South Korea’s Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn on Monday raised the necessity to use “wisdom” to resolve the diplomatic standoff with Japan over the erection of a statue symbolizing the “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels.
“For the sake of future relations between South Korea and Japan, it is necessary for the (South Korean) government to use wisdom on how to resolve (the issue) and talks are now under way through various routes and channels,” Hwang said during a press conference.
“It need more time, but efforts will be made to overcome (the issue),” he said.
Hwang’s remarks came amid heightened tensions between the two countries after Japan recalled Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine from Seoul and consul general Yasuhiro Morimoto from Busan in protest at the erection of the statue, similar to one erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, by a civic group near the Japanese consulate in Busan.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida expressed regret last Friday over the erection of the new statue.
“South Korea is Japan’s most important neighbor that shares strategic interests,” Kishida said in a foreign policy speech to the Diet.
“Meanwhile, it is extremely regrettable that a comfort woman statue was newly erected on a sidewalk facing the Japanese Consulate General in Busan.”
Japan will continue to strongly demand that South Korea implement a 2015 deal over the issue of Korean comfort women, Kishida said.
Under the deal, which said the comfort women issue will be “finally and irreversibly” resolved, South Korea said it will also strive to solve the issue of the statue in front of the embassy in Seoul “in an appropriate manner.”
Japan transferred 1 billion yen ($8.5 million) to South Korea to care for survivors and their families as part of the deal.
Hwang is serving as acting president while the Constitutional Court deliberates parliament’s impeachment of President Park Geun Hye, which has sent the government into a political vacuum.