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(LEAD) Statue remembering Korea's comfort women erected in Germany

09:52 March 09, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with photo, more details in paras 8-9, bottom, minor edits throughout; CHANGES dateline)

WIESENT, Germany, March 9 (Yonhap) -- A statue of a Korean girl symbolizing victims who were sexually enslaved by Japanese troops during World War II was erected in Germany's southeastern municipality of Wiesent on Wednesday.

The unveiling ceremony of the "comfort women" statue was held at the Nepal Himalaya Pavillon, a park in Wiesent, which is part of the district of Resenburg. It was attended by some 100 local German officials and representatives from the Suwon City government and civic groups from South Korea.

Some 200,000 Asian women, mostly Korean, are estimated to have been forcibly taken to front-line brothels for the Japanese army during the war. They are euphemistically called "comfort women." Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 to 1945.

The city of Suwon, south of Seoul, reached an agreement with the German municipality to erect the statue, a replica of a life-size bronze statue that was first introduced in December 2011 in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul.

The statue in Seoul was produced to mark a local civic group's 1,000th weekly rally against the Japanese government. Participants of the on-going rallies demand an apology and compensation over the wartime atrocities committed by the neighboring country.

There are currently over 40 comfort women statues erected in and outside of South Korea, including in the U.S., Canada, Australia and China.

Ahn Jeom-soon, a 90-year old former South Korean comfort women, made a meaningful visit to Wiesent to witness the first comfort women statue set up in Europe.

Ahn Jeom-soon, a 90-year old former South Korean comfort women, sits next to a comfort women statue raised newly at the Nepal Himalaya Pavillon in Wiesent, Germany on March 8, 2017. (Yonhap)

Ahn, who relied on a wheelchair, sat next to the statue and touched it, as if patting a granddaughter.

"This event was possible because of all the hard work all of you have put in," Ahn told the attendees at the ceremony.

Heibert Wirth, chairman of the board of the park, called the statue "Soonyi" welcomed the statue, saying that the place, while cold now, will soon be filled with flowers in two months.

Suwon city had initially struck a deal with Freiburg, a different German city, last July to set up a comfort woman statue in that city. The agreed setup was scuttled because of apparent strong obstruction and pressure by Japan.

Yeom Tae-young, mayor of Suwon, said the event was part of a greater effort in shedding light on war crimes women have had to face.

"The statue was erected to let the world know of human rights of the women that were trampled due to the tragedy of war and to not repeat such history," said the mayor.



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