TOKYO, Jan. 4, Kyodo — Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga urged South Korea on Wednesday to remove a new statue symbolizing so-called comfort women in the southern city of Busan, saying it was “extremely regrettable.”
“I hope (South Korea) will firmly respond,” Suga said on a TV program, referring to the statue of a young girl, representing women procured for the Japanese military’s wartime brothels before and during World War II, that was erected last week outside the Japanese consulate.
Japan has called for the removal of the statue, of which there are a number in South Korea, including one erected outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in 2011.
The installation of the new statue by a civic group came despite a bilateral deal on the “comfort women” issue struck in December 2015, in which South Korea said regarding the removal of the statue in Seoul that it “will strive to solve (the) issue in an appropriate manner.”
“It is extremely important that both countries make efforts based on the agreement,” Suga, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, said.
Under the deal, the two countries agreed to resolve the “comfort women” issue “finally and irreversibly.” South Korea set up a foundation into which Japan has deposited 1 billion yen ($8.5 million) to care for the surviving victims and their families.
Following the erection of the statue in Busan, Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama told South Korea’s Ambassador to Japan, Lee Joon Gyu, last week that it was “extremely regrettable” and should be removed immediately.