singer-wartime sex slaves

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's famous rock-ballad singer Kim Jang-hoon said Friday he hopes to build a memorial in New Jersey for Asian women forced by Japanese soldiers into sexual slavery during World War II, in cooperation with activists in other Asian countries with such victims.

"While planning a performance tour of U.S. cities this year, the idea of building a memorial like the Holocaust memorial came to mind," Kim told Yonhap News Agency by phone.

Kim said he wants to make the new facility in New Jersey, U.S., within three years, possibly through cooperation with activists in other Asian countries, many of whose people were forced into wartime sex slavery by Japan.

The plan is aimed at aggressively raising the world's awareness of the issue and ultimately drawing Japan's repentance on the past misdeeds, the singer said.

The 45-year-old star is well known for his love of Dokdo, a set of South Korean islets on the East Sea also claimed by Japan, and for donations to charity groups.

Questioned why he thinks New Jersey should be the location of the new structure, Kim said it's because the state has been the leader in the U.S. in paying great attention to the issue of former sex slaves.

The government of Bergen County, New Jersey built a monument dedicated to the former sex slaves on March 8 to mark the World Women's Day. It was the fourth monument of that kind but the first by a local government in the U.S., not by Korean-American residents.

Kim is currently in Los Angeles as part of the performance tour. He is scheduled to fly to New York on Monday and discuss constructing the new memorial in New Jersey before returning home on March 29.

Historians say that tens of thousands of Asian women, mostly Koreans, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during the war when the Korean Peninsula was a colony of Japan.

Japan has acknowledged that its wartime military used sex slaves, but it refuses to issue an apology or compensate the victims individually, arguing that the issue was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.

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