BUSAN, South Korea--Police removed a statue of a girl symbolizing “comfort women” in the face of strong resistance on Dec. 28 immediately after activists placed it in front of the Japanese consulate-general here.
Officials said the citizens group which installed the statue had not obtained the relevant permission from the Dong district government of Busan, a port city in the country's south.
Police arrested 13 people, including members of the citizens group, for obstructing police duties.
The activists, including university students, said the statue was designed to express their opposition to an agreement reached between Japan and South Korea on Dec. 28, 2015, to resolve the comfort women issue.
The issue has been a major thorn in relations between Japan and South Korea. The term is a euphemism for women forced to provide sex for wartime Japanese soldiers. Many of those women were Koreans.
The Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945.
The Japanese government had asked the Busan city government not to allow the statue’s installation, saying that it would go against the spirit of the agreement.
The citizens group issued a statement demanding the return of the statue, which was taken to the Dong district government. The statement said in part, “We will accomplish the installation of the statue in front of the Japanese consulate-general by any means.”
The citizens group staged a protest rally in front of the consulate-general on the night of Dec. 28 with 400 people taking part, according to a police estimate.
The group had collected funds for the installation through donations, and had planned to stage an unveiling ceremony on Dec. 31. However, with permission denied, the group went ahead on Dec. 28, the first anniversary of the Japan-South Korea agreement.
A separate statue of a girl stands in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, which is acknowledged by the South Korean government in the agreement as causing concern to the Japanese government over “the calmness and dignity of a diplomatic office.”
The agreement also states that the South Korean government will make appropriate efforts to resolve the statue issue.
In a related development Dec. 28, a large rally was held near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to press for abolition of the agreement.
Organizers said that 2,000 people took part, while police estimated the number of participants at 700.
Seoul (AFP) - The southern South Korean port of Busan said Friday it would allow activists to place a statue symbolising victims of Japanese wartime sex slavery outside the city's Japanese consulate.
The municipal authorities had previously removed the "comfort woman" statue, but changed track after Japan's hawkish defence minister offered prayers at a controversial war shrine in Tokyo.
Tomomi Inada's visit on Thursday to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors millions of mostly Japanese war dead -- but also senior military and political figures convicted of war crimes -- swiftly drew flack from China and South Korea.
Activists had first placed their statue outside the consulate on Wednesday -- marking their opposition to a South Korea-Japan agreement reached a year ago to finally resolve the comfort women issue.
Under the accord, which both countries described as "final and irreversible," Japan offered an apology and a one-billion yen ($8.3 million) payment to surviving Korean comfort women.
Critics said the deal did not go far enough in holding Japan responsible for its wartime abuses.
The statue -- a copy of one that sits across the road from the Japanese embassy in Seoul -- was swiftly removed from outside the Busan consulate by the authorities.
But after Inada's visit stoked an outpouring of public anger, they said it would be returned to the activists.