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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 4)

All News 07:17 December 04, 2020

Berlin district council takes right steps

A statue of a girl symbolizing the victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery stands a high chance of becoming a permanent fixture at a public site in Berlin, Germany. On Tuesday, a Berlin district council passed a resolution seeking for the statue to be installed there permanently.

The resolution called on the municipal authorities to take measures to allow the statue to remain in the central Mitte district on a permanent basis, while extending its current installation period to next September. The move came after the council adopted a resolution last month to retract the district's decision to remove the statue following diplomatic pressure from Japan.

It is good to see the resolution received overwhelming support with 24 of the 29 council members present voting in favor of it. The passage drew much attention not least because the so-called Statue of Peace was on the verge of being removed after it was erected in September. The mayor ordered a civic group with South Korean ties to remove it in October.

The order came after the Japanese government strongly protested the installation and demanded its removal. Both the municipal authorities and the German government sought to avoid any diplomatic row with Japan over the issue.

But the situation turned favorable for the civic group, Korea Verband, after it waged a campaign to raise awareness of the crimes against humanity committed by Japan before and during World War II. The group formed ties with civic groups in both Germany and Korea to protect the statue.

The resolution carries significant meaning in that it affirms that the wartime sex slavery issue is not confined to being a conflict between Korea and Japan, but that it is a global issue related to sexual violence and the broader infringement of women's rights. Fortunately German citizens shared the view that the statue should remain to publicize Japan's mobilization of sex slaves for its frontline troops. The installation of the statue is ultimately aimed at preventing a recurrence of such an atrocity. An estimated 200,000 Asian women, mostly Koreans, were forced into sexual slavery during the war.

One of the council members voting for the resolution was quoted as saying that the statue was a clear reminder of historical facts about the acts of sexual violence committed by the Japanese military during the war. He added the statue represents the structural problems that take place in a war or an armed conflict.

The Japanese government has communicated its opposition to the resolution. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato expressed regret over it, vowing to keep asking Germany to remove the statue. Yet we call on Tokyo to stop denying its sex slavery and other wartime atrocities. Japan should sincerely apologize for its misdeeds before it is too late. Otherwise it cannot build a friendship and partnership with Korea. It should squarely face up to its history.

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