A civic group demanding that the Japanese government apologize to and compensate Korean "comfort women," who were forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, erected a bronze monument symbolizing the victims in front of the Japanese Embassy on Dec. 14.
The monument, referred to as a "peace statue," was unveiled during an official ceremony on Dec. 14, a day that also marked the group's 1,000th protest in front of the Japanese Embassy, held every Wednesday since January 1992.
Japanese government officials had asked South Korea to intervene and stop the group's monument plans, insisting that such a monument would harm the embassy's dignity and have a negative impact on the countries' diplomatic relations, but their demands were not addressed.
During a news conference on Dec. 13, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the government would not intervene, stating that "the problem is not of a character to be tackled (by the South Korean government)."
"It is questionable whether such a monument would harm (Japan's) dignity," the official said, adding that the comfort women issue should be resolved by the Japanese government "from a broad perspective."
The bronze monument is approximately 120 centimeters high and represents a seated young girl, a symbol of the comfort women issue, a representative of the civic group explained. Placed in a position looking straight at the Japanese Embassy, the monument also includes a chair for people to sit and take memorial photographs.
The comfort women issue has been a major hindrance to smooth Japan-South Korea diplomatic relations for decades. While Japan claims that the problem was officially solved by a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic ties between the two countries, South Korea has continued to demand that Japan further resolve the issue.
In August 2011, the Constitutional Court of Korea ruled that the South Korean government's lack of active involvement in demanding financial compensation from Japan is "unconstitutional."
According to agreements laid out in the 1965 Japan-South Korea treaty, in case the two countries can not resolve a diplomatic issue internally, a third country should be invited to debate the issue through an arbitration committee. According to sources, the South Korean Government is considering this possibility.
As part of their 1,000th protest on Dec. 14, the civic group that erected the symbolic monument also announced plans to demand that Lee Myung-bak, the President of South Korea, address the comfort women issue during his forthcoming visit to Japan.mainichi.jp/mdnnews