Contain the statue issueThe central government needs to step up on the issue of the comfort women statue in Busan.
The exacerbation of tensions between Seoul and Tokyo over the installation of the statue representing the victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery near the Japanese consulate in Busan would be an unfortunate outcome for both countries.
In a situation where it is unclear when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will conduct another nuclear test or launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), our two countries need to be closely coordinating together every step along the way, so it is not desirable for us to be picking on and fighting with each other.
In this aspect, although it came belatedly, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the acting president, and the Shinzo Abe government taking the path to calming the situation is the right decision.
It is true that there is fierce controversy over whether the so-called comfort women deal struck at the end of 2015 was appropriate. But even if it is nullified or renegotiated, that is something that should be dealt with later according to necessary procedures.
The Park Geun-hye government said the Korean government will strive to solve the issue of the comfort women statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul “in an appropriate manner through taking measures such as consulting with related organizations about possible ways of addressing this issue,” so it is right to respect this aim for now.
Furthermore, Japan does have a point when arguing that erecting the comfort women statue in front of the back gate of the Japanese consulate in Busan goes against the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which dictates that host countries must protect the premises of diplomatic missions and prevent any impairment of their dignity.
From the beginning the government should not even have left such a volatile problem to the head of a district office in Busan, who is elected by popular vote and cannot help but keep elections in mind.
The acting president needs to actively intervene with the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs taking the lead.
Civic organizations should also exercise levelheaded judgment. Everyone knows the statues are erected to remind us of a deeply painful history. However, to install a statue near the Japanese consulate in Busan, paralyzing Korea-Japan relations, is another matter.
The two countries need to consider the realities on the ground and respond in a level-headed way.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 12, Page 30