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S. Korea calls for 'wisdom' on appropriate site for girl statue

All Headlines 16:48 January 10, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday urged relevant parties to gather "wisdom" to find an appropriate site for a statue recently erected before Japan's consulate despite strong opposition from Tokyo.

Last month, a civic group placed the girl's statue symbolizing Japan's wartime sexual slavery in front of its consulate in the country's southern port city of Busan. A local district office had rejected the civic group's request to place the statue but later allowed its installment in the face of a strong public outcry.

The statue, the second of its kind that stands near Japan's missions in Korea, has prompted a serious diplomatic row. Demanding its immediate removal, Tokyo recently recalled its ambassador and consul general in Busan, a rare move aimed at voicing its strong displeasure.

S. Korea calls for 'wisdom' on appropriate site for girl statue - 1

"We hope that the government, municipality and civic officials gather wisdom on an appropriate site that can protect the diplomatic mission, reflect international courtesy and practices while at the same time making the comfort women issue a valuable historic lesson," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck told reporters.

"Our stance is that it's important to respect the purpose and spirit of the deal reached between the two countries late in 2015... and fully implement what was agreed upon. The government, for its part, is making efforts in that sense," he added.

Japan's enslavement of women in front-line brothels during World War II has been a major source of a long-standing diplomatic rift between the two neighboring countries. Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops.

In December 2015, South Korea and Japan reached a deal and promised to resolve the issue once and for all. Under the deal, Tokyo expressed an apology and agreed to provide 1 billion yen (US$10.3 million) for a foundation aimed at supporting its surviving victims, euphemistically called comfort women.

Tokyo has claimed that removing a comfort women statue standing in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul is part of the deal and that installing yet another in Busan is a violation of the agreement.

Seoul has said that it will make efforts to produce a "proper resolution" on the matter but noted that it doesn't have any authority to remove the statues, which were built by civic groups.

Some politicians, potential presidential candidates, civic groups and victims are demanding renegotiation of the deal as they see it as insufficient and lacking public consensus when it was reached.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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