Chilling statues in South Korea commemorate 'comfort women' raped by Japanese forces in WWII

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Statues paying tribute to women forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in World War II have sprung up on public transport in South Korea.

The chilling effigies of women in white and black were installed on five buses in Seoul to mark international “comfort women” day, which fell on Monday.

“Comfort women” is the euphemistic term for some 200,000 women who were coerced into working in Japanese military brothels during the war. 

Many were from South Korea, but also other occupied territories such as Taiwan, China and the Phillipines.

Japan for decades denied that the women had been forced into sex, only apologising in a formal agreement in 2015 when it agreed to pay one billion yen (about £7 million) to a fund supporting former comfort women in South Korea.

According to victims’ testimonies, women were abducted from their homes by the Japanese Imperial Army or lured with false promises of work before being imprisoned in military “comfort stations”.

Some were kept in their own countries while others were trafficked to other occupied nations where they were raped up to 40 times a day.

Most died or suffered venereal disease as a result.

The statues were seen sitting on five public buses in the South Korean capital Seoul (EPA)

Comfort women are still a point of contention in diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea, where many still believe that acknowledgement and compensation for the atrocities has been too limited.

Critics of Japan’s stance say Japanese history textbooks underplay the matter.

The plastic statues now commemorating the women were put in place without South Korean government involvement, according to transport company president Lim Jin Wook who initiated the project.

But Seoul’s mayor has supported the scheme, which will run to the end of September, by riding on one of the buses and saying it was an “opportunity to pay tribute to the victims”.

In January, Japan temporarily recalled its ambassador to South Korea after a statue of a comfort woman was installed outside the Japanese consulate in the South Korean city of Busan.

The statue was taken down, but put back up later after public protests.

37 former comfort women are thought to still be living in South Korea, now in their elderly years.

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