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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 12)

All News 07:00 October 12, 2020

Keep the statue intact
:Do not forget Japan's shameful history

It is regrettable that a Berlin district has ordered a civic group with South Korean ties to remove a statue of a girl symbolizing Korean victims of wartime sex slavery for Japanese troops. The order came last Thursday, less than two weeks after the statue was installed in a public location in the German capital.

We cannot help but ask why the central Mitte district has abruptly rescinded approval for the statue. Ostensibly, they cited an epitaph inscribed as part of the installation. The district office claimed the epitaph, which was not unknown before the statue was put up, has caused diplomatic tension between Germany and Japan. The epitaph is, however, aimed at paying tribute to the sex slavery victims and appreciating the courage of the survivors who have campaigned against Japan's wartime atrocities.

Stephan von Dassel, the mayor of the district, said that his office permitted the installation to display a "peace statue" for one year as a broad "statement against sexualized violence against women in armed conflicts." But he said the statue "exclusively addresses the behavior of the Japanese army in World War II." He added the installation had led to irritation in Japan and Berlin.

As he pointed out, he must have felt that the district needs to remain neutral on the sex slavery issue. It is understandable that the major does not want to be dragged into a diplomatic conflict with Tokyo. But he should not have caved in to pressure from Japan to remove the statue.

The Japanese government deserves criticism for applying diplomatic pressure on Germany over the statue which was set up by the Berlin-based civic group, Korea Verband, Sept. 25. Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi had a video call with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, Oct. 1 while visiting France. During the call, Motegi reportedly requested that the statue be removed. In a press briefing Oct. 6, he admitted he discussed the statue with Maas.

Earlier on Sept. 29, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato expressed regret over the statue and vowed to make an effort to have it removed. On Friday, he welcome the Berlin district's order, describing it as a "positive move." Finally Japan succeeded in getting what it wanted by framing the statue issue as a "diplomatic conflict" with Germany. Tokyo even reportedly told Berlin that the sex slavery problem was settled by a 2015 agreement with Seoul. But the agreement was virtually nullified by the Moon Jae-in administration later because it fell short of Japan's official apology for its crime against humanity.

The civic group is ordered to remove the statue by Oct. 14. It has few options to avoid the removal, although it said it will continue talks with the district. It is disappointing that such a thing would happen in Germany, a model country that has sincerely apologized and repented for what it did during WWII. Germany should not help Japan deny its wartime brutality and misdeeds. We should not forget Japan's shameful history.

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