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Berlin district office withholds order to remove sex slave statue

All News 10:08 October 14, 2020

BERLIN/SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- A Berlin district office has withheld its order to remove a statue symbolizing victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery following protests from activists and citizens.

The Mitte district office said in a statement Tuesday that the order to remove "The Statue of Peace" by Wednesday was no longer applicable due to an injunction filed by local civic group Korea Verband, which brands itself as a platform for all who are interested in Korea.

"We will take time to thoroughly study the positions of all parties involved in this complex dispute, as well as our own position," Stephan von Dassel, district mayor of Mitte, said in the statement.

"We would like to reach a compromise that reflects fairly the interests of Korea Verband and the interests of the Japanese side," he said.

Activists and citizens protest an order to remove a statue symbolizing victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery in front of the Mitte district office in Berlin on Oct. 13, 2020. (Yonhap)

The statue symbolizes 200,000 Asian women, mostly Koreans, who were forcibly sent to front-line brothels to work as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II.

Similar statues have been erected in several countries around the world, including in front of the former Japanese Embassy building in Seoul and at five locations across the United States.

The statue in Mitte was unveiled last month, but after facing apparent opposition from Japan, the district office ordered Korea Verband, the project leader, last Wednesday to have it removed within a week.

Von Dassel said in the statement that his district condemns all forms of sexual violence against women during armed conflicts and will not take further steps until a court ruling is given on the injunction.

He also appeared at a protest opposing the statue's removal, telling some 300 activists and citizens gathered in front of the district office that he was impressed by the level of civic participation and that he learned the history of the statues.

Von Dassel denied that the removal order was given under pressure from the Japanese government.

He said he received many complaints from Japanese citizens living in Berlin, as well as from the German federal government and the Berlin state government.

A possible solution to the dispute would be to expand the inscription on the statue to focus more on women victims of war, rather than on Japan's atrocities against Korea, according to local activists.

Activists and citizens march in protest of the Mitte district office's order to remove a statue symbolizing victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery in Berlin on Oct. 13, 2020. (Yonhap)


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