Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has sought help from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in removing a statue in Berlin symbolizing Korean "comfort women," the top government spokesman said Wednesday.
The term “comfort women” is a euphemism for those who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II. They were forced or coerced into sexual servitude under various circumstances, including abduction, deception and poverty.
The request was made when Kishida and Scholz met in Tokyo in late April, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, expressing the government's disappointment at the continuing presence of the statue after it was erected by a pro-Korean civic group in 2020.
Relations between Japan and South Korea have been frayed over issues dating back to the 1910-1945 Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
The statue in the central Berlin district of Mitte was erected in September 2020 after local authorities approved the installation for one year. The approval was then extended by up to another year.
"The prime minister said it was extremely regrettable to see the comfort women statue remain and sought cooperation again from the German side," Matsuno said during a news briefing, without elaborating.
"We will approach various parties concerned, tenaciously explain our government's stance and call for swift removal of the statue," he said.
Scholz chose Japan as his first Asian nation to visit since becoming chancellor in December. He met with Kishida on April 28 in a bid to deepen security ties and discuss the crisis in Ukraine.