Berlin – The assembly of the central Berlin district of Mitte on Tuesday voted for the continued display of a statue symbolizing Korean “comfort women” who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II.
A resolution calling for the statue to be kept on display was adopted by a vote of 24 to 5 at the day’s meeting of the Mitte assembly.
The Mitte district government earlier this year revoked its permission for the installation of the statue, which was built by a pro-South Korean civic group in Germany to protest against Japan over the issue of comfort women. Following the vote, however, the local authorities are expected to reverse course and approve the monument.
“The decision (to pass the resolution) conflicts with the Japanese government’s stance as well as our approaches and is extremely regrettable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a regular news conference, adding the government will continue to call for the statue’s removal.
Tokyo maintains that Japan and South Korea already settled wartime issues when they signed a bilateral agreement in 1965, while many in South Korea believe that Japan has not repented sufficiently for its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, including over the comfort women issue.
The resolution said that the statue will help foster discussions about wartime sexual violence, citing a statement issued in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. In the statement, the Japanese government offered an apology over the issue.
While the Mitte government initially allowed the statue to be on display for one year, the resolution said that a solution should be sought to realize a permanent display of the monument.
A Mitte assembly member from a leftist party, who submitted the resolution, said that it was revised from a broader context to universally oppose wartime sexual violence, adding that the statue should be installed permanently.
One assembly member proposed that the resolution should be modified to show opposition to wartime sexual violence with the help of local artists, instead of fueling tensions between Japan and South Korea.
Another member criticized the Japanese government for exercising its influence to urge the Mitte district government to cancel its approval for the statue.
A ceremony to unveil the statue was held in late September.
In October, Stephan von Dassel, mayor of the district, rescinded the local authorities’ approval for the statue, saying that it is inappropriate for a complex bilateral issue to be dealt with in Germany. But the civic group filed a petition with a local administrative court to prevent the removal of the statue.
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