JAPAN is recalling its ambassador to South Korea over a statue commemorating Korean “comfort women” forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels during World War Two, the government said on Friday.
The term “comfort women” is a euphemism used for the girls and women who were subjected to the practice. South Korean activists estimate that there may have been as many as 200,000 Korean victims.
Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the statue in the southern city of Busan was “extremely regrettable” and stated that Japan has asked for its removal.
He said Japan would also postpone bilateral “high-level” economic dialogue, as well as suspend talks on a new currency swap arrangement with South Korea.
The two nations had agreed last August to start talks on a new currency swap to bolster defenses against global uncertainties.
“Without building relations of trust, it won’t stabilise,” Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters, referring to the currency swap arrangement.
South Korea’s finance ministry expressed regrets that talks had been suspended by Tokyo due to political reasons.
In a statement released on behalf of the the South Korean government, the finance ministry expressed its desire for economic and financial cooperation between the two nations to continue regardless of political and diplomatic relations.
In August last year, the Japanese government said it will be compensating surviving comfort women, making them eligible to receive 100 million won (about $90,000) each.
Seoul’s Foreign ministry said the families of deceased victims will be able to receive 20 million won ($18,000), and that it expects the Japanese government to soon transfer a promised 1 billion yen ($9.9 million) to a foundation formally launched in Seoul last month.
South Korea and Japan agreed to set up the foundation in December as they settled the decades-long dispute over South Korean sex slave victims, of which there are 46 surviving victims.
Tokyo had earlier demanded the removal of the statue of a girl symbolizing the comfort women which is placed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul although it was not mentioned in the deal.
South Korea has said it “will strive to solve this issue in an appropriate manner” in its final negotiations.
Following the agreement, the two countries aimed to resolve the issue “finally and irreversibly” in what is seen as a milestone in bilateral relations that have been marred by historical issues, the paper reported.
Additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press