Yun makes vague statement on Busan statue

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Yun makes vague statement on Busan statue

In a carefully calibrated gesture to relieve growing tension between Seoul and Tokyo over a “comfort woman” statue erected near the Japanese Consulate in Busan, Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Yun Byung-se said last Friday that it’s a “general stance” in the international community to think “inappropriately” of any sculpture in front of a foreign diplomatic mission.

The statement was Yun’s first time publicly addressing the newest Peace Monument, a bronze sculpture of a young girl that symbolizes Korean victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery at frontline brothels during World War II.

A civic group made the surprise maneuver on Dec. 28 to install one near the back gate of the Japanese Consulate in a show of protest to the agreement between the two countries that was meant to resolve the ongoing issue, signed on Dec. 28, 2015.

Speaking to bipartisan lawmakers from the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee during a general meeting, Yun, however, was quick to add that the Korean government “doesn’t oppose the very installation of a comfort woman statue,” saying that the country rather needs to “be wise on locational terms,” vaguely hinting his opposition with the structure in Busan.

Yun did not say whether the government would force the civic group to remove it, which Busan’s Dong District Office did last month, citing violations of road laws. The office put the statue back up just two days later, amid mounting criticism from the general public. Park Sam-seok, who heads the district office, refrained from taking a position on the diplomatic issue, saying the Foreign Affairs Ministry “should take care of it,” instead.

Seoul’s reluctance to swiftly handle the Peace Monument was met with opposition from Tokyo, who last week recalled Japanese Ambassador to Korea Yasumasa Nagamine and Consul General Yasuhiro Morimoto, and blamed Korea’s failure to take “proper action.” Citing several diplomatic sources, Japan’s Kyodo News reported Friday that the envoys are likely to return to Seoul this week.

In his meeting with lawmakers in the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, Yun remained confident about the deal with Tokyo in 2015, saying nowhere in domestic history has the Korean government been able to “receive this much” from Tokyo.

Yun said it was Seoul who brought up the idea for the Japanese government to pay Korea’s comfort women a combined 1 billion yen ($8.6 million), adding that Seoul at that time thought it was “definitely necessary” for Tokyo to pay some kind of financial contribution.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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