SEOUL, Jan. 13 (UPI) — South Korea’s foreign minister broke his silence on Friday and expressed his reservations about a new “comfort woman” statue in the country’s second-largest city.
The bronze statue outside the Japanese consulate in Busan, dedicated to young women and girls forced to serve in wartime Japanese brothels, has prompted a fresh feud between Seoul and Tokyo.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently asked that the statue be removed, and Japan recalled its top two diplomats in protest.
On Friday, Seoul’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and unification the installation of the statue is “not desirable, from the perspective of international relations,” local news service No Cut News reported.
Yun also described trust between the two countries as “weak,” and to strengthen ties the two sides had “reached a consensus on the comfort women,” a reference to a 2015 deal between the two governments that included financial compensation for the survivors.
The United States had supported the agreement when the deal was reached.
“As you all know well, it is not desirable to place sculptures or other objects in front of a consulate in terms of international relations,” the South Korean official said. “There are many other ways to honor” the victims.
Yun’s statement, however, is being met with some criticism in Korea.
Kim Chang-soo, director of the private Korea National Strategy Institute, said Yun was making a claim that the Japanese government should be making and Seoul could order for the statue to be dismantled.
Historians say at least tens of thousands of women across Asia were trafficked from their homes and villages to forcibly serve in brothels during World War II. Many women have testified about rape, physical and mental abuse they endured under the Japanese military.