Activists raised a statue last week outside the Japanese consulate in Busan to represent the Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japan during World War II. While the police originally removed the statue, which depicts a girl in traditional Korean dress sitting on a chair, a government official subsequently allowed the statue to be reinstated, after many protests by Koreans. “I apologize to many citizens,” said Park Sam-seok, mayor of the ward where the statue was raised. “This is an issue between the two nations, and I realize it’s too much for a local office like mine to handle.” Activists quickly put the statue back in place.
Just last year, South Korea and Japan reached a landmark agreement to resolve the long-standing dispute over Japan’s responsibility for the wartime sex slaves. The Japanese government officially apologized and pledged $8.3 million for the surviving women and South Korea promised to not press any future claims. Nevertheless, the deal has been unpopular among many Korean citizens, as survivors wanted formal reparations and Tokyo to accept legal responsibility for the country’s actions. The Japanese consulate objected to the presence of the statue, and the country lodged complaints with South Korea and Busan, its vice minister for foreign affairs, Shinsuke Sugiyama, claiming that it “went against the spirit of the Japan-South Korea agreement concluded at the end of last year and is extremely regrettable,” and adding that it would have an “unfavorable impact on the relationship between Japan and South Korea, as well as disturb the security of the consulate.”
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