Over a year after the installation of a comfort women statue in Mitte of central Berlin, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida asked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to remove the statue.
“Comfort women” is a euphemism for the women from mostly Asian nations who were enslaved into brothels by the Japanese military during World War II.
A pro-Korean civic group erected the statue in September 2020 with the approval of local authorities. The installation was allowed to stay for one year and was extended for an extra year.
In October 2020, the Mitte district initially requested for a local Korean group to remove the statue before deciding to leave it. Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller, also advocated for a future memorial that addresses sexual violence in broader terms.
Japan has repeatedly made requests to the Mitte district that the statue’s permit be removed. The Mitte district has denied the requests and expressed hope that Japan and South Korea would reach an agreement on the statue’s presence.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno shared that during a meeting in late April between Kashida and Scholz in Tokyo, Kashida expressed continued disappointment to the German at the statue’s continued installation.
“The prime minister said it was extremely regrettable to see the comfort women statue remain and sought cooperation again from the German side,” Matsuno said per Kyodo News. “We will approach various parties concerned, tenaciously explain our government’s stance and call for swift removal of the statue.”
As tensions over the issue of recognizing comfort women persist between South Korea and Japan, activists and remaining survivors are continuing to fight for justice “until the very end.”