Japan recalls envoy to South Korea over contentious statue

Alicia WestJan 07, 2017

South Korea has long called for reparations for "comfort women", who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War Two. The women were repeatedly raped and often subjected to sexually transmitted diseases.

The two countries reached an agreement in 2015 that was intended by both sides to resolve the issue, which included Japan giving South Korea $8.6 million to help survivors.

In response to Seoul's apparent tacit approval of the statue, Japan will instruct Yasumasa Nagamine, the Japanese ambassador to South Korea, and Yasuhiro Morimoto, consul general at the consulate-general in Busan, to return temporarily to Japan. Since the agreement was announced past year, activists have maintained a 24-hour vigil to ensure the statue is not removed.

The statue - a copy of one that sits across the road from the Japanese embassy in Seoul - was initially removed after being set up by South Korean activists in the southern port city on Wednesday last week. No progress has been made on the statue, which Japan wants moved. There are believed to be 46 surviving victims in South Korea.

The statue depicts a young, barefoot woman sitting in a chair.

Another 37 are said to exist in South Korea, while in Australia a similar statue has sparked a row between Korean and Japanese community groups.

No, there are 38 other statues situated around South Korea, according to the Korea Herald. Critics, however, argue that the deal does not go almost far enough to provide direct compensation for the women.

"Our government stresses once again that even if there are hard issues between the two countries, both governments, based on trust, need to continuously develop the relationship", the statement read.

Mr Suga said Japan would postpone bilateral "high-level " economic dialogue and that it was suspending talks on a new currency swap arrangement with South Korea. "It is important that both the Japanese and South Korean governments take responsibility and carry out the deal", Abe said, adding that "backpedaling is not constructive".

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