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Statue of Peace

From Tokyo to Berlin, there are statues around the world that commemorate the Comfort Women. These statues, called the "Statue of the Girl" or "Statue of Peace," serve as a symbol for the 200,000 girls whose lives were destroyed in the "comfort stations." The Statue of Peace is a permanent reminder of human trafficking, wartime sexual violence, and gender-based violence  -- all topics that remain taboo in the public square. While the Comfort Women are living proof of crimes against women in wartime, the statues serve as permanent reminders for future generations. 


Understanding the Statue of Peace

Many sites around the world memorialize Comfort Women. First made in 2011, the Statue of Peace. 'Sonyeosang' [소녀상] in Korean which translates to "statue of girl." These statues contain elements that pay tribute to the Comfort Women of the past and present.

1. Short, uneven hair represents the abrupt end of the young girls' childhood because of the Japanese army. 


2. Resolute facial expression and tightly clenched fists show the Comfort Women's determination to receive an official apology.


3. Small bird on the shoulder symbolizes peace and freedom. The Comfort Women's fight is part of the broader struggle against war and militarism.

4. Bare feet represents the Comfort Women who were forced to be barefoot to prevent them from running away in the "comfort stations." The girl's soles do not fully touch the ground, representing the majority of the Comfort Women who were unable to return home even after the end of the war.


5. Empty chair symbolizes the many Comfort Women who have passed away and are unable to fight for justice. It is also an invitation for future generations to join the Comfort Women's historic struggle against sexual violence.

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Palisades Park, New Jersey

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In 2010, the mayor of Palisades Park, New Jersey -- where half of his constituents are of Korean heritage --  set up a Comfort Women memorial outside the Palisades Park Public Library. The inscription on the memorial reads as follows: 

"In memory of more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan 1930s-1945 known as ‘Comfort Women.’ They endured human rights violations that no peoples should leave unrecognized. Let us never forget the horrors of crimes against humanity.”

After the memorial was officially unveiled, the Japanese Consulate in New York and members of Japan's parliament objected to the memorial on the grounds that the Comfort Women had actually voluntarily signed up to be prostitutes. Despite opposition, the Statue of Peace stands resolute in Palisades Park to this day. 

Seoul, South Korea

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In 2011, in celebration of the 1000th anniversary since the start of the Wednesday Demonstrations, the Statue of Peace was unveiled in front of the Japanese embassy. This small statue has enraged the Japanese government multiple times, and is still a source of diplomatic tension.

Statues are important because they determine what values and facts a community will permanently remember. They become part of a town's structure and remind passersby every day what the statue symbolizes. They become sites for members of a community to gather and memorialize, conduct rallies, celebrate important landmarks, and never forget. 


Here are a few examples of famous Statue of Peace sites around the world.

Glendale, California

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In 2014, the Global Alliance for Historical Truth (GAHT), a Japanese nationalist organization founded by Dr.Koichi Mera, filed a lawsuit against the city of Glendale, California, where a Comfort Women memorial is located. On August 4, 2016, the federal appellate ruled in favor of the city, considering the memorial no different to other sites commemorating historical and international issues. Despite the Japanese government's brief in support of GAHT's petition to the Supreme Court, the petition was denied, officially ending the lawsuit.

Berlin, Germany

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On September 28, 2020, the group of the Korea Verband helped erect a Statue of Peace in Berlin-Moabit district. Although there were already two Statues of Peace in Germany, this was significant as it was the first time the statue was placed in a public square. However, soon after the statue was unveiled, the Japanese government asked for its immediate removal. Thanks to the hard work of many Berlin-based civil groups and activists who fought to keep the statue, the order to remove the statue was dismissed. A few months later, the local council of Berlin's Mitte district passed a resolution to permanently install the statue. On International Women's Day  2021, German citizens gathered in front of the statue for the first time to celebrate women, speak about domestic violence, sexual violence, and other human rights violations that are still prevalent in the world today. Nataly Jung-Hwa Han, the chairwoman of Korea Verband said in the rally, 

"The Statue of Peace symbolizes women who were forced into sexual slavery. The statue is about the women who have publicly shared their experiences and challenged the patriarchy. The Statue of Peace must remain in Berlin."

Statue of Peace Locations

Around the world, there are memorial sites that commemorate the Comfort Women.

We encourage you to visit a Statue of Peace if there is one in your region.

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