A civic group on Friday installed a statue symbolizing women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels in front of the Japanese Consulate in Busan, a move that could strain Japan-South Korea relations.

The local ward office had said two days earlier that it would remove the statue if it was installed, but earlier Friday it reversed course, saying it would not forcibly remove the 1-ton figure.

"We will not stop the civic group from installing the statue in front of the consulate if they wish to do so," city official Park Sam-seok told a news conference, according to Yonhap News Agency.