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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Han

Korean Court: “There is reason to believe that model of conscripted laborer statue is a Japanese.”

Regarding the conscripted laborer statues placed in front of Daejeon City Hall and other parts of Korea, the ruling was issued that “there is a reason to believe that its model is a Japanese.”

The legal community said on 31 May that Judge Lee Geun-cheol from Goyang Branch of Uijeongbu District Court dismissed on 28 May a damages lawsuit (60 million won) brought by Mr. Kim Un-seong and Mrs. Kim Seo-kyung who sculptured the laborer statue against Kim So-yeon, former Daejeon city council member (attorney), over defamation accusing Kim So-yeon of spreading a fake rumor that “the conscripted laborer statue was modeled on a Japanese.”

The court judged, “Articles were published several times around March 2019 indicating that a protagonist of the conscripted laborer statue’s photo published in Korean elementary school text books was revealed to be a Japanese. In addition, the looks are very similar between the photo of the Japanese worker and the appearance features of the conscripted laborer statue, which had a good reason that the model is believed to be a Japanese.” This photo was posted from 2014 to 2017 on seven kinds of Korean history text books with a title of “Korean forced conscription.”

The court added, “While a scholar suggests that the model of the statue resembles the appearance of a Japanese worker in the photo posted on “the Asahikawa Newspaper” dated 9 September 1926, the sculptor couple could not provide sufficient evidence that its model is not a Japanese.”

“It was in the public interest that Kim So-yeon, a former city council member, insisted through the press releases and her Facebook that ‘the installation of the conscripted laborer statue modeled on a Japanese is a historical distortion and should be corrected,’" the court explained. “For the purpose of public interest, if the item pointed out cannot be proven as truth and there is probable cause for believing it to be true, it must be seen as non-illegal.”

In August 2019, Attorney Kim So-yeon insisted through press releases, “The model of the skinny conscripted laborer statue installed in front of Yongsan Station and Daejeon City Hall is not our ancestor, but a Japanese who was abused at the construction site in Hokkaido. This is nothing but a distortion of history.”

In November 2019, Mr. and Mrs. Kim Un-seong accused a former council member Kim of alleged defamation (the prosecution was not instituted later), and filed a suit for damages against her. According to the court claim, Mr. and Mrs. Kim insisted, “We made ‘conscripted laborer statues’ that symbolizes requisition victims of the Japanese Empire and placed in Kyoto, Yongsan Station (Seoul), Busan, Jeju, Daejeon, and other cities from 24 August 2016 to 13 August 2019.” “We researched the newspapers, treatises, and photo data on requisition and created a laborer statue that can raise universal human rights issues expressing painful and difficult life in the coal mine.” Mr. and Mrs. Kim are also known as the sculptors of “Comfort Women Statues.”

On the other hand, a conscripted laborer statue was installed in Boramae Park in front of Daejeon City Hall on 13 August 2019 by the Comfort Women Support Group in Daejeon, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and other groups. The statue, which is 1.2 m in width and length, 2.5 m in height, and 2 t in weight, was built with a donation of 80 million won from citizens. The producers of this statue are also Mr. and Mrs. Kim Un-seong. This has been placed for three years in the form of an illegal object that violates Natural Parks Act. This is because no permit was obtained from its governing municipality, Daejeon City and Seo-gu, when installing it.


JoongAng Ilbo on 31 May 2021

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