Germans organize against order to remove comfort woman statue in central Berlin

Posted on : 2020-10-12 18:04 KST Modified on : 2020-10-12 18:04 KST
More than 1,500 people sign local petition opposing removal
The Statue of Peace in Berlin’s Mitte borough. (Korea Verband website)
The Statue of Peace in Berlin’s Mitte borough. (Korea Verband website)

Both South Koreans and Germans are organizing petitions against the removal of a comfort woman statue in Mitte, a borough in Berlin. The statue commemorates the comfort women, a euphemism referring to women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese imperial army.

A German-language petition about the statue ( has been signed by 1,555 people opposing the removal as of Oct. 11. Aside from 70 people from South Korea, Australia, and the US, all the signatures were made by residents of either Germany or Austria.

“Even though [the statue] is clearly designed to advocate peaceful coexistence, rather than a movement against Japan, the Japanese government has been applying pressure to [the German] Foreign Ministry, the Senate of Berlin, and the Mitte borough council to remove the statue,” the petition said.

The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan issued a statement on Sunday denouncing Japan and the Mitte borough. “The Japanese government and right-wing organizations’ pressure to remove the comfort statue and the Mitte borough’s notification of removal denigrate efforts to remember the Japanese military’s system of sexual slavery and infringe on the freedom of expression,” the group said.

“When the Japanese government and right-wing organizations ask for the removal of the comfort woman statue, which was erected with the consent of the citizens of Berlin, they are tearing down those citizens’ efforts. We have sent letters to the UN special rapporteurs for the freedom of expression, violence against women, and cultural rights,” the Korean Council said in its statement. The group also shared the postal and email addresses of the Mitte borough, asking people to send emails and letters expressing their opposition to the statue’s removal.

A petition titled “The Berlin comfort woman statue is in danger of removal because of pressure from the Japanese government” had been posted to the Blue House message board on Oct. 9 after securing the necessary 100 signatures.

“The Japanese government is using its diplomatic influence to crack down on the first comfort woman statue that was installed in a public space in Germany through considerable efforts by private organizations, local government bodies, and various women’s rights organizations. The time has come for the South Korean government to take action. This is not merely a diplomatic issue but a question of national dignity,” the petition said.

The petition is currently not available for viewing because it is being reviewed by site administrators, but it had received 3,511 signatures as of Sunday, including those who had accessed it through external links.

On Oct. 7, Berlin’s Mitte borough sent a notification to the Korea Verband, the Korean association that organized the statue’s placement, instructing it to remove the statue by Oct. 14. Observing that the statue “gives the impression that the borough of Mitte is fomenting conflict between South Korea and Japan and opposing Japan,” authorities said that they “refuse to allow public spaces to be unilaterally made into tools.”

Mitte reportedly sent the document requesting the statue’s removal only a few days after Japanese officials asked their German counterparts to remove the comfort woman statue in Berlin.

By Chai Yoon-tae, staff reporter

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