Wartime Labourer Statue in Busan
Republic of Korea
By Contested Histories Initiative •
First installed amidst clashes with local authorities on May 1, 2018, the Wartime Labourer Statue in Busan, Republic of Korea (South Korea), symbolises one aspect of the trauma left by Japanese colonialism. Initially planned to be erected in front of the Japanese Consulate General in the city, activists ignored the authorities’ order to stay away from the diplomatic mission during heated tensions between the two nations. After being forcibly removed and relocated twice, the statue stands 100 metres away from the Consulate by the Statue of General Jeong Bal. This case study examines the role of civic action in establishing a visual representation of a colonial legacy, as well as the position of the authorities who, though mainly in agreement with the activists’ goals, opposed the confrontational placing of the statue in front of the Consulate out of realpolitik considerations.