The agreed setup of a girl statue, symbolizing victims of sex slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II, in a German city has been virtually scuttled because of apparent strong obstruction and pressure by Japan, a civic organization leader said Wednesday.
In a July letter sent to Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young, Mayor Dietor Salomon of Freiburg, Germany, notified that his city had accepted Yeom's earlier proposal to build the statue in the German city. Following that, 75 public and civic organizations in Suwon jointly staged a campaign to raise funds for the project.
"But Mayor Salomon notified Yeom over the phone on Monday that it's become hard to put the accord into practice," Lee Joo-hyon, head of a Suwon civic organization, said during a weekly rally calling for an apology from Tokyo in front of the Japanese Embassy here.
The German city's change in position stems from organized interruption and pressure from the Japanese government and rightists, Lee claimed.
The Japanese ambassador to Berlin and consul general in Frankfurt recently visited the Freiburg city government to lodge a strong protest against the statue, Lee said.
Japan's Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture, which has a 27-year-old sisterhood with Freiburg, has also threatened to sever the ties if the German city continues the project, according Lee.
"I've come to know how immense the symbolic meaning of the statue is and how sensitive Japan is to the issue," Lee said.
The statue, if built, would be the first of its kind in Europe.
Up until now, four such statues have been set up abroad -- two in the United States, one in Canada and one in Australia.
Some 200,000 Asian women, mostly Korean, are estimated to have been forcibly taken to front-line brothels for the Japanese army during the war. They are euphemistically called "comfort women." (Yonhap)