Lai Dai Han sculpture

Mother and Child, St. James Square, London

The Back Story of Mother and Child

Mother and Child is a 2-meter tall bronze memorial statue in St. James Square in London, cast to honor Lai Dai Han victims and all victims of sexual violence worldwide. The statue was commissioned by the Justice for Lai Dai Han campaign and sculpted by Rebecca Hawkins.

The overall structure of Mother and Child is inspired by the Strangler Fig tree, a parasitic plant common in Vietnam. This plant is known to take over a host tree by entwining itself around the tree trunk. The mother figure in the statue represents the many sexual assault victims during the Vietnam War at the hands of the South Korean soldiers, as well as other sexual assault victims around the world. The young child represents the Lai Dai Han, children born to a Vietnamese mother and Korean father as a result of the sexual assaults that occurred in wartime Vietnam by South Korean soldiers.

The sculptor of Mother and Child, Rebecca Hawkins, had this to say about the statue:

“I hope that this statue helps raise awareness for this important campaign and gives the women and children the closure and recognition they need. Despite suffering and hardship, they have bravely stood up to tell their story and campaign for justice for themselves and their peers. This sculpture is a celebration of their strength of spirit in the face of such adversity.”

Viewers of the statue can see the mother rooted in place, leaning forward as if trying, but unable to, move forward in life. This represents the intense discrimination and alienation of mothers (and their children) who were and continue to be helpless victims in Vietman. The child figure in the statue emerges from a separate root (which can be seen as signifying South Korean fathers) but maintains a nurturing connection with the mother through an endearing and permanent side hug.

The mother’s affectionate yet protective hand on the child’s head conveys the unbreakable bond and unconditional love between a mother and child, while the mother’s right hand, resting on her forehead with her eyes looking directly upwards towards the heavens, seems to communicate a sense of helplessness that the mother feels. She has to live with the fact that she was forcibly raped by a South Korean soldier, but must continue to be strong and live in the face of adversity, for her child and for herself.  

Quotes From Notable Figures About Mother and Child

Tran Van Ty, the founder of Justice for Lai Dai Han and born as result of Korean sexual violence said:

“Today is a historic day for the Lai Dai Han and our mothers who have been through so much at the hands of South Korean soldiers. Since the Government of South Korea refuses to even acknowledge our existence, 50 members of the Lai Dai Han community and I have offered to provide DNA samples to be compared with a database of South Korean soldiers. While today’s statue is a historic day for the Lai Dai Han, we will continue to fight for recognition and justice.”

Jack Straw, international ambassador for Justice for Lai Dai Han and former UK foreign secretary, said:

“I urge everyone to visit the sculpture in St. James’s Square, which honours all who are survivors of sexual violence in conflict. We need an independent investigation by the UNHCR into the rape of Vietnamese women by South Korean soldiers. We hope that the sculpture will serve as a poignant reminder of the horror of sexual violence and encourage the Government of South Korea to acknowledge the crimes committed by its troops and support an independent UN investigation.”

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