Ambassador Recalled To Japan Over Controversial WW2 Memorial Statue Dispute

Comfort woman statue in Cheonan, South Korea. Photo Credit

Tokyo has withdrawn the Japanese ambassador to South Korea in response to a statue dedicated to World War II sex slaves.

The statue shows a 5-foot-tall woman sitting barefoot. Activists installed the statue in Busan, South Korea, on December 28, 2016, to protect a deal between Tokyo and Seoul the year before. In the agreement, Japan apologized condoning the taking of “comfort women,” and donate 1 billion yen ($8.6m) to a Korean women’s fund.

Korean activists are critical of the deal since the victims were not consulted during the negotiations, the compensation does not go to the victims and Japan did not take legal responsibility.

The statue was removed by Busan police. Angry calls from citizens, however, prompted the authorities to return the statue.

Japan objects to the statue, as they have previous statues including one installed in front of the Japanese embassy in 2011.

On Friday, Tokyo recalled its envoy to South Korea temporarily. Japan claims that the new statue violates the agreement between the two countries which said the reparations by Japan would “finally and irreversibly” resolve the dispute.

The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, issued a statement on Friday stating that the two countries should both carry out their agreement.

Yoshihide Suga, the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, said that Tokyo withdrew its consul-general and South Korean ambassador and suspended a currency swap and postponed high-level economic talks, Newsweek reported.

“We have repeatedly asked South Korea to handle the resolution of this issue appropriately, but the situation has not improved, so we have taken this action,” he said.