First ‘comfort women’ statue in Europe is unveiled in Germany

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 2:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 2:34pm

A statue symbolising “comfort women” forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military has been erected in Germany’s southeastern municipality of Wiesent, Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday.

The unveiling ceremony Wednesday of the first “comfort women” statue in Europe came at a time when bilateral ties between Seoul and Tokyo remain strained over the installation in December of a similar statue outside a Japanese consulate in South Korea.

Present at the ceremony at the Nepal Himalaya Pavillon, a park in Wiesent of the district of Resenburg, were some 100 local German officials as well as representatives from South Korea’s Suwon city government and civic groups from South Korea.

The statue, a replica of a life-size bronze statue that was first installed in 2011 in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, came into being as a result of an agreement between the city of Suwon and the German municipality to erect it.

Yonhap said there are currently over 40 comfort women statues erected in and outside of South Korea, including in the United States, Canada, Australia and China.

Suwon city had initially agreed with Freiburg, another German city, last July to set up a comfort woman statue there, but the plan was scuttled apparently due to “strong obstruction and pressure” by Japan, according to Yonhap.

Japan has demanded that South Korea remove the statues outside its consulate in Busan as well as the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, claiming that they violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which requires a hosting state to prevent any disturbance of the peace of a diplomatic mission or impairment of its dignity.

The installation of the statue in Busan despite a landmark 2015 bilateral agreement to “finally and irreversibly” resolve a protracted dispute over the comfort women issue prompted Tokyo to recall its ambassador, Yasumasa Nagamine, back to Japan.

Japan has said it will not return Nagamine to his post in Seoul unless it sees progress on the statue issue.