BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA – A statue symbolizing forced Korean workers taken to Japan during its colonial rule may be erected Tuesday in front of the Japanese Consulate General in Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city.
The Japanese government has told Seoul that it is opposed to such moves, and the South Korean government has called on the labor group that has organized the plan to exercise restraint.
But the group plans to hold a rally Tuesday in front of the consulate and may move ahead to unveil the statue, possibly next to a bronze statue of a young girl representing Korean women coerced into working at Japanese wartime military brothels.
Japan says such statues should be relocated as they violate the terms of the Vienna Convention, which requires the host state to prevent any disturbance of the peace at a diplomatic mission or impairment of its dignity.
The local headquarters of the labor group has insisted that the establishment of the new statue “is not intended to intimidate” the Japanese, but that it wants an “apology and compensation” over the forced labor issue as part of efforts to build peace.
The municipality placed some plant pots at the site in the area in late April, raising speculation that it was trying to thwart the labor group’s plan. But the pots were removed after the group lodged a protest.
When the life-size statue depicting a girl sitting in a chair was erected in late 2016 by a different citizens’ group, the municipality recognized it as an “illegal installation” and removed it. But the municipality returned the figure to the group amid protests and it was eventually again placed in front of the consulate.
Japan maintains its stand that all issues of wartime reparation have been “completely and finally” settled under an agreement attached to a 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties between Japan and South Korea.
But historical issues linked to Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule remains a thorny topic for the two countries.