December 29, 2015 15:19
The Korean government stands accused of bending over a little too far to achieve a tentative breakthrough in ties between Korean and Japan.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Monday signed an ambiguously worded statement with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on Korean women drafted as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in World War II. But a statue symbolizing those very victims may be removed from the Japanese Embassy, where it was to serve as a continual warning, a clause in the statement implies.
The statue has stood for good reason in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, the site of decades-long weekly protests by the victims and their supporters.
In the curious statement, Japan accepts broad responsibility for the plight of the victims and agrees to pay money for the victims, but takes pains not to admit that the women were enslaved directly by the Imperial Army, or that the money can be seen as additional compensation.
Pressed on the possibility of the removal, Yun would only say, "We will make efforts to appropriately resolve the issue by negotiating with relevant civic groups." The wording was then included in the final text of the statement announced by the two countries.
Yun's remarks suggest the government believes the matter of the statue will blow over if it can get its own rosy version of the statement's significance across.
So far Seoul resisted any demands to remove the statue, saying it is not a matter for the central government. The clause only offers more ambiguity. Already Tokyo believes the statue will be removed, but Seoul says only that it will try to resolve the issue.
Condemnation here was swift and scathing.
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and victims of sexual slavery were upset by the news. "The statue is a symbol of history and a public asset that embodies spirit of the Wednesday demonstrations that called for a resolution to the sex slavery issue. It is not appropriate for the Korean government to meddle in matters concerning the statue."
Lee Yong-soo, one of the last surviving victims, called a press conference at the council's office in Seoul and described the attitude of both governments as "arrogant."
"Having a statue in heart of Tokyo is not nearly enough. I will ignore the whole agreement between the two governments." She added neither seems to have the slightest sense of the victims' rights.
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