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Seoul reiterates removal of comfort woman statue is not part of Dec. deal

All News 16:21 April 28, 2016

SEOUL, April 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reiterated Thursday that the removal of a statue symbolizing the victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery was not part of last year's landmark deal to settle the issue of the colonial-era wrongdoing.

The statue, which civic groups erected in 2011 in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul, has been at the center of a historical debate between the two countries with a senior Japanese official arguing that its removal was part of the deal.

"There was no promise whatsoever in the deal with regard to the statue. There is no mention of the statue in the agreement," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said during a regular press briefing.

Cho also warned against the "arbitrary interpretation" of the bilateral deal that is aimed at restoring the honor and dignity of the victims of Japan's sexual enslavement. Currently, 44 known South Korean victims remain alive.

"The agreement is not a subject for any body's arbitrary interpretation," he said.

Under the December pact, Japan formally apologized for its past actions and offered 1 billion yen (US$8.29 million) in reparations. Seoul agreed to end the dispute once and for all if Tokyo fully implements the deal.

In response to the persistent calls from Japan to remove the symbolic statue, Seoul has maintained that the government has no authority to remove the statue as it was established by civic groups.

The controversy over the statue escalated after Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda claimed in a TV interview on April 6 that the removal of the statue was part of the "package" deal to settle the thorny issue of Japan's wartime wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, Hagiuda reiterated that the elimination of the statue was "one of the details of the deal." He also said that there was a "tacit understanding" between Seoul and Tokyo over the removal of the statue.


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