South Korea allows new ‘comfort women’ statue

Seoul, Dec 30 (IANS) A civic group on Friday installed a statue of a girl symbolising victims of Japanese wartime sex slavery in front of the Japanese consulate in South Korea’s city of Busan, a move that could strain Japan-South Korea relations, the media reported.

The local ward office said two days earlier that it would remove the “comfort women” statue if it was installed, but it reversed course, saying it would not forcibly remove the one-tonne figure, reported the Japan Times.

“We will not stop the civic group from installing the statue in front of the consulate if they wish to do so,” city official Park Sam-seok said.

According to a live video streamed by the civic group, the statue was carried by forklift to the front of the consulate, as members of the group chanted “Victory to the people!”.

The move comes after the civic group attempted to erect the statue at the site on Wednesday, the first anniversary of an agreement between Seoul and Tokyo that provides compensation for comfort women.

The police and ward officials forcibly separated the group from the figure and removed it about four hours later.

But ward officials then got swamped with phone calls of protest from the public. They held talks with the group and decided to give them the permission.

The civic group plans to hold a ceremony on Saturday evening to mark the unveiling of the statue.

The statue is similar to another figure installed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Feeling offended, Japan has demanded that it be removed.