Berlin orders removal of comfort woman statue

Posted on : 2020-10-09 16:28 KST Modified on : 2020-10-09 16:28 KST
Mitte borough cites tensions in Germany-Japan relations as reason for order
Local activists pose for photographs with a statue that symbolizes comfort women in Berlin on Sept. 28. (Hankyoreh archives)
Local activists pose for photographs with a statue that symbolizes comfort women in Berlin on Sept. 28. (Hankyoreh archives)

Authorities in Berlin have ordered the removal of a statue memorializing “comfort women” from the city’s center.

On Oct. 7, Berlin’s central Mitte borough sent a notification to the Korea Verband, the Korean association that supervised the statue’s placement, instructing it to remove the statue by Oct. 14, Korea Verband Director Jung-Hwa Han announced. The borough further stated that it would forcibly remove the statue if it was not voluntarily removed and demand payment from the Korea Verband for associated costs.

Regarding the reason for its removal order, city authorities explained that the placement of an inscription without prior notification had caused tensions in Germany-Japan relations. Explaining that the statue “gives the impression that the borough of Mitte is fomenting conflict between South Korea and Japan and opposing Japan,” it added that it “refuses to allow public spaces to be unilaterally made into tools.” The inscription in question explains that the Japanese military forcibly drafted women from throughout the Asia-Pacific region as sexual slaves during World War II.

Han said the group would “first attempt to win the borough’s support through dialogue,” adding that it would cooperate on its response with around 50 local civic groups that have shown solidarity on the issue.

Japanese foreign minister demanded removal of statue in teleconference with German counterpart

The Korea Verband raised the statue of a young girl symbolizing the comfort women on a plot of public land in Mitte on Sept. 28 with the support of local women’s rights groups. The third such statue to be raised in Germany to date, it had drawn even more attention as the first to be placed in a public location. Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who was touring Europe at the time, responded with a 40-minute teleconference on Oct. 1 with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. In a regular press conference on Oct. 6, Motegi shared that he had demanded the statue’s removal.

When asked about the Japanese government’s pressure to remove the statue in a regular briefing on Oct. 8, South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Kim In-chul said, “The peace statue is a work raised voluntarily by private citizens for the purpose of commemoration and education in connection with clear historical facts.”

“It does not help at all in resolving issues for the [Japanese] government to interfere artificially in the hopes of having it removed, and it goes against the very spirit of perceiving responsibility, apologizing, and reflecting that Japan itself has proclaimed,” he added.

By Han Ju-yeon, special contributor in Berlin, and Kim So-youn, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles