as many as 200,000 Asian women, mostly Koreans, who historians say were forced or lured into working as prostitutes at frontline brothels for Japanese soldiers....
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