Prime minister says Busan statue was illegal

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Prime minister says Busan statue was illegal

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said on Tuesday that a controversial statue near the Japanese consulate in Busan was removed because it violated the law.

Activists had installed the statue, which represented a Korean worker forced into labor by the Japanese colonial government, on a sidewalk about 30 to 40 meters away from the Japanese consulate last month after their original attempt to put it directly in front of the building fell through.

Still, law enforcement authorities considered the installation illegal because the activists did not get permission from the local government to put up the statue.

Last week, Busan officials forcibly removed the statue with the help of about 1,500 police officers, sparking clashes with the 100 activists gathered. The statue was taken to a museum honoring victims of forced labor under the Japanese.

“If the laborer’s statue is to be installed, there must be permission from the road management agency, but it was installed in breach of such a procedure,” Lee said at the start of a cabinet meeting he was presiding over. “That is illegal. The government is making efforts to communicate with the people and respect the will of the people, but in any case, the law must be followed.

The central government had offered alternative sites for the installation and said that erecting the statue in front of the Japanese consulate violated an international convention on the protection of foreign missions. Activists, however, rejected the offer.

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